Tag Archives: data storage

The Swansong of the HDD?

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.

by GM



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Big data – still a challenge for CIOs?

Many companies, whether big or small have vast amount of data stored in traditional databases in-house or in public and private clouds, often without much knowledge around how much value this data has for:

  • increasing operational efficiencies
  • adding relevance to marketing towards more targeted audiences
  • understanding customers better in order to develop products and services more aligned with their demands and needs and hence improving relationships
  • gaining a competitive edge by better understanding trends and predicting market demands whilst preparing for their next strategic moves

CIOs already have a hard time storing and managing data in a way that is cost efficient, secure and accessible whenever required, as the scale of information to be stored has exponentially increased over the past years.

While public and private clouds have become an effective alternative to store “cold” data, companies need to ensure that both structured and unstructured data can be classified in terms of when and where it has left the network premises.

Against a backdrop of vast amounts of data, many companies are still faced with the challenge of being able to query the data as well as selecting big data hardware and software that will deliver insightful information.

Many CIOs are currently anxious about moving data to the cloud due to the costs associated, the challenges of choosing adequate partners, questions over security and reliable access to this data.

However, there are a number of vendors that offer approaches to helping companies take the first steps.

DELL amongst others are shifting towards tiered storage and flash technologies, closer to the processing units (servers), analysing what data should be stored where so it can be efficiently utilised and in a rapid manner in big data applications.

HP, for example, is also working closely with its customers, by supporting them in their projects with tools and technology, resources and software to test, evaluate and validate big data uses and scenarios.

There are also a number of companies, specialised in big data and dedicated to certain industries and applications, with tools and data scientists capable of taking on data, analysing it, querying it and according to requirements providing insights into that data.

However for many CIOs these companies are still to provide a blue print on how the process can be streamlined to their own applications in a costs effective way, besides other projects that may be more critical to them.

Big data management remains one of the technologies where one size does not fit all and is still very much a ‘personal’ case for the CIO and industry consultant who can guide their companies through a new area of aggregation, syndication and adoption of best practices.

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