Study: HDD market will shrink by a third by 2021

    The demand for hard drives in the IT industry is falling, and data centers are increasingly using solid-state drives . Can the HDD disappear from the data center in the near future?

    Let us tell you what the experts think about this.

    / photo Christian Riise Wagner CC BY-SA

    Trends in the storage market

    According to IDC research organization, the number of hard drives sold will drop by 30% from 2016 to 2021, from 420 million to 280 million, and the market will decrease by $ 750 million. Statista data give a similar picture: over the past four years, the volume of HDDs delivered to the market has decreased by 40 million devices.

    Last summer, Western Digital (WD) announced the closure of one of the HDD factories. At about the same time, Seagate's second-largest WD hard drive manufacturer fell 7%.

    One of the reasons for the decline in the popularity of hard drives is the development of solid-state drives (SSD). Particularly strongly trend manifests itself in the segment of personal computers, but the choice in favor of the "hardcore" increasingly make data centers.

    For example, after switching to solid-state drives in the data center cloud company KIO Networks, the amount of electricity consumed was reduced by 60% (for each rack in which the devices were replaced).

    Another advantage of SSDs for data centers is performance. Transport company ALC solid-state devices have helped to increase the performance of the storage system by 40 times, compared with hard drives.

    What is waiting for HDD

    Among experts in the IT infrastructure market, there is an opinion that in the future, solid-state drives will replace hard drives in data centers. One of the reasons why this has not happened so far is the high cost of SSD compared to HDD.

    However, over time, solid-state drives are getting cheaper: from 2014 to 2018 the cost of one GB of memory has decreased three times. When the prices of SSD and HDD are equal - according to forecasts, this will happen in 2021 - the share of hard drives used by the data center can be reduced.

    The idea of ​​replacing hard drives with hard drives is also supported in large IT companies. According to the head of the direction of storage systems for Intel Data Center, Wayne Allen (Wayne Allen), HDD is the “past century”. They take up too much space and are less reliable than SSDs. If for solid-state drives , the failure rate is 0.5%, then for hard drives this figure is 2–5%.

    A similar opinion was expressed by Jim O'Reilly, Vice President of Germane Systems, which manufactures storage systems for the aerospace industry and enterprises. In his words , the capacity of hard disks has almost reached its limit.

    On the other hand, they are developing technologies designed to increase HDD capacity. An example would be the thermomagnetic recording method , which, due to high-precision lasers, reduces the size of the magnetic region that stores one bit of information. However, according to O'Reilly, this process is still too complicated for mass production, it is not worth waiting for an increase in HDD capacity in the near future.

    But there are those who disagree with the statements about the "death" of the hard disk. For example, Horizon Technology data center service organization COO Stephen Buckler believes that SSDs will replace hard drives only in the personal computer market. In data centers, they will still be needed for the organization of cold storage.

    With all this, a number of companies continue to work on technologies (in addition to thermomagnetic recording), which would extend the “lifetime” of the HDD. One such organization is Dropbox, which creates its own technology of tiled magnetic recording ( Shingled Magnetic Recording , SMR).

    / photo Frédéric BISSON CC BY

    In SMR disks, tracks partially overlap each other, which increases the data recording density and increases HDD capacity by an average of 25%. According to representatives of Dropbox, SMR disks will gradually gain popularity among cloud providers, for whom it is important to store large amounts of data.

    But Seagate is working to increase the performance of hard drives. Engineers divided the actuator with magnetic heads into two separate units that are controlled independently of each other. Due to this, two different requests can be sent to the disk at once and the data can be read or written faster.

    Another development direction is helium hard drives. Helium is pumped into the body of the HDD instead of air to reduce the friction force during the rotation of the disks. It helps to increase HDD performance and reduce power consumption. Such a device with a capacity of 15 TB recently released Western Digital.

    Other storage technologies

    In addition to HDD and SSD, other technologies are also developing in the data storage industry. The most famous of them is magnetic tape - it is still used in the data center. It is worth noting that the "undying" flexible tape is another reason why some IT specialists are not in a hurry to "bury" the HDD. Modern cartridges with films have a capacity of 15 TB, and this figure is planned to increase to 330 TB in the future.

    Another data storage technology is glass discs. Information on them with the help of a laser is recorded in a kind of "three-dimensional pixels" in the glass structure. A single disk the size of a coin can store 360 ​​TB of data for tens of billions of years. The technology is not yet used in data centers, but Microsoft is already planningimplement it to store archived data.

    / photo by University of Michigan CC BY

    Another direction is DNA storage. Information is recorded in DNA using genetic engineering techniques. The advantage of this method of storage is the high density of data in the molecule. For example, all the films of the world can be written in DNA, which is less in volume than a cube of sugar. However, while this method of storage is too expensive - writing a megabyte of data to DNA costs 3.5 thousand dollars, plus it is a rather long process. For this reason, we should not expect mass distribution of technology in data centers in the near future.

    Thus, it can be said with a certain degree of confidence that in the next decade hard drives (as well as magnetic tapes) will not disappear from data centers for sure. SSD will take time to “close the gap” in value, and alternative technologies are still in the early stages of their development.

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