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spinning down to HDD's retirement

HDD articles & news from the home page of SSDs...

2.5" SSDs
SSD history
cost of SSDs
hybrid drives
hybrid systems
Hard road ahead for hard drives?
History of Enterprise Disk to Disk Backup
RPM - how SSDs stopped hard drives spinning faster
How many disks does it take to store a disk-full of data?
SSDs replacing HDDs? - that's not exactly the way it happened
Calling for an End to Unrealistic SSD vs HDD IOPS Comparisons
what's in an SSDserver rank number? - for hard drives - add 0
SSD ad - click for more info
Magnetic Data Storage - 1940's to 1990's by an IBM alumni (pdf)
How will the hard drive market fare... in a solid state storage world?
. click to see enlarged hard disk drive  image
Megabyte discovered that a magnet could come in really handy for a hungry explorer

Seagate was 1 of the Top 3 SSD companies researched by readers of in Q3 2014

revisiting an old new hard drive idea
Editor:- August 20, 2014 - From time to time I get an email from a new (to me) company which really grabs my attention. Here's one such which arrived this morning.

"We now have the WORM hard disk you refer to in your article in (Introducing WORM Hard Disk Drives - February 28, 2005).

"It was developed for the Department of Justice, and is now in use, by GreenTec-USA, Inc. in conjunction with Seagate. Can we send you some information? Would love to hear from you!" - Bob Waligunda, VP of Sales at GreenTec-USA.

Editor's comments:- I haven't spoken to Bob yet - because of the time difference. But here's some info I got from GreenTec's web site:-
  • GreenTec WORM whitepaper (pdf) - "Organizations today have demanding needs to ensure that their sensitive data is protected. Considerable damage could be done if critical or sensitive files are deleted or altered either accidentally or intentionally"
The interesting thing for me is it shows that innovation in the hard drive market hasn't stopped completely. And GreenTec's 3TB (for now) WORM drives are also available as arrays in micro cloud blocks.

I had almost forgotten about my 9 year old WORM HDD (market needs this) article. I'll update it later with this note.

Linking this back to SSDs - there have been several companies in recent quarters who have announced physical write-disable switches into embedded SSDs - including:- See also:- SSD security, military SSDs
If you can't beat them - buy them.

Seagate acquires LSI's SSD business.
SSD news - May 29, 2014
"One petabyte of enterprise SSD could replace 10 to 50 petabytes of raw HDD storage in the enterprise - while also enabling all the apps to run faster."
the enterprise SSD software event horizon
Although areal density growth in HDDs is expected to slow down in the period 2014 to 2017 - another possible way to increase drive capacity (within similar form factor constraints) may be to use helium sealed drives - such as the HelioSeal family from HGST - which cuts down the disturbances caused by adjacent heads - in comparison to air - and therefore enables more heads and disks to operate reliably within the same volumetric space constraints.
Helium - taking heads to new heights (pdf) - November 2013
"On average, SSDs show 2.5x higher cost-per-performance, a gap far narrower than the 50x difference in cost-per-capacity."
Cloudera - the Truth About MapReduce Performance on SSDs - which compared SSDs and HDDs having similar throughput capabilities (and interfaces) in large scale disk arrays - when used in cloud related operations. (March 2014)

See also:- inside SSD pricing
hdd / hard disk drive news
average Seagate hard drive capacity will exceed terabyte

Editor:- January 28, 2014 - Seagate said yesterday in its earnings conference call it expects the average capacity of the hard drives it ships in 2014 will exceed 1TB per drive (up a little from 920MB / drive already in the recent quarter.)

what changed in SSD year 2013?

Editor:- December 18, 2013 - unlike the hard drive market where the basic ideas haven't changed much in recent decades - the important ideas in the SSD market seem to change nearly every year.

To avoid making bad decisions you not only have to learn new SSD ideas each year - but you also need to identify which old SSD ideas to forget because they're no longer helpful.

Reviewing what those ideas are - (which to assimilate and which to forget) is the theme of my new home page blog.

new ORG founded to ensure future of rotating magnetic storage

Editor:- August 13, 2013 - Today a new storage org was launched to conserve and nurture the interests of rotating magnetic hard drives and hybrids. Founder members of the Storage Products Association are HGST, WD, Seagate and Toshiba.

