Drive for results

Despite some drops in demand, the HDD enterprise market remains buoyant, says Nick Powling of drive distributor Hammer.

The HDD market is experiencing something of a readjustment. Yet both the actual, and expected ongoing, drop in global demand for these drives paints a misleading picture. True, the volume of HDDs shipped fell by 6% last year, according to John Roy, analyst with UBS (with a prediction it will drop a further 10% this year), while sales of SSDs rose by almost 3%. But the shift from HDDs to SSDs is being driven almost entirely by the falling demand for desktop hard drives as consumers switch to using mobile and smart devices.

To assume SSDs are replacing HDDs across the board is wrong: there is a whole segment of the HDD market that remains strong, even buoyant as the number of new and innovative products, backed by commitment to research and development, shows. When it comes to the enterprise market, driven mainly by cloud data centres, HDDs have a healthy future. With prices dropping and capacity increasing, it all spells good news for the user and consumer.

More than 40% of the HDD industry revenue and 45% of HDD petabyte demand will be derived from the enterprise segment by 2018," said John Rydning, research vice president, worldwide HDDs at market analysts IDC in a report. He added: "Enterprise customers will increasingly influence HDD product road map and technology development plans."

If proof were needed that there is still plenty of mileage in the HDD enterprise market, then it was provided by Toshiba's recent announcement that it is to remain in the sector, quashing rumours of its withdrawal. It means the HDD market remains competitive with Seagate and WDC (comprising WD and HGST), currently taking 44% and 40% market share respectively with Toshiba the remaining 16%.

All three are pioneering new products aimed at the enterprise market. Toshiba has stated that its strategy is to reallocate resources away from the PC end of the market towards meeting this strong demand for enterprise-level HDDs. At the same time, Seagate Technology has joined HGST in supplying helium-filled HDDs with the announcement of a new seven-platter, 10TB helium-filled hard disk drive. With a 25% increase in storage density, these helium disks are aimed at the enterprise data centre market. Seagate is also expected to ship a heat assisted magnetic recording drive in 2018. All three manufacturers have also shown interest in shingled magnetic recording (SMR), a technology that layers tracks on a disc so doubling storage capacity, with the first drives being shipped last year. The industry expects to see 40TB HDDs available by 2020.

This move towards higher capacity drives is another factor in the overall reduction of HDD units being shipped, as WD's CEO Steve Milligan said: "Obviously, as we ship higher capacity points, we're going to ship fewer units. We continue to see strong petabyte growth."

Capacity and costs are the two aces in the HDD hand. "High capacity spinning disks will remain the storage of choice for broad cloud infrastructure," said Barbara Murphy, VP of marketing, Cloud Infrastructure Business Unit, HGST in an interview late last year with Tech Radar, adding: "Ultimately, core business applications like big data, data analytics, and content lifecycle demands will continue to drive the implementation of HDDs. HDDs are the only solution that can meet the cost point while maintaining instant access to data."

That's a view endorsed wholeheartedly by us here at Hammer; the demand for enterprise-class data storage capacity is increasing as businesses capture and analyse data on competitors, customers and markets. Another advantage for HDDs is the cost per gigabyte as SSDs currently cost five times as much, per usable gigabyte, as HDDs. And as manufacturers enhance their enterprise HDD range, focusing on the demand from this segment, the investment and increased choice in the enterprise space is clearly advantageous to customers.

Source: Hammer
Published Date: 09/01/2017

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