Holding off Solid State Storage: A Look at New Hard Disk Drive Technologies
Solid State Drives, as a data storage option, offer incredible gains in access speed over traditional Hard Disk Drives, but flash-based storage is still a long way off from completely replacing disk-based storage in data centers. While SSD technology continues to improve and prices are falling quickly, manufacturers are also making incredible advances in traditional Hard Disk Drive development. The HDD advances are far more applicable to large-scale data storage operations including data centers and cloud services because of the sheer massive amounts of data they can store at a comparatively inexpensive rate.
The Solid State Revolution
SSDs are making a huge impact on personal computers and laptops, so their impact on technology is impossible to ignore. However, these devices are extremely unlikely to topple the world of data center storage any time soon as SSD growth is more synonymous with end-users than mass storage. According to PCWorld, a TrendForce report found that in 2014, 21% of laptops shipped with SSDs installed, and that number is on target to grow to 42% in 2017. While SSDs are making their way into data centers, the devices are more useful to act as a front-facing cache than a mass-storage option.
Helium Hard Drives
Injecting helium inside of an air-tight hard drive instead of using the same air we breathe allows hard drive manufacturers to stack seven disks instead of five disks within the same standard 3.5-inch HDD frame. HDDs can use even smaller parts in less space when operating in a helium environment. Helium not only allows for a greater number of disks within a HDD, but also hikes disk density 25%, improves performance, and reduces power consumption. Using helium instead of air creates a turbulence-free operating environment that decreases friction. Data centers and cloud platforms can utilize helium-based HDDs to offer improved capacity, performance, and reliability via fewer drives. While the performance won’t match a SSD, helium-based drives offer sufficient performance at a much lower price tag.
Shingled Magnetic Recording
According to Seagate, Shingled Magnetic Recording technology allows manufacturers to squeeze hard drive tracks closer together in a way that they overlap each other akin to shingles on a roof. This storage technique essentially increases how much data can fit on a disk by partially overwriting a data track. Through this process, the hard drive can store data by being able to write it in a smaller space using the same size head. However, the SMR technology is not a perfect solution for active storage, as re-writing a part of the data means all data stored after it needs to be re-written as well. SMR technology is an ideal option in data centers for archival and backup storage and can even be used alongside SSD-based servers.
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