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Who's Eating Whom in the Storage Market?by
Even very young children are familiar with the
concept of a food chain...
We eat fish. Fish eat smaller fish or
plankton. Sometimes, if we're in the wrong place at the wrong time, a big fish
or a crocodile may eat us.
Dinosaurs eat whatever they want...
It's comforting to believe that there is a natural order to all this.
Ok it's less comforting when you're being eaten alive by mosquitoes
or your cat has fleas. And it's morbid to dwell too long on what will happen
long after the coffin has gone into the ground... But most people will agree
(religious and vegetarian convictions aside) on what creatures get commonly
eaten by other creatures and why... Big teeth. Lots of little critters eat one
big critter. Predators run faster than prey etc etc
It's not quite so
easy to describe the food chain in the storage market.
Let's take a
backup got convincingly eaten in 2006 by
disk to disk backup. Any
tape companies surviving are keeping their heads down, not making much noise or
trying to swallow potions that will make them look more like disk backup
companies. So hard disks
are at the top of this food chain. Right?
But take a look at what's
happening to hard disks in the
gadget and notebook market. Nasty little
flashy diskses are
quietly scrunching away there taking juicy design slots. My Precious.
|Meanwhile at the high end of
the hard disk market SSDs are now offering nearly as much capacity with faster
speeds and better reliability than 15K RPM hard drives. |
hard drives are often cheaper to buy - SSDs are often
cheaper to own
- because one SSD may last as long as 3 hard drives, or because the SSD speedup
lets you buy less processors - or the embedded application
doesn't need much
So serious has the threat here become that some hard disk
makers have interbred
flash-magnetic products in the hope that they will look good from whatever
angle you choose.
My take on this is that chocolate is nice and chips
are nice but I suspect that the market for chocolate coated chips may be limited
and will not best please chocoholics or crisp crunchers.
But let's look
at another place where hard disks are eating the cream.
It wasn't many
years ago that optical
storage companies were predicting their products would eat hard drive slots.
Shiny 3d-holo-nano-laser-disks were going to be 100 times faster than hard disks
and offer 100 times more storage at a small fraction of the price. Billions of
dollars of VC funds
went down that drain - but actually the hard drive archiving market became too
hard to swallow - as hard disks got bigger in capacity and learned how to go
into sneaky powered down mode.
But this tale of the hard disk food
chain is not yet done.
Because although it's true that flash storage
has replaced hard disks in some low power products (or created new niches in
which hard disks had never before been viable) a new generation of smaller hard
disk companies and products has evolved to meet flash SSDs head to head in
phones, portable DVD players etc. It's sometimes hard to tell from the outside
which one you've got. And when you hit it with a hammer to look inside - it's
dead - so not much use.
Despite the rearguard action and cloning by
the hard disk companies the flash storage market has grown fat (tens of
billions of dollars revenue) and seems unassailable... But if you look carefully
there are a whole bunch of non volatile memory technologies in the parasite
hatchery (with technologies called
which may start pecking away at those hard to reach morsels which the flash
entities can't reach.
It's easier to explain dinosaurs and sharks.
I don't want you to think that Megabyte is obsessed with food or
animals but while we're on the subject take a look at my growing article
and Metaphors in the Storage Market or
storage companies which
eat other storage companies.
That idea of chocolate coated chips
doesn't sound too bad now...
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