The economic ripples of last fall's devastating floods in Thailand are likely to continue to roil the IT waters for a while longer, although the impact probably won't be as dramatic as it first appeared.
To be sure, shipments of hard disk drives, of which Thailand was a major manufacturing hub, will likely be stunted well into the fall, according to Gartner's John Monroe. However, most of the disruption will fall on commodity high-capacity drives rather than the high-performance units favored in top-tier application environments. Gartner reports about an 18 percent drop in nearline SAS and high-capacity SATA drives in the last quarter, while IDC predicts supply could fall short by 2 million and 3 million units by mid-year.
But while most observers see HDD's loss as solid state's gain, there is another potential beneficiary in play: the cloud. Providers like Nirvanix are already pitching their storage services as the answer to in-house capacity shortages. The cloud has the advantage of being cheaper than internal SSD deployment, at least in the short term, so it provides a convenient bridge until hard disk refresh rates get back on track.
And it's not like HDD development has ground to a standstill either. LSI recently announced a new 28 nm SoC solution for desktop and mobile hard disk drives. The new process enables higher areal density and improved S/N ratios, which should provide a significant capacity boost without a dramatic increase in costs or power consumption.
It's also true that the manufacturing base in Thailand is down, but it's not out. Western Digital and Toshiba, in fact, just completed a swap that has WD taking over a drive facility in the region in exchange for a collection of 3.5-inch HDD manufacturing equipment. Financials weren't disclosed, but it points up the fact that the manufacture of hard disks is still highly valued in the age of solid state.
As far as deploying storage media in the enterprise goes, however, there is no right or wrong answer even when supplies run low and prices go up. Different applications require different levels of storage, so the only sensible strategy is to employ as many types of storage as possible without regard to its proximity to the cutting edge.
To be sure, the difficulties facing hard disk manufacturers will likely fuel greater deployment of solid state and cloud storage, but there remains a wide swatch of applications that are uniquely suited to hard disk. Bulk storage may be a commodity, but it's a valuable commodity.