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

2.5" SSDs
SSD history
cost of SSDs
hybrid drives
hybrid systems
hostage to the fortunes of SSD
History of Enterprise Disk to Disk Backup
RPM - how SSDs stopped hard drives spinning faster
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?
SSD ad - click for more info
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Megabyte discovered that a magnet could come in really handy for a hungry explorer
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 (EOL)
average Seagate hard drive capacity will exceed terabyte

Editor:- January 28, 2014 - Seagate said 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.

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?

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.

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.
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.
HDD History?

The storage history page on includes archived news pages from 20 plus years of publishing. But if you're only interested in the hard drive story rather than seeing news about all the different major storage technologies mixed up together - you can see more details of filtered hard drive market history in these archived pages - which captured past editions of the HDD page you're now seeing. These resources go back to 1999. For the overview see here.
HDD failure rates analyzed by models
Editor:- May 27, 2015 - The reliability of hard drives in a cloud related business (online backup) is revealed in a new report - Hard Drive Reliability Stats by Backblaze which includes results for over 42,000 drives analyzed across 21 drive models.

The failure distribution in the recent quarter is model and age specific rather than manufacturer specific - which is to say that you can't say that Seagate is always better or worse than Western Digital. The table also gives you insights into drive improvements for this type of application. Failure rates in the quarter were:-
  • upto 1 year old- worst model - 13%
  • 2-3 years - worst model - 27%
  • 3 - 4 years -worst model - 3%
  • 5 years - -worst model - 32%
The data seems to fit in with the bath tub curve model - with high infant mortality, high failures at the end and best reliability in the in between periods. the article

See also:- storage reliability, SSD reliability, high availability SSD systems
"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

See also:- 2.5" PCIe SSDs, hybrid drives
"...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? - June 2010
The long and the short of it is that every month the fastest SSDs get better - while the fastest hard drives remain exactly as fast as they were. So the HDD versus SSD random IOPS gap gets wider. We haven't learned anything new!
Calling for an End to Unrealistic SSD vs HDD IOPS Comparisons - May 2008
"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
What impact will the fast growing solid state disk market have on the overall hard disk market? - is a question I've been asked a lot recently.

Most of the articles published here on are written from the SSD perspective.

Is SSDs' gain really HDs' loss? - In some segments yes. But it's not a zero sum game.

To begin with, I'd like you to think about the image of a hard disk as a "tape on a plate". That's not a very flattering image - but it gives you a clear picture of the roots and limitations of hard disks...
Hard road ahead for hard drives? - 2007
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
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
Eventually all storage will be solid state - but not because solid state storage media hits cost parity with magnetic media. It will happen even if hard disk storage is given away free - because hard drives won't be able to deliver the application performance or the densities needed in future systems.
magneto flash wars - 2005 to 2010
where SSDs are already cheaper than HDDs
Editor:- July 3, 2015 - SSDs replacing HDDs is only a one part of the multi decade SSD story - but a useful market milestone can be found in a recent blog - ...Flash and the Retreat of Hard Disk Drives by Brian Cox, Senior Director of Outbound Marketing - SanDisk.
  • Re consumer SSDs - Brian says - "We are already seeing consumer 128GB SATA SSDs drop below the prices for the lowest priced consumer HDDs this year. 256GB SSDs will soon be there, too."
  • Re SAS drives - Brian says - "Lenovo is now publishing the list price of SanDisk's Optimus MAX SAS SSD that they use in their servers at a $/GB price that is lower than their 300GB 15K RPM SAS SSD list pricing."
Editor's comments:- These market milestones are confirmations of the "floor cost" based flash adoption tipping points which Jim Handy founder of Objective Analysis predicetd 10 years ago in his classic article - Flash Memory vs. HDDs - Which Will Win?
SSD ad - click for more info
"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?
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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