For all the ink that myself and others devote to the increased use of solid state storage in the enterprise, the fact is that mechanical disk technology is still in demand and will likely play limited but crucial roles in the enterprise for a while longer.
If anything, expect future hard disk drives to be larger, faster and more manageable--particularly when it comes to power consumption. The idea won’t be to compete against solid state or on-line solutions but to integrate smoothly into mixed-media environments and provide as much support as possible to new virtual and cloud infrastructure.
A prime example is Seagate’s new Terascale and Enterprise Performance 10K models. The first scales out to 4TB in a 3.5-inch form factor while keeping the power draw under 5 watts. It also packs enterprise-class features like 6Gbps SATA and Instant Secure Erase, which speeds up the data-clearing process so the drive can be more easily repurposed or disposed of. The Performance 10K, on the other hand, is a 2.5-inch drive, spinning at 10K of course, capable of 1.2TB capacities and outfitted with the company’s PowerChoice energy management platform. Both devices are intended to address the growing needs of unstructured data storage and Big Data analytics.
We’re also starting to see hard disks designed for more vertical markets. Toshiba, for example, just came out with the MQ01AAD032C drive, a 320GB SATA device aimed at the automotive market. The company says the drive is intended to support in-vehicle user applications, such as infotainment, as well as the increasing array of embedded systems found in modern autos. The device can withstand temperatures ranging from -22 to 185 degrees F, with vibration tolerance as low as 29.4m/s² .
This isn’t to say the hard disk doesn’t face challenges in the new data economy. Online services like Dropbox have already gained a strong foothold among consumers and are moving quickly to stake their claims for the enterprise user. But as Fast Company’s Sarah Kessler points out, issues like compliance and security will likely keep data in-house for a while—at least until Internet accessibility, particularly in wireless infrastructure, can prevent online services from reaching most-favored status among users. This may change at some point, but for now it seems organizations are content to employ multiple storage solutions.
As for the supposed rivalry between hard disk and solid state, it may turn out the two are most effective when used together. As Forbes' Tom Coughlin notes, both Seagate and Western Digital are loading up on as much SSD technology as they can find, much of which will likely wind up in hybrid environments. Seagate is already out with an enterprise version of its Momentus hybrid drive, and the development arc at both firms is clearly directed at high-speed, large-capacity applications and possibly PCIe-based modular solutions. At the same time, expect pure HD systems to begin displacing tape for long-term storage and archival purposes.
As a stand-alone technology, it seems hard disks will play an increasingly diminished role in the data center. But since most enterprises have shifted from technology-oriented to solutions-oriented deployment strategies, it is certain that spinning media will continue to chug away in the data background for quite a while.