Among other things - the SPA's faqs page says "the SPA will seek to clarify how hard drive technology, solid-state technology and variations of these technologies may be combined to effectively meet the needs of a growing storage requirement."

See also:- How will hard drives fare in an SSD world?, directory of past storage ORGs

Stec to be acquired by WD

Editor:- June 24, 2013 - WD today announced it has agreed to buy Stec for approximately $340 million. Stec will be acquired by WD's subsidiary HGST.

Seagate's latest pronouncements on SSDs

Editor:- May 8, 2013 - "Seagate is Serious about SSD and Flash Technology."

That's the headline of a new SSD products overview page mentioned in a recent press release about 3 of the company's newest SSDs.

On the other hand - I would take Seagate's sentiments about SSDs more seriously if they had been expressed on instead of on the less imposing address where it currently resides -

new WD hybrid has SanDisk SSD inside

Editor:- May 7, 2013 - a new 2.5" hybrid for notebooks from WD - called WD Black SSHD (500GB HDD capacity, 5mm high SATA) - has a tiny SSD from SanDisk inside - it was announced today.

Editor's comments:- SanDisk' contribution to this is a tiny SSD which they call iSSD which has 9K/1K R/W IOPS performance and measures 16mm x 20mm x 1.2mm for capacities upto 16GB. The height budget moves up to 1.85mm for 128GB of flash.

iSuppli predicts 239 million SSDs shipped in 2016

Editor:- January 23, 2013 - iSuppli today predicted that worldwide SSD shipments this year will rise to 83 million units this year, up from 39 million in 2012.

iSuppli also said it anticipates that in 2016 - SSD shipment volume could be 239 million units - equivalent to 40% the size of the hard drive market.

How will the hard drive market be impacted in a solid state storage world?

Editor:- November 14, 2012 - in the past 7 years the topic of how the SSD market will affect the HDD market has changed in character.

It's no longer true that both markets can continue growing side by side in edgy harmony with some localized border skirmishes and minor exchanges of territory.

Investors in hard drive storage companies have been contacting me throughout the past year - because they're starting to worry about what will happen to hard drives in a solid state storage world?

I want to put in my own hard disk

Editor:- June 23, 2012 - a recent article - by Chin-Fah, Heoh - who edits - discusses why when an enterprise user says - "I want to put in my own hard disk" - it will trigger a storage vendor meltdown.

Seagate to acquire LaCie

Editor:- May 22, 2012 - just when you thought there were no hard drive makers left to be acquired... Seagate announced today that it plans to acquire a controlling interest in LaCie .

"LaCie has built an exceptional consumer brand by delivering exciting and innovative high-end products for many years. This transaction would bring a highly complementary set of capabilities to Seagate..." said Steve Luczo, Seagate chairman, president and CEO. "We are also excited that Philippe Spruch (LaCie's chairman and CEO) who is a true visionary and leader in the consumer storage business, would join Seagate to run our consumer storage products organization."

HGST - a WD company

Editor:- March 8, 2012 - after waiting a year for regulatory clearances etc - WD has completed its acquisition of HGST - which will retain its brand identity and operate as a wholly subsidiary.

To satisfy the regulators - a part of HGST's business (which makes 3.5" HDDs) will be sold to Toshiba.

HDD warranties to be cut

Editor:- December 20, 2011 - The warranties offered on many new hard drives will be reduced next year - according to an article in TomsHardware.

In a duopolistic market there's no need to make claims which are any better than they need to be. The regulators should have seen this coming.

(which) SSD Makers Benefit From Thailand Flood ?

Editor:- November 4, 2011 - a blog on written by Dana Blankenhorn - discusses which SSD makers could benefit in the short term from HDD shortages.

Editor's comments:- In my view Dana Blankenhorn is correct to suggest it will be small form factor / notebook SSD makers.

3 weeks ago - when WD and Seagate alerted the market to this potential supply problems in hard disks - I said - something along the lines of - "let them eat cake" - referring to oems who may have to use SSDs instead.

I doubt whether the volume of SSDs that switch sooner into HDD slots will make a big difference to any SSD maker's profit in the next few months - but it could increase the urgency of some SSD qualification programs.

The big market for SSDs in 2012 will be in the enterprise - where the shortage of HDDs will make absolutely no difference - because HDDs were already on the hit list.

