Hard Disk Drives Obsolete And On The Way Out, Or Will Hybrids Spark A Renaissance?

Is the hard disk drive with its spinning disks an obsolete technology being ushered out by SSDs, or will hybrid drive development give it a seciond wind?

Spinning Disks: Goodbye And Good Riddance?

InfoWorld’s Paul Venezia thinks life will be much improved by casting off the alleged shackles of ancient storage technology. I disagree, retaining affection for the experienced (no critical data loss from hardware failure over 21 years use) reliability and economy of HDD storage, but Venezia makes an interesting case hypothesis, arguing that within a decade, we may find ourselves in a post-storage world devoid of what in his estimation is the painfully outdated yet ubiquitous spinning disk.

He notes that there are already terabyte SSDs on the market for under $600 – solid state capacity and price point that were unthinkable even a few years ago, and maintains that performance and reliability of SSDs continue to increase eventually yielding extremely affordable, blazingly fast, and ultrareliable SSD storage arrays that all but eliminate many of the classic problems presented by spinning disk.

But this is still now, and SSD’s capacities are much smaller and more expensive than with spinning disks’ almost 60 year old technology which offers amazinlgy large storage capacities at relative bargain prices.

Venezia acknowledges that Cloud storage operations may continue to leverage spinning disk technology for archival storage, but will necessarily have massive amounts of solid-state storage on the front line in order to deliver data at expected speeds, envisioning an era when cheap, persistent, and indefatigable storage will be largely ignored and taken for granted, with losing data a thing of the past with no crashed disks, no lost pictures or projects or reports, no hours of effort suddenly gone.

That of course assumes that solid state storage will turn out to be as reliable as Venezia and other SSD advocates imply.

You Know Flash Is King When Disk Giant Seagate Grows Its SSD Line

The Register’s Chris Mellor reports that leading HDD maker Seagate is going to expand its solid state drive (SSD) line this year using co-developed Samsung controller technology and introducing its first multi-level cell drive.

Mellor cites Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers who has talked to Seagate execs who informed him that Seagate will launch a refreshed line-up of SATA and SAS solid state drives, based on joint co-development work with Samsung on controller technology, and suggested the company also plans to launch its first MLC-based PCIe SSDs in 2013.

The article notes that Seagate bought Samsung’s disk drive business a year ago as response to Western Digital’s purchase of Hitachi’s GST storage media manufacturing and marketing operation, and is now disk drive market revenue leader.

Mellor observes that both Seagate and Western Digital appear to now realise that the performance data access market is moving away from fast spinning hard drives into a high-end pure-flash market and a mid-range/low-end hybrid solid state hard drive (SSHD) market – Flash being where future growth prospects lie.

Seagate’s Magical Traveling Box And Hybrid Laptop Drives Coming

Barrons’ Tiernan Ray reports that Seagate has also developed a yet-to-be named gizmo that is both a MiFi-style cellular router at 4G speed and a half-terabyte drive in a single highly-portable package – sort of a “MiFi”-plus. The device, which uses 2.5-inch, 5400 RPM HDD technology can serve as both a mobile personal drive, and a wireless access point, and additionally, through a partnership with startup firm Poltek, will also will let people you invite connect to your drive over the Internet.

Ray says he recently spoke with Seagate’s chief marketing officer, Scott Horn,who thinks many in the industry and on Wall Street have over-estimated how NAND flash memory technology, in the form of solid-state drives (SSDs), will devastate conventional drives (HDDS) which have been Seagate’s the bread and butter. However, by buying Samsung’s storage drive business Seagate has gained a much deeper partnership with Samsung for flash that it’s leveraging to sell more and more hybrid drives with a few gigibytes of flash memory cache piggybacking massive amounts of main storage on spinning disks, (a la Apple’s new iMac and Mac mini “Fusion” drive option) allowing both speed and capacity at a competitive price. Ergo, Ray says Horn thinks hybrid drives turn out to be popular in Ultrabook laptop PCs, with Seagate planning 2.5-inch hybrid drives for users who don’t want to be limited to the solid-state drive’s maximum affordable capacities of around 128 gigabytes or 256 gigabytes.

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