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Toshiba’s Helium Nearline HDDs – Saving the Earth One HDD at a Time

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, I forgot that Earth Day was April 22. This year’s Earth Day came and went with little fanfare, and it’s unfortunate given that this was the Golden Anniversary (50 years) of this momentous occasion. Social distancing and large group gathering restrictions cancelled the various celebrations scheduled throughout the world. Back in April 22, 1970, it was estimated that about 20 million Americans took part of the first Earth Day. Since then, participation has grown, and now over 190 nations are engaged, and over 1 billion or about 15% of the world’s population participate in one way or another. I can’t help to think about how Earth Day applies to my work and everyday life.

As an engineer with my background and responsibility for customer technical support, most of my work revolves around enterprise class hard disk drives, especially nearline HDDs. The explosion of digital content and the “cloud” is behind the sharp growth of nearline HDDs in the last five years. Tens of Zettabytes of digital content are expected to be generated in the coming years, and an overwhelming percentage of stored content will be on hard disk drives, predominately nearline HDDs.

With finite amount of world resources, it is our duty to try to conserve and leave enough of these precious resources for our children and their children. I can proudly say that I work for the hard disk drive industry, which is responsible for providing the most cost-effective storage medium to date. Our products provide world class performance at pennies per GB. But more importantly, the newest generation HDDs (starting with MG07) utilize helium technology, which consumes less power and as a result leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

With helium being 1/7th of air’s density, the disks and heads within the HDD is subjected to less drag force, which ultimately results in less heat and lower power consumption. The active idle on Toshiba’s newest 16TB, MG08, is 4.00W, which is nearly half compared to 10TB, MG06ACA10T model. That’s like being able to power 2 helium HDDs for one air HDD! 

I try to be a responsible person, and I realize that my actions have repercussions. Even though I drive a fuel efficient car for work and many others have converted to all-electric or hybrid automobiles, there was a silver lining resulting from the recent Shelter in Place mandate due to COVID-19….a fraction of the usual number of cars were on the road. It was a nice present for Mother Nature on the 50th birthday of Earth Day. It was so nice to be able to CLEARLY see the beautiful mountain ranges of San Jose. I know that my work is not finished and that we at Toshiba will need to push ourselves to find better technologies in the never ending quest to deliver the highest performing products and trying to save the earth one HDD at a time.

¹ Power efficiency is calculated based on active idle power consumption divided by formatted capacity.

*Toshiba defines a megabyte (MB) as 1,000,000 bytes, a gigabyte (GB) as 1,000,000,000 bytes and a terabyte (TB) as 1,000,000,000,000 bytes. A computer operating system, however, reports storage capacity using powers of 2 for the definition of 1GB = 230 = 1,073,741,824 bytes and therefore shows less storage capacity. Available storage capacity (including examples of various media files) will vary based on file size, formatting, settings, software and operating system, such as Microsoft Operating System and/or pre-installed software applications, or media content. Actual formatted capacity may vary.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc.

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