Marie Antoinette never said this

Editor:- October 12, 2011 - "Let them eat cake" said Marie Antoinette - on hearing that bakers in pre-revolutionary France had run out of the right type of flour to make bread.

If she were alive today and had shares in pure play SSD companies (instead of a market tracker which oddly mixes in HDD makers too) then on hearing the news that severe flooding in Thailand has impacted WD's hard drive production - which might lead some people in the HDD supply chain to fret about where their next drives will come from - she might retort - "Let them use SSDs instead!"

The Marie Antoinette quote isn't strictly true. And neither is the idea that - SSDs will directly replace hard drives.

What is true is that WD did issue guidance on the flooding impact today and most importantly said "The company is gratified to report that its approximately 37,000 Thailand-based employees are deemed safe at this time."

...Later today:- Seagate - whose HDD production is also affected said - "This devastating natural disaster has tragically taken hundreds of lives and displaced many families. At this time, Seagate reports that all of its employees in the region are safe."

the true cost of hard drive vulnerabilities

Editor:- August 23, 2011 - the problems caused by sand blowing into hard drives in the context of a desert war - is the subject of a recent blog by Mark Flournoy, VP of Government & Defense at STEC.

Among other things this article shows the consequences of data storage failures. It's the best blog I've seen so far on STEC's previously anemic SSD blog site. the article - I wish I had an SSD in Iraq. See also:- fast purge SSDs

Pushing data reliability up hard drive hill

Editor:- July 4, 2011 - Why didn't hard drives get more reliable? Enterprise users are still replacing hard drives according to cycles that have haven't changed much since RAID became common in the 1990s. So why didn't HDD makers do something to make their drives better?

Error correction code inventor Phil White - founder of ECC Technologies has recently published a rant / blog in which he describes the 25 years of rejections he's had from leading HDD makers - and the reaons they said they didn't want to use his patented algorithm - which he says could increase data integrity and the life of hard drives (and maybe SSDs too.) It makes interesting reading for any other wannabe inventors out there too. Phil White's article

But I think another reason for past rejections might simply have been market economics.

The capacity versus the cost of HDDs has improved so much throughout that period - and at the same time data capacity needs have grown - maybe the user value proposition didn't make sense.

If you (RAID user) find that all your 5 year old drives are still working (instead of being replaced) - how much is that really worth? By now those 5 year old drives might only represent 3% to 10% of the new storage capacity you need anyway. (The reliability value proposition is different outside service engineer frequented zone - but I don't want to get side-tracked into SSD market models here.)

Looking ahead at the future of the HDD market my own view is that whatever the industry does with respect to reliability won't tip the balance against SSDs in the enterprise.

The best bet for the future of hard drive makers is in consumer products where fashion ranks higher up the reason to buy list than longevity. Most people I know replace their notebook pcs, tvs and phones not because the old ones have stopped working - but because the new ones have lifestyle features which make them more desirable.

the missing link?

software which sits between hard drives and SSDs

Editor:- July 1, 2011 - earlier this week I spent an interesting hour talking to FlashSoft's CEO - Ted Sanford about the company's business plans and technology.

The company recently launched software which enables almost any SSD to act as a cache accelerator front end for hard disk storage arrays in enterprise servers. By automatically learning data hot spots as little as 15 minutes after being installed - the new software speeds up SQL queries for example 4x - and enables users to use less servers. more

