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New Helium-filled hard drives may speed up Netflix

HGST, Western Digital company, has announced that it will begin shipping its Ultrastar He6 hard drives, which are stuffed with helium as opposed to air.

Replacing air with helium in these drives, which has just one-seventh the density of air, accomplishes two things: it lowers power consumption and allows for more storage capacity. Using helium as opposed to air lowers turbulence within the drive. Internal drive turbulence is caused by spinning disks and other moving parts during drive operation. Less turbulence translates into less power used. Western Digital noted that as a result of the switch from air to helium, the Ultrastar He6 drives use 49 percent less power.

The decreased turbulence also ups the drive’s ability to store more data because more platters can be fit into the Ultrastar He6’s 3.5-inch shell. Today’s hard drives employ five platters and top out at 4TB. The He6 drives use seven platters, which helps the drives reach a maximum storage capacity of 6TB; a 50 percent improvement over what’s currently available.

So what sorts of applications will these new helium He6 drives have? They’re targeted at companies that make use of data centers. Before you pass out from boredom, you should know that these drives could soon be put to use by Netflix, which could improve streaming video quality.

“The Netflix Open Connect delivery platform is a highly optimized video content delivery network. We serve billions of hours of streaming video per quarter to over 40 million subscribers,” said David Fullagar, director of Content Delivery Architecture, Netflix. “As part of our efforts to optimize the delivery ecosystem for Netflix and our Internet Service Provider partners, we strive to build better and better streaming appliances. The high storage density and lower power usage of the Ultrastar He6 hard drives allow us to continue with that goal, and create a great customer experience.”

Other recognizable companies like HP and Huawei also will be working with HGST, Western Digital and the He6 drives. However, we’re most excited about the partnership between HGST and Netflix. Will this relationship translate into a better overall Netflix experience? Only time will tell.

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