Seagate Release World’s First 8TB HDD

Last week, hard drive manufacturer Seagate began shipping the world’s first HDD capable of storing 8TBs of data.

The 3.5 inch SATA drive has been designed with data centres in mind and is currently only available to selected consumers, but is expected to be available to the wider market within the next six months.

Whilst it has been designed to predominantly be used in data centres, however, the company have also noted that their latest drive has the potential to be used by businesses and home-users that are looking for a secure means of backing up large amounts of data.

Surprisingly, Seagate have been somewhat coy with regards to their latest effort’s capabilities with the drive’s spin speed and platter arrangement still a secret. The company have claimed, however that the drive is the most power-efficient drive available in terms of watts to storage space and also boasts the lowest cost per TB of any HDD currently available.

It is generally presumed that SSDs (solid drives with no moving parts) will eventually overtake HDDs as the most used type of storage device worldwide but, whilst these drives are quicker than those with moving parts, they are currently unable to match HDDs for storage capacities, with many arguing that there is still a future for HDDs – particularly in data centres – as a result.

Why is my Hard Drive Clicking?

When a hard drive begins making any kind of noise other than a reassuring and subtle whir, it’s safe to say that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. When a drive makes an audible clicking sound, however, the problem is also likely to be significant. Why is this?

In order to write and read data, all hard drives use what are known as heads. These write data on to what is referred to as a platter (essentially a disk covered in a magnetic surface) when you save it and read it from the platter when you want to view it. If a hard drive begins to click, it almost certainly means that these key components are not functioning correctly meaning that your hard drive can no longer read the data that is stored on it.

Sometimes the clicking can be ascribed to a failed circuit board. On other occasions, these sounds can be down to a series of errors having resulted in the drive attempting to ‘reset’ itself and the heads repeatedly loading and unloading or the actuator (the device that moved the drive’s head) frequently stopping the head from moving. Under such circumstances, it is generally possibly to recover the data held on the drive.

Unfortunately, clicking can also be a symptom of the far more serious problem of a head crash. Under these circumstances, the drive’s heads come into direct contact with its platter. As discussed previously, the top layer of the platter is comprised of a magnetic material and it is in this material that data is stored. As the platters in modern hard drives spin at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour, the contact between the two creates friction which, in turn, produces a significant amount of heat that will, over time, damage the magnetic material that coats the platter and on which the drive’s data is stored.

Put simply, if your drive is clicking you should contact Fields Data Recovery today.

Liquid Hard Drives Could be the Future!

Here at Fields Data Recovery, were interested in all developments in the world of data storage, particularly those that are new, unique and have the potential to provide mass storage in small devices. Imagine, then, how excited we were to hear that researchers at the University of Michigan and New York University have developed a means of storing electronic data in liquid and that, thanks to this revolutionary technique, a terabyte of data could be stored in the amount of liquid that would fill a tablespoon!

In order to achieve this, academics suspend clusters of nanoparticles (which can store more data that your run-of-the-mill computer bit) in liquid. These particles can move in order to create different storage states with researcher Carolyn Phillips stating: “You can use the same mathematics that describes a Rubik’s Cube to show that every rearrangement of the cluster’s spheres is possible and reachable.”

Unfortunately, the teams have noted that, before liquid hard drives can become a reality, they’ll need to develop a means of ensuring that the clusters of nanoparticles form the correct shapes within large volumes of liquid and then read the data quickly.

It’s an extremely interesting field of study, then, but we’re unlikely to see smartphones with 1TB liquid hard drives any time soon.

Temperature Does Not Affect Hard Drives According to Study

Conventional wisdom has always dictated that if your storage media operates within too hot an environment it is significantly more likely to fail. Now, though, a recent study has suggested that this may not be the case.

Cloud storage provider Backblaze (who previously wrote about the failure rates of hard drives by brand) have studied the 34,000 hard drives currently present within its data centre and have found that there is no correlation between failure rates and temperature.

The study’s author, engineer Brian Beach, noted that different models of drives run at different temperatures and that this is what has affected previous studies into the effect of temperature on hard drives.

Of the 19 different models of drive examined, only one – the Seagate Barracuda – was more likely to fail in high temperatures. Even then, the correlation was relatively small.

Interestingly, whilst the correlation was only slight, Hitachi’s Deskstar 7k2000 drive was more likely to fail at lower temperatures.

A prior study conducted by Google also found no correlation whilst another by Microsoft found a clear relationship between high ambient temperatures and increased failure rates.

