HDD Shortages Could Drag On for Months

Arthur Cole
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Changing the Way You Purchase Storage

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How bad is it going to get?

That's the question many storage professionals are asking themselves these days following the dramatic spike in hard disk storage costs in the wake of devastating floods in Thailand last month. The waters knocked out much of the nation's HDD production base, hitting Western Digital and Toshiba particularly hard. By the end of this week, some analysts were reporting price hikes of 150 percent, affecting everything from PCs to servers and storage arrays.

Even if a certain disk factory were not damaged in the flood, it could still suffer production delays, according to forbes.com's Tom Coughlin. That's because the amount of manufacturing machinery is finite. So as damaged facilities scramble to get back on line quickly, there's less equipment in the channel to accommodate normal refresh cycles or run-of-the-mill breakdowns. For that reason, expect to see shortages continue throughout much of the coming year.

Ironically, actual shortages only account for a small fraction of the rising prices, says twice.com's Doug Olenick. Total capacity has only been reduced by about 30 percent, but that's enough to cause distributors and brokers to start hoarding their available stock. Products that are released are accompanied by prices that represent the fear of future shortages, rather than what's actually happening on the ground right now. It's a classic price-gouging mentality that affects all commodities when faced with unexpected setbacks in production.

Of course, this is good news for solid-state technology, says Wired's Jon Stokes. The major drawback to SSDs has always been their high price tag compared to HDD. While the two technologies aren't expected to see price parity anytime soon, the lower premium to get SSDs' improved throughput and reliability might be enough to convince many organizations to increase their SSD footprint, particularly within the fast-growing cloud-provider industry where speed and availability are prime drivers.

Still, the fact remains that enterprise capital budgets will be under a fair amount of strain for the coming year, which could impede the industry's ability to carry out other advanced initiatives, like cloud computing and network convergence.

It's just another reminder that Mother Nature acts according to her own whims, with little care given to the needs of mere mortals.

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