Lortu announces 20TB virtual hard drive

Editor:- May 17, 2011 - Lortu today unveiled the LDA-Mini - a small form factor HDD backup appliance with upto 20TB of virtual capacity - with internal dedupe - with MSRP of 680 euros.
image shows Lortu backup
Editor's comments:- in my 2010 article - this way to the Petabyte SSD - I explained that one of my assumptions was that designers would start to put dedupe, compression and library management features inside SSDs. Although Lortu's product is aimed at the HDD market - it's one step along the way to a new class of bulk storage devices.
“WD is committed to working with the industry to push the boundaries of what you might expect from a traditional hard drive...”
Matt Rutledge, senior VP , Storage, WD - January 2015
WD shows prototype 3.5" PCIe hybrid HDD
"...the SSD market will be bigger in revenue than the hard drive market ever was."
How will hard drives fare in an SSD world?
"There is no amount of flash that can even address one tenth of one percent of that (projected storage demand in 2020). People get locked in to this view at a device level. Yes, you could have some number of units that are serviced by flash. Let's hope so. In fact, my bigger concern is that the flash guys can't figure out how to keep delivering the performance and costs that they've been able to as they get to sub-21 nanometers, than it is that somehow they're going to replace HDDs. Not without literally $500 billion of investment in fabs they're not. And even then they'd only be scraping the surface."
Stephen J. Luczo, CEO, Seagate - April 2012
Seagate CEO Luczo On Drives, Zettabytes, Flash
"SSDs will change the way computer products are designed - so that by 2015 nearly all products will be designed to be SSD-centric - instead of HDD-centric as they have been for over 50 years."
what's the big picture message re SSDs?
"The slowest switch-off from hard drives will take place in the consumer PC market..."
...from the article- SSDs replacing HDDs? - that's not exactly the way it happened
"Thanks for the offer, but...
we don't want to deploy any new hard drive arrays.
Not even if you're giving them to us free!"
This classic article described the pivotal future storage market climate in which enterprise users will cease to regard hard drive arrays attractive or usable - even if the cost of buying a new hard drive array drops away to ZERO! - this way to the petabyte SSD
2.5" HDDs more recoverable than 3.5"
Editor:- Did you know that 2.5" hard drives are more recoverable than 3.5" drives? - I didn't.

A blog written by David Foster, General Manager of Memofix revealed this curious fact and explained why it's not the other way round. You'd expect that so called "enterprise" 3.5" HDDs would be better.

It doesn't matter most of the time because in the enterprise data is protected against small numbers of hard drive failures by RAID and backup.
"Chips talk better to chips instead of through bunches of wires and protocols connected to motors"
...Steve Wozniak in the video - today's SF - tomorrow's science fact
Could terabyte HDDs be given away free?
They may be expensive now...

... but I think giving terabyte hard drives away free could one day be a really good business strategy to prolong the life of the HDD market and to deal with what will be unbeatable price / performance challenges posed by future SSDs.
click to read the article - why terabyte hard drives could be given away free Wonder why the HDD give-away will be such a great idea?... the article
How many disks does it take to store a disk-full of data?
Sometimes you can learn something useful by asking a silly question which initially seem to have a trivial and obvious answer.
Spellabyte is counting storage drives - click to read the article How many disks does it take to store a disk-full of data? ...And where do the SSDs creep in?

They always seem to sneak into my articles somewhere... You don't need a calculator or spreadsheet for this one. the article
forget MTBF!

How long do hard drives really last?
That question was answered in this classic study by Google - Failure Trends in a Large Disk Drive Population (pdf) - which looked at a population of 100,000 HDDs.

And if that interests you - you can see a list of similar articles on our storage reliability page.

Reliability is one of the few true green storage technologies.
Nibble - Re: Hard Disk Drives
IBM invented disk storage and shipped the first HDD in 1956.

With a 24" diameter it stored 5M bytes.

Until the late 1990s hard drives were commonly called "Winchester" drives - named after the city where the original hard disk designers were based.

Hard disks use magnetic recording media on one or more spinning disks (also called platters). That's where the magnet allusion in our HDD Megabyte image comes from.

A read write head moves in a straight line along one half of the platter similar in concept to (pre CD era) linear audio (vinyl) record players.

The seek / access time of the disk is determined by the rotation speed. That can take as long as 1 complete revolution of the disk.

The hard disk capacity depends on how many platters there are, whether data is on both sides, how big they are (diameter) and the current state of the art regarding megabytes stored per inch.

The throughput of the disk depends on the spin speed, recording density and where the head is on the surface of the disk. On the outer edge the data throughput is higher than on the inner edge. Drives with multiple heads and platters can deliver more throughput - but the added mechanical complexity and heat reduces reliability.

Over 90% of the disk drive manufacturers which existed in the 1990's have gone bust, or merged , or have been acquired by other disk companies.

The number of HDD oems shrank to a low point at the turn of the millenium, and overall HDD market revenue was on a downward slide for many years. That's because the cost of an average hard drive was reducing at a faster rate than the growth of drive shipments. Improved technology and competition was shrinking the value of the industry.

But since about 2004 new high growth markets have emerged for HDDs (both inside and outside the traditional PC and server markets) which reversed the revenue slide.

