Storage components have come a long way since the first 3.75 MB HDDs were introduced by IBM in 1956. 2016 in particular has been a landmark year for storage components, as aftermarket sales of solid state drives (SSDs) through European distribution overtook those of hard disk drives (HDDs) for the first time, marking a trend which we expect to speed up in the coming years.
HDD manufacturers have recognised the growing importance of SSDs: in the last two years they have bought up several players in the SSD market or/and have started to produce SDDs themselves. As well they might. SSDs are already better in every technical aspect: they have a larger capacity, they are faster, and they are more reliable. Unlike HDDs, which have mechanical parts, there are (almost) no limits to the development of SSDs and their miniaturisation. Indeed, whilst HDD capacity appears to be capped at the 10 TB currently touted by WDC’s flagship model, Seagate unveiled a huge 60 TB SSD in August last year at the Flash Memory Summit.
Manufacturers have yet to give up on HDDs however, extending their lifespan by investing in such technology as Helium or SMR, and banking on the one very clear advantage of HDDs over SSDs – price. For now, the cost of a gigabyte of storage on HDD is about a quarter of that on SDD, and this makes it attractive to businesses who want to lower IT infrastructure costs as much as possible and do not need the technical advantage of SSDs.
For businesses where time efficiency represents a potential cost-saving however, the move to SSD for their IT infrastructure represents a worthy operational investment, notwithstanding the cost premium. At CONTEXT, for example, we recently made the choice to transfer our main database from an all-HDD system to an all-SSD system by Q2 2017. By doing this we should save 10-15% in terms of time and resources. The savings will allow us to develop new projects but, more immediately, our reports will run faster. This means we can look to deliver our products more quickly, which is key for our clients – the earlier they have information, the more actionable it is.
Storage requirements for such things as back-up on the other hand do not need the latest speed and features, and in areas such as these HDDs will remain the go-to technology for the time being, but only as they remain the cheaper option.
Seagate is saying that HDDs will be around for the next 20 years or so, we suspect they may not last that long. Will they be gone earlier? We’ll be watching closely.