HDDs on the Rebound

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Changing the Way You Purchase Storage

Ensure that IT has the flexibility to build and efficiently run a shared infrastructure.

The silver lining is on the hard disk drive cloud following the drop in production resulting from last fall's flooding in Asia. But as the industry rebounds this year and into next, the question for enterprises remains: What is the best way to deploy HDDs as storage environments continue to embrace not only Flash technology but newly devised hybrid and unified architectures as well?

For the hard drive vendor community, the news is nothing but good. IDC reports that 2011 saw a year-on-year decline of 4.5 percent in 2011. But now that repairs to several large manufacturing facilities in Thailand are firmly under way, the company predicts a record year for 2012 with expected growth to top 7.7 percent, followed by annual growth averaging 9.6 percent to 2016. Best of all, price increases due to current shortages are expected to persist for a while longer, resulting in the rare phenomenon of revenue growth that is higher than shipment growth, which could deliver revenues approaching $50 billion by mid-decade.

Other indicators point to an even more robust recovery than that, according to Coughlin Associates. Orders are up for magnetic disk manufacturing equipment, so once these massive systems are installed, configured and performance-tested, expect HDD volume shipments to jump as high as 20 percent by the end of 2013. Demand is also rising for many of the electronic components that are vital to HDD designs.

Nonetheless, hard disks will be tasked with defining themselves in an increasingly diverse enterprise. The high-speed action will likely become the sole purview of solid-state technology, while long-term archival applications will continue to rely on low-cost tape solutions. But that still leaves a wide swath of bulk storage functions and backup/recovery infrastructure in need of high-capacity solutions that can stream data at reasonably high rates.

This is part of the reason why capacity limits on hard disks continue to push the envelope. Western Digital made a big splash with the newly acquired HGST (formerly Hitachi Global Storage Technologies) by unveiling the 4 TB Ultrastar 7K4000. The device not only provides the highest capacity for a 7,200 RPM drive, but it delivers an impressive 2 million hours MTBF and shaves nearly a quarter off the power consumption of the previous 3 TB Ultrastar drive.

And this may only be the start of a dramatic increase in HDD capacity. Seagate recently showed off a new heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology that packs a terabit onto one square inch of a disk platter, ushering in the distinct possibility of 60 TB drives within the next decade. The technology delivers a linear density of about 2 million bits, which leaves plenty of space to increase capacity through data track manipulation and other techniques already in use by current Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) designs.

It's clear, then, that the hard disk drive is not going anywhere, but in many ways this will make life more difficult for CIOs who now face a range of choices when it comes to storage infrastructure. Increasingly divergent data environments will place more specialized demands across the entire enterprise, and that will make it more difficult to plan and deploy the right solutions to confront the sweeping changes playing out across the IT landscape.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 5, 2012 8:50 AM PajekPlus PajekPlus  says:

Like you said, old good guys classical hdd storage are not going anywhere for a couple of years. It is price the one holding it up or down for new SSD.


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