Research firm IHS iSuppli predicts helium-filled HDDs could give Western Digital a competitive edge over other HDD makers in the enterprise market. Expected to be introduced towards the end of the year, helium-filled HDDs allow for seven disks in the same enclosure, two more than in a regular HDD due to the substantially reduced fluid forces. On top of that, the helium reduces energy consumption by 23 percent because the motor has to work less hard, as well as reduce noise production and heat output due to the lower shear forces and higher thermal conductivity of helium.
DigiTimes writes helium HDDs could proper WD to the top spot in the enterprise HDD market. In the third quarter of 2012, WD had a marketshare of 45 percent in this market, versus Seagate's 48 percent.
"Helium HDDs could propel Western Digital to the top enterprise HDD spot, dethroning Seagate in the process," said Fang Zhang, analyst for storage systems at IHS. "Western Digital says helium-filled HDDs can reduce power consumption, an issue of concern for enterprise HDD users, by more than 20%. And helium-filled HDDs can advance drive capacity by another 25% to 50%, without increasing platter density or drive thickness."
Current drives using perpendicular magnetic recording technology support up to 4TB in capacity. Helium can extend that to 5TB or even 6TB. The weight or thickness of current HDD products can also be reduced by approximately 30% by stacking platters closer together.