Western Digital on Tuesday introduced its fourth-generation enterprise-class hard drives filled with helium. The HGST Ultrastar He12 HDD can store up to 12 TB of data, whereas its version based on shingled magnetic recording technology has a capacity of 14 TB (note, both are under the He12 brand). It is noteworthy that to increase the capacity of the HDD, Western Digital had to increase both the amount of platters in the new drives as well as their areal density.
The HGST Ultrastar He12 is built upon a completely new platform featuring eight platters, up from seven inside previous-gen drives that use Western Digital’s HelioSeal technology. The manufacturer does not reveal a lot about the new HDDs, but it looks like as the company has learned more about helium-filled drives and managed to squeeze eight platters into a 3.5” HDD to increase capacity. To add the eighth platter, Western Digital had to redesign internals of its HDDs (including arms and heads) significantly. Over the next few months, we will probably learn more about HGST's fourth-generation HelioSeal platform in general and the new HDDs in particular. Moreover, Western Digital recently said that the HelioSeal is here to stay for a long time as demand for high-capacity SSDs is growing. Therefore, helium will be used not only for PMR- and SMR-based hard drives, but for HDDs featuring future magnetic recording technologies as well (i.e., HAMR, BPM, etc.).
The increase of the amount of platters inside the Ultrastar He12 was not the only way to raise its capacity, as Western Digital also had to increase the areal density of each platter. The Ultrastar He12 with a 12 TB capacity featuring perpendicular magnetic recording technology has an areal density of 864 Gbit/inch2, whereas the Ultrastar He12 with 14 TB capacity and SMR technology has an areal density of around 1000 Gbit/inch2.