Is anyone still using hard drives?

November 12, 2014

While manning our stand at the Singapore Cloud Expo Asia 2014 … I quickly get bored of that so go wandering to look at the offerings of all other vendors at the show (as you do of course).

Several things came to light …

1. They wouldn’t give me any free ice-cream because my badge had “exhibitor” on it – lousy software vendors …

2. It was hard to find a hard drive in the building.

There were a lot of hardware vendors in the place, with storage comprising a fair percentage of those vendors, and some drive vendors showing off all models of both spinning hard disk drives and SSDs, but when it came to finding those using in another vendor’s solution, it was a totally different story.

Flash/SSD/Flash (then a bit more SSD) … that’s pretty much all anyone was showing or talking about. Even we were promoting maxCachePlus Caching and Tiering software with our controllers, so we also were on the “Flash is Great’ bandwagon along with everyone else in the building. This made me stop and think about the future of drive formats.

1. 2.5″ or small SSD

2. PCIe SSD (and the new tier of storage that will be PCIe based that fits inbetween Flash and memory, but that’s another story)

3. 3.5″ thumping big HDD

I heard a drive vendor say that they would be moving out of the 2.5″ spinning market within 2 years. That rocked my socks at first, but it sort of makes sense. With SSD taking over the 2.5″ market, getting cheaper and larger at the same time, the only real play for spinning media is in the very-cheap, or very-large, or very-large-and-cheap marketplace.

So what is the point of having a 1tb 2.5″ spinning drive – you may as well get an SSD. With vendors like Sandisk offering a mind-blowing 10-year warranty on their 960Gb product it’s pretty hard to understand why I would want to buy a 2.5″ HDD … and it seems that the drive vendors have come to the same conclusion.

So if it’s spinning, it has to be big/cheap – and that (today) means 3.5″ form factor. It would seem we are headed for a class split at the form factor level – with SSD taking over the smaller side of town, while HDD will dominate the large form factor with massive drives.

That, of course, is going to put the chassis vendors under some pressure. Customer will start to want combinations of 2.5″ and 3.5″ bays in their servers – and of course no two customers have exactly the same requirements, so I’d guess a modular approach to different size bays will be the go in future servers (I saw something like this a while ago in a major OEM in China so I guess they were ahead of the curve). Yes you can put a 2.5″ drive in to a 3.5″ bay, but that is a waste of space in today’s current trend of high-density servers.

This should be interesting to sit back and watch over the next two years.





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