The imminent end of hard drive storage in the enterprise has been a topic of discussion for so long that in many circles it is taken as a given. With cloud architectures and mobile communications flooding data centers with reams of high-speed data, and many solid-state solutions pushing capacity to new levels, the venerable hard disk is seen as yesterday’s solution.
Oh sure, tape continued to exist even as disk technology became ubiquitous over the past decade or so, but its role was greatly diminished, a pattern that is poised to repeat itself now that a better, faster storage medium is on hand.
And yet, hard disk technology continues to move along at a steady clip, and we’re not talking about greater capacities and better operations using tried and true designs but all new systems that indicate there is still some life in the old spinning platter.
A case in point is Western Digital’s subsidiary, HGST’s new helium-filled 6TB Ultrastar HE6, which the company says boosts storage by 50 percent while it draws 23 percent less power and is almost 40 percent lighter than standard air-filled models. This has allowed HGST to pack seven platters into the same format as the five-platter, 4TB Ultrastar, while at the same time cutting friction, and therefore heat generation, from spinning disks, actuator arms and other components. As well, the reinforced sealing around the drive that keeps the helium in also helps to keep moisture and contaminants out, increasing service life cycles and reliability.
Still, doesn’t consolidation in the drive industry along with the need for rapid data delivery in modern cloud and data center architectures indicate that solid-state storage solutions are at the forefront of enterprise infrastructure? Perhaps, says Infostor’s Greg Schulz, but solid state also provides a valuable add-on to hard drives, making them more relevant to scale out/up architectures. With solid-state solutions providing high-speed cache and data off-loading benefits in hard disk arrays, the enterprise will gain an unprecedented ability to enable multi-tiered storage environments that can be dynamically tailored to meet both speed and capacity requirements.
And the fact remains that as Big Data and rich media content hit the enterprise, not all of it—in fact very little—will require full availability on the most critical, high-speed tier. According to IDC, raw storage capacity is expected to climb from about 2,600 exabytes today to more than 7,000 exabytes in 2017. Organizations that opt for all-solid-state solutions to meet those requirements are probably overdoing it because much of that load will be sitting on a storage medium that is not fully optimized for its level of functionality. You can pour grape juice just as easily from a plastic pitcher as from one made of solid gold.
A key example of the disparity among data sets is the rising popularity of video surveillance, says CE Pro’s Jason Knott. With government agencies, municipalities, educational facilities and even many corporations now turning to 24/7, full-motion video monitoring of crucial sites, the need for large volume, bulk storage infrastructure is likely to rise—even with the liberal use of compression, deduplication and other data-reduction techniques. When even medium-sized organizations are staring at petabytes of routine video footage, neither solid-state storage nor the cloud emerges as a ready solution.
The mistake that proponents of all-solid-state solutions make is in assuming that all data is the same. While it’s true that much of the growth these days is in high-speed transactional data and Web serving, that’s still not the entire picture of the modern data environment.
The good news is that with a variety of storage media at their disposal and a steady stream of integrated platforms comprising multiple storage techniques, the enterprise has a wealth of solutions in designing the optimal storage environment for its unique data needs.