The prospects of multi-billion dollar segments with double digit revenue growth within the hard disk market has attracted new entrants and new competition from products like solid state disks and hybrid drives.

In 2008 the worldwide hard disk market revenue grew to over $35 billion.

In 2008 the highest capacity shipping drives were:-
  • 3.5" - 1.5TB - from Seagate
  • 2.5" - 500GB - from various oems
  • 1.8" - 250GB - from Toshiba
Sanitization Methods for Cleaning Up Hard Disk Drives
Removing the data on old unwanted disk drives has become a concern for all users.

Pointsec found that they were able to read 7 out of 10 hard-drives bought over the Internet at auctions such as eBay, for less than the cost of a McDonald's meal, all of which had "supposedly" been "wiped-clean" or "re-formatted".

This article by Intelligent Computer Solutions reviews the various methods available to sanitize hard disks along with the advantages and disadvantages in each the article, disk sanitizers
"We could have turned flash into a pretend disk drive and gone into existing storage area networks, but that would have been a terrible mistake."
David Flynn, CEO, Fusion-io - September 2012
What does the Woz really do at Fusion-io?
SSD ad - click for more info
The Perils of Early Hard Drives
Editor:- there were a great many stories published in 2006 related to the 50th anniversary of the hard disk drive.

But here's one with a different spin - about the dangers posed by early mass storage devices. It came from my brother in law Peter Downes.

"In 1964 I was a programmer / operator at Pilkington Glass in St Helens. At that time Pilkington had one of the largest commercial computer installations in the UK. It included ICT computers, countless card punches and readers, Ampex tape drives, and, I think, CDC disk drives.

"One night in the main computer room I witnessed the internal cylinder of a hard drive break out of its cabinet. It was several feet in diameter and spinning at high speed.

It bounced when it hit the floor, then as if deciding which way to go, it hovered and raced through the glass partition, and sped along until it hit the solid wall of the building at which point it exploded. The computer room was sprayed with glass, but luckily it was safety glass and I wasn't hurt.

I couldn't help thinking that if it had come for me it would have killed me. One thing I'm not sure about is why it bounced when it first hit the floor and only exploded when it hit the concrete wall. There was a lot of energy in the cylinder - and it had a horizontal spindle."

Storage History
Hitachi Celebrates 50 Years of Hard Disks
In April 2006 - Hitachi published some historic reminiscences and market data to celebrate 50 years of the hard disk drive market.

Hitachi holds the privilege of preserving the legacy and upholding the innovation heritage of the hard drive, having acquired the IBM hard drive business in 2003. IBM invented the hard drive in San Jose, California and brought it to market in 1956 as the RAMAC (Random Access Method of Accounting and Control).
  • Over the past 50 years, areal density - the measurement of how many data bits can be stored on an inch of disk space - has increased 50 million times.
  • RAMAC, the first hard drive - delivered on September 13, 1956 - stored 5 megabytes of data. Today, the highest-capacity hard drive holds 500 gigabytes.
  • In 1956, the RAMAC cost $50,000 or $10,000 per megabyte. Today, a gigabyte of storage on a 3.5-inch hard drive can cost less than 50 cents.
  • Today, 92% of all new data created reside on magnetic media, primarily hard drives.
The demand for hard drives is expected to increase multiple-fold. In a recent paper, the University of California at Berkeley projected the worldwide data stored on magnetic media to be 99.5 exabytes in 2005, as compared to 7 exabytes in 2000. (An Exabyte = 1,024 x 1,024 x 1,024 x Gigabytes = just over 1 billion Gigabytes. - from Megabyte's Storage Dictionary)

Today Hitachi also announced two new 3.5" hard drives. The Deskstar T7K500 and Deskstar 7K160 feature 7,200 RPM spin speeds and 3Gb/s SATA interfaces for high-performance PCs, gaming systems and low duty cycle servers. The new drives use 160GB+ per platter technology to deliver up to 500GB of storage capacity in a one-, two- and three-disk design. ...Hitachi profile, storage history

See also:-
- article:- Hard Disks - on Wikipedia®

timeline:- 5 Decades of Disk Drive Industry Firsts - on DISK/TREND

Hard Drisk Market Chronicle - Upto 1997

Hard disk reviews (1998 to 2001) - on

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