The Storage Effect

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Is there a market for a faster enterprise hard drive?

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In a world driven by massive data growth, hard drive capacity always seems to take center stage with any product announcement that comes out of the 3 remaining players in the market.  How big can we make drives, and how cheap? Sure, there are some exceptions, but let’s face it, these days it’s all about the Terabytes, and no longer are Megabytes per second a lead story, unless of course, we’re talking Solid State Drives (SSD).

This post by Randy Kerns - Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm – on Storage Soup articulates quite well the pressure new technology like SSD is placing on existing technology like HDDs.

“The advances that new technology forces (SSD) on older technology (HDD) are valuable to customers and help “move the ball forward,” to use a football term. Competition is good for the customer whether it is in the form of storage vendors competing with products or in the form of new technologies competing for generational change and dominance.”

The truth of the matter is with the advent of SSD in the enterprise space, is there room for faster hard drives?  If you look at HDDs vs SSDs through a the lens Randy describes above, what we are faced with is a good, better, best scenario without “the better.”

The same could be said for the client space, but that did not stop Seagate from introducing “the better” in the form of Solid State Hybrid Drives (SSHD). And that trend is catching on.  Maybe it’s the 2 Million plus notebook SSHDs Seagate has shipped to date, or increased pressure from OEM customers like Dell,  the other HDD suppliers are rumored to be releasing notebook SSHDs in the coming months.

But what about the enterprise?  

Do the data center solutions of the present and future need faster hard drives, or is bigger and cheaper the rule of the day given the sheer amount of unstructured data being stored? Let’s face it, such unstructured data was created somewhere at sometime, and the creation of data is highly dependent upon IOPS more than anything.  SSDs have been the answer as of late, but that solution remains expensive and limiting for many customers to deploy at mass scale.

So what is the solution?

In the past, as computer capabilities sped up, so did hard drives.  What was once 7,200 RPM became 10,000 RPM, and then 15,000 RPM.  The problem is that economically and reliability speaking, HDDs cannot spin much faster than 15,000 RPMs, and performance gains are left to improvements in firmware design and areal density…unless there is another solution?

Enter “the better” for the enterprise.

What if, taking a page out of the Notebook SSHD page, an enterprise SSHD could deliver SSD like performance at an HDD price?  What’s more…what if the integration of such devices were seamless to the user? It was simply, a much faster hard drive for a fraction of the cost/GB of an SSD. On paper, it makes complete sense, but in the real-world, can it really be that simple? Time will tell, because Seagate has publicly said the plan is to expand SSHD to encompass both desktop and enterprise markets. I say, “the sooner the better.”

So are faster enterprise hard drives needed – or do you only care about the Terabytes?

 

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