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Huawei may have used a very clever trick to make hard disks use less power — spin-on-demand disk drives may well compete with tape on performance, but at what cost?

 OceanStor Arctic slide.
OceanStor Arctic slide.

At MWC 2024, Huawei’s Dr. Peter Zhou took the wraps off a number of new data storage products, including the company's next-gen 10 Petabyte OceanStor Arctic magneto-electric storage solution.

When we reported on it recently, details were incredibility light. We knew it would be a magneto-electric disk (MED) that probably spins, and the first generation of the disk would be used mainly for archival storage. Huawei also claimed that it could reduce TCO by 20% compared to tape, and reduce power consumption by 90% compared to hard drives.

Now, Blocks & Files has uncovered additional details on the MED drive, courtesy of a smartphone photo of a backup and archiving slide presented by Huawei at another event.

Spun-down disks

Taken by Digital Storage and Applications Analyst Tom Coughlin, the slide has an archiving solution section that reveals three visual elements for OceanStor Arctic: a rack, a 4 or 6RU chassis, and a disk.

Blocks & Files notes that some of the  text on the slide appears to compare "450 W/PB HDDs vs 71 W/PB Magneto-electric Disk" and writer Chris Mellor says, “We have been pondering what the term magneto-electric disk might mean. Dictionary-wise the magneto-electric effect refers to any linkage between the magnetic and the electric properties of a material. That could conceivably describe a hard disk drive’s technology, which involves using electricity to change the polarity of a magnetic region on a disk platter’s surface.”

If that’s the case, the big question so far unanswered, is how it can spin yet consume 90% lower power than hard drives? The likely answer is that the OceanStor Arctic will use spun-down disks that power down or turn off to save energy and reduce wear when not in use.

Mellor asked Huawei if OceanStor Arctic used spun-down disks, but was told less than helpfully by a spokesperson, “My understanding is that the product line may not be in a position to disclose more information about the product as it’s not yet available in overseas market.”

OceanStor Arctic is expected to be available outside of China in the second half of 2025.

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