It must be added that none of the drives in this study operated in an ambient temperature of above 60˚C and that all hard drive manufacturers collectively recommend that hard disks be kept cool in order to prolong their lifespan.

What do you think, are hard drives more likely to fail at higher temperatures or are manufacturers simply playing it safe?

Seagate’s Latest HDD Stores 6TB Without Using Helium

Other HDD manufacturers may be intent on upping their drives’ maximum capacities by hermetically sealing helium inside, but Seagate’s latest effort achieves exceptional storage space without it.

Whilst sealing helium within a HDD reduces friction and heat, meaning that an additional two platters can be used inside the drive and increase its capacity, Seagate have upped their newest drives capacity by instead increasing the drives areal density. In other words, whilst each square inch of the platters utilised within their drives could previously store 831 bits, this figure has increased to 1,000.

Seagate claim that their latest drive is also 25 per cent faster than drives that use helium and that, thanks to superior rebuild functionality built onto the drives SAS controller, data rebuild times are significantly reduced in the event of a drive error – something that is certain to appeal to data centre owners.

No news has emerged on whether or not Seagate’s latest effort can match helium-filled drives superior power consumption or longer lifespans, however.

Inventor of the Modern Hard Drive Awarded €1m Prize

Professor Stuart Parkin, whose work allowed storage media to become smaller whilst storing larger quantities of data, has been awarded for his achievements with the Millennium Technology Prize, along with a reward of no less than €1m (£824,000).

The physicist utilised ‘spintronics’ in order to develop a new type of head that was able to detect weaker and smaller signals than those used previously in 1988. Prior to this, he had gained a PHD in physics from Cambridge University in 1982.

The award, which is issued annually, is given to individuals whose creations have, quite literally changed the world for the better; something that is certainly true of Parkin.

It is because of his breakthrough that a single hard drive is able to store as much as 1TB of information; following IBM having begun utilising Parkin’s discoveries in 1997, the maximum storage capacity of hard drives consistently quadrupled on an annual basis for several years. Without his work, the digital world would be a very, very different place and many online services, such as online streaming and cloud storage services, would simply not exist.

Parkin is currently in the process of developing new technology dubbed Racetrack memory that will, he hopes, create a new form of storage media which, whilst still using mechanical drives, consumes less power and provides performance similar to that provided by solid state drives.

Global Shipments of Hard Drives Predicted to Rise

We recently wrote about a new series of SSDs from Sandisk that have been designed in order to challenge hard drives positions as the leading type of storage media used in data centres. Today, we’ve stumbled some news that is likely to leave the California based flash memory specialists feeling more than a little disappointed: IT research and advisory firm Gartner is not expecting the HDD market to shrink over the coming years, but to experience modest growth.

Overall, Gartner have predicted that an additional 83 million hard drives will be being shipped annually by 2018; an overall annual growth rate of just under three per cent.

Most noteworthy of all, though, is their prediction that this growth will largely stem from new helium-filled high-capacity business critical drives which have been specifically designed for data centres and cloud storage providers.

So, what do you think? Will SSDs become the de facto storage media used in data centres or is the helium-filled HDD set to be the king of mass-storage?

The Changing Costs of Data Storage

In 2013, the average cost of a GB of storage was 17p for an HDD whereas the same amount of storage would cost you an average of 81p if you purchased an SSD.

What, though, did it cost to store data in years gone by? Few will be surprised to discover that it was considerably more expensive than it is today, but the figures are still likely to shock you – particularly when we take inflation into account.

Let’s start with the world’s very first hard drive, IBM’s gigantic 350 Disk File. It contained 50 24-inch disks, was the size of your average household wardrobe, stored a total of 5mbs of data and could not be purchased outright but leased for £1,940 per month. Let’s put that another way: that’s £23,280 per year. Oh, and remember that a GB of storage cost just 17p last year? With this drive it would cost over £4.5 million every year. That’s over £123 million when you factor in inflation.

Don’t think things got any better when personal computing began to go mainstream in the 1980s, though. IBM’s revolutionary 3380 model may have been able to store 2.52 GBs but it still cost £49,000 in 1981 – almost £160,000 in today’s money. Still, at least the cost per GB had fallen; even if you’d still be paying a whopping £19,444 per GB, or £63,204 when you take inflation into consideration.

