|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
here on STORAGEsearch.com 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".
not a very flattering image - but it gives you a clear picture of the roots and
limitations of hard disks (magnetic media spinning around on plates - called
platters or disks) and the image holds good for the long term future of hard
2006 was the 50th anniversary of the first
hard disk drive and I
remember wondering at the time whether the industry would actually survive long
enough to reach 60. I returned to that question recently when some readers
asked me what the impact of solid
state disks would be on the hard drive market?
There are a
lot of arguments
to suggest that SSDs will replace HDs in many applications - but on the other
hand - the hard disk industry is still looking healthy - and there are many new
applications for hard drives.
So what is the effect going to be?
complicated. And the more I look - the more complicated it gets.
|SSDs - the big picture|
StorageSearch.com was the
world's 1st publication to provide continuous editorial coverage and analysis
of SSDs (in 1998) and in the 12 years which have followed we've led the market
through many interesting and confusing times.|
|| If you often find yourself
explaining to your VC, lawyer or non technical BBQ guests why you spend so
much time immersed in SSD web pages - and need a single, simple, non very
technical reference to suggest - this may be the link they need.|
| It's easier to predict the
winners in narrow segments within the HD vs SSD market - than the impact of SSDs
on HDs as a whole. |
Here's a sanity check....
The 2 biggest
HD oems - Seagate and
collectively reported nearly $17 billion of HD revenue for the 12 months
ending Summer 2007. That revenue was $3 billion more than their combined HD
revenue the year before. That $3 billion growth is itself bigger
than the size of the SSD market this year...
So even though the SSD
market is growing fast (approximately doubling in revenue for the forseeable
future) it is not going to slam the brakes on growth in the hard disk market.
of HDs by SSDs has a vastly different triggering point for the 4 main markets
analyzed in my
For example - in the server acceleration market the factor is - SSD
cost versus additional server costs - and is completely unrelated to
hard disk cost. If we accept the results from that forecast the impact of SSDs
could halve the number of servers needed long term. That would hit server
shipments but is unlikely to impact high capacity (terabyte up) hard disks.
That's because the number of hard disks you need for bulk data storage (and
enterprise storage networks
is related to data growth and not server numbers. In this scenario
SSDs and HDs can coexist - and both markets can grow at the same time.
It's a different matter in other markets - like notebooks - where SSDs
and HDs will compete head to head for the same slots.
price vs capacity points at which users will switch is fraught with
difficulties. My own view is that some important users (like corporates) will
switch at a price difference which could be more like 3 to 1 rather than the
parity level reported by many buying intention surveys. That's because hard
disks have a higher cost of ownership which comes from their intrinsic
compared to SSDs. These higher HD costs such as the wasted capacity needed to
support RAID and the
management costs of backup
are not much concern to consumers who are more interested in purchase price.
Overall I predict HDs will only survive in applications where the
average size of disk installed is an order of magnitude above the most commonly
available shipped SSD.
That means desktop entertainment PCs are safe for HDs. But most
corporate notebooks are likely to switch. On the other hand consumer notebooks -
which have to meet entertainment needs (play tunes and movies) will hang on as
a HD market.
In the medium term:- (upto 4 years) - I
see no reason why overall hard disk revenue should decline - because new HD
applications will grow faster than the nibbling away by solid state disk
substitution. Also optical
storage solutions are unlikely to have enough capacity to displace BIG
hard disks. The eventual size of the SSD market does not have a glass ceiling
set by the HD market.
In the long term:- (5 to 10 years) the
venerable "tape on a plate" will eventually retire to be replaced by
the upstart flash in the
pan. But 60 years is a good stretch for any computer technology. Early
retirement is not in the current life plan.
|For more related articles
take a look at these resources
- 2010 - 1st Fizz
in the SSD Bubble? - even the dogs in the street know this is going to be a
multibillion dollar market. Greed will play as big a part as technology in
SSD year ahead.
- Solid State Disks - is
our directory of SSD manufacturers, and includes current news stories related
to the SSD market
market adoption model - why users will buy SSDs. This classic article
describes the main applications which account for nearly all SSDs used, and
gives the user value propositions explaining why SSDs are taking over in these