Still, what person could possibly have needed 2GBs of storage in the early 1980s? Maybe smaller drives were more affordable. Well, the first 5.25 inch drives designed for the home user generally retailed for around £1,800 (£5,851 today) so they were significantly cheaper than IBM’s monster, but these ‘affordable’ drives stored just 5MBs of data meaning that you’d be paying £360,000 per GB. That’s over £1 million when you factor in inflation. No wonder floppy disks were so popular!

By 1995, costs had fallen significantly with consumers paying approximately £550 per GB of storage (£895 with inflation). This fell to roughly £6 in 2000 (£8.50 today) then just 45p by 2005 (64p today).

Still, as the cost of a GB of storage has plummeted we’ve found ourselves needing more and more space to store our data. In the 1950s (and even the 1980s) few files would have exceeded a few KBs whilst today video footage, music and a variety of other data-rich files take up literally dozens of GBs on drives of all kinds worldwide.

Another Reason why the Humble HDD still has Plenty to Offer

HGST's Ultrastar C15K600 - an SSD killer?

HGST’s Ultrastar C15K600 – an SSD killer?

Today, we stumbled across another piece of news that shows that hard drives still have a role to play in the role of data storage: HGST, a subdivision of Western Digital, have launched the Ultrastar C15K600, a 600GB 2.5 inch drive that spins at 15,000 revolutions per minute. Could this make the C15K600 an SSD killer? Probably not, but any product that closes the gap in performance between HDDs and SSDs is certainly worth I certainly worth some coverage.

There are other drives that spin at these speeds, but the C15K600 boats twice their capacity. This means that it offers not only superior performance to a standard hard drive, but also offers the larger storage capacity that is traditionally, along with cost, what gives HDDs their edge over SSDs.

Reports have suggested that HGST intend to target data centres when promoting their latest drive, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it, or similar drives, began appearing in notebooks etc. in the near future.

Why There’s Plenty of Life Left in the HDD Yet!

Unlike this, Hard Drives have plenty to offer!

Unlike this, Hard Drives have plenty left to offer!

39 million fewer Hard Disk Drives (HDD), Solid State Drives (SSD) and Optical Disk Drives (ODD)  were shipped in 2013 according to figure released by global information company IHS.

This constituted an overall decline of 5%, but the sales of SSDs alone bucked this trend with 57 million units sold – an impressive increase of 82%. In comparison 7% fewer HDDS and 12% fewer ODDs were shipped over the same period. SSDs still make up only a minority of the market, though, as shipments of all drives totalled 755 million globally meaning that SSDs accounted for just 7.5% of the overall data storage market.

IHS’s analysts have predicted that the SSD sector will – thanks to falling prices and the ever-growing popularity of ultra-thin netbooks, tablets etc. – grow by a further 50% in 2014 and that, within the next three years, 190 million units of these devices will be being shipped annually. In comparison, they estimate that the number of HDDs sold will shrink to 397 million within the same period.

Whilst I have scanned the internet for expert comment on the decline of ODDs, I have been able to find very little, if anything, of substance discussing their decline. That said, it’s fairly clear why these drives are becoming increasingly rare: the growth of high-speed internet connections is rendering CDs, DVDs etc. obsolete. This, of course, is rendering the drives that read them obsolete also. HDDs, on the other hand, are in our and others’ opinions, less likely to decline so rapidly.

Whilst their overall sales fell last year, the number of HDDs that were shipped in the final quarter of 2013 actually grew by 1.8% compared with the previous quarter. What’s more traditional 3.5 drives shipped 4.9% more in this quarter too!

The growth in popularity of cloud storage provides an outlet for the HDD, also. Storage companies are certain to look at the overall value that any storage device offers meaning that SSDs are likely to remain too expensive for the near future at least. True, these centres will not be sufficient to maintain the humble HDD alone, but there are plenty of reasons why they will still have a place in our computing devices.

For example, whilst SSDs are considered to be more well suited to thin laptops and tablets due to their svelte design, both Seagate and Western Digital have both developed super-slender HDDs which are not only suitable for thinner devices, but are significantly cheaper than SSDs offering the same storage capacity.

As we discussed in yesterday’s post, helium filled HDDs can offer capacities of up to 7.5TB in a single device, providing another reason why HDDs still have a lot to offer. Similarly, a blend of HDD and SSD may well become the dominant form of home data storage. Several prominent manufacturers currently produce, or are in the process of developing, drives that house both HDDs and SSDs in order to offer the value for money offered by the former and the speedy performance of the latter.

What do you think? Are HDDs dead on their feet or is their life left in them yet? Let us know by leaving a comment.