Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Data Storage Media Hardware

No Cheap Replacement For Hard Disks Before 2020 346

siddesu writes with disappointing news to anyone who'd like to see solid-state storage dominate in the near-term future. "A new study of storage technology by the former CTO of Seagate predicts that hard disks will remain the cheapest storage technology in the next decade and probably beyond."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

No Cheap Replacement For Hard Disks Before 2020

Comments Filter:
  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @04:56PM (#29859571) Homepage

    ...10 TB drives will be $10? More likely, 100TB drives will be $100 but you won't be able to get anything smaller. And they'll still crap out after a couple of years.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 24, 2009 @04:58PM (#29859591)
    I would wager that because the memory used in solid state drives is old enough that a breakthrough at this point is more unlikely to happen, merely because it should have already.
  • Define 'cheapest' (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @04:59PM (#29859605) Journal
    If you mean 'lowest cost per GB' then you're probably right. If you mean 'lowest cost per IOPS' then you're already wrong. And if we're talking 'lowest cost for something of adequate capacity and a low power consumption for a laptop' then you're also probably wrong too. When flash drives drop below about $1/GB (and it's already close) there will be little advantage in mechanical disks for most users. It doesn't matter if the disk is bigger if you're only using 10% of the capacity, and it's slower than the alternative and uses more power.
  • Prediction eh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xtal ( 49134 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @04:59PM (#29859617)

    The fact a major, respected, industry leader has predicted an upstart new technology will not surpass the incumbent technology is an indication it is almost certainly false.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:02PM (#29859641)

    Probably because manufacturing techniques often take at least 10 years to become mainstream. Even if someone invents something faster, smaller and more reliable than magnetic storage... you still have to conceive of a way to produce it in mass quantities to drive the price below that of established spinning disks.

  • Very old article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iYk6 ( 1425255 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:02PM (#29859649)

    today, a typical 500 GB hard drive costs about $100

    This article must be several years old. In present day, a 1TB hard drive costs about $80.

    October 23rd, 2009 By Lisa Zyga


  • Re:Prediction eh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:04PM (#29859663)

    The fact a major, respected, industry leader has predicted an upstart new technology will not surpass the incumbent technology is an indication it is almost certainly false.

    An industry leader who runs a company that has sold off all the other parts of the company over the years and now produces nothing but hard drives.

    Let's be honest, he's hardly going to say "Disks are dead within 5 years. Unfortunately, we'd need to put in 6 years of R&D to catch up with everyone else in the solid state storage arena."

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:13PM (#29859735) Homepage Journal

    Pretty much. And the Seagate folks are forgetting the fixed costs in their estimates. There are a lot of fixed costs that go into manufacturing hard drives. That's the reason prices on HDs aren't dropping. Instead, capacity is increasing, giving the perception that storage is getting cheap. It isn't, though, unless you really expect to use all of that 1 TB capacity. The average computer user uses maybe 1-200 gigs. For them, the effective price of HD storage hasn't changed significantly in about five years.

    The price of SSDs is going down because most of their cost can still be reduced by economies of scale. At some point---probably within a couple of years---the price of a SSD will drop to the point where you can get a 256 GB drive for $100. At that point, it doesn't matter how big the hard drive vendors make their drive capacity; they're through. Most people will buy the much more reliable SSDs over the larger HDs once the price is about the same. At that point, the tables will turn, HD manufacturing will be relegated to power users, and hard drive prices will skyrocket. I'd give them five years. At most.

    Their statement reads like a press release by a company that sees the writing on the wall and is trying to keep stock prices propped up as long as they can. Just saying.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:35PM (#29859939)

    you still have to conceive of a way to produce it in mass quantities to drive the price below that of established spinning disks.

    Nope! Roast beef costs more than bologna, yet people chose to buy it every day. SSD drives don't need to be cheaper because they are better - silent, far less prone to shock damage, and ohhh so much faster. Morever, HDD's, though cheaper per megabyte for huge-sized drives, will be more expensive for the smaller sizes people actually need. You can get a memory stick for, what, $10? HDD's never touch that because of their complexity. Well before 2020 a 250 GB SSD will be $20, and will have ample capacity for most users, and will be cheaper than any HDD. Granted, a 50 TB HDD will still be cheaper than a 50 TB SDD, but most people won't care. About that time, HDDs will become specialty products, further crippling any remaining cost advantage.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:43PM (#29859997)

    Well before 2020 a 250 GB SSD will be $20, and will have ample capacity for most users, and will be cheaper than any HDD.

    Rather like the average user will ever need more than 640k of RAM.

    By 2020, 250GB will be as much of a joke for the average user as a 250MB drive would be today; 250GB will probably be just about big enough to hold one super-extra-high-definition video file.

  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:44PM (#29860003) Homepage

    At some point---probably within a couple of years---the price of a SSD will drop to the point where you can get a 256 GB drive for $100. At that point, it doesn't matter how big the hard drive vendors make their drive capacity; they're through.

    Agreed. It doesn't really matter if the price per TB for magnetic hard drives is much lower than for flash. The question will be, can I get enough storage in my computer without breaking the bank?

    Of course it depends on what amount is "enough". Honestly, on my laptop, I'm only using 25 GB. It's not that I'm trying to keep my storage requirements down. I have 160GB to work with, I just don't store anything except my OS, a few applications, and some documents. My desktop is in about the same state, except add about 20 GB of music. I think the next time I buy a new drive (which may still be a couple years off) it will be SSD.

    On the other hand, I would probably still want something very high capacity for archiving/backup, and hard drives might still be suitable there. Also, it's possible that I could be prodded into collecting movies and TV shows at 1080p like I have MP3s right now, in which cases I might want several hundred gigabytes of video storage. That might be another suitable use for hard drives. So maybe you'll see more of a tiered approach, with smaller/faster SSDs used internally to store the OS and apps, and then bigger external HD for video, backup, and archives.

  • by Hortensia Patel ( 101296 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:45PM (#29860009)

    unless you really expect to use all of that 1 TB capacity. The average computer user uses maybe 1-200 gigs. For them, the effective price of HD storage hasn't changed significantly in about five years.

    I dunno. I've recently noticed that the bigger disk capacities are being advertised as "nnn DVDs", in the same way that they used to be "nnn songs". It's not a given, but ripping DVD collections (and/or storing PVR recordings long-term) might well take off as a mass-market usage. I started ripping my own DVD library recently and believe me, it eats terabytes for breakfast.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:56PM (#29860071) Homepage Journal

    250GB will be as much of a joke for the average user as a 250MB drive would be today

    Nintendo DSi has the equivalent of a 256 MB microSD soldered onto the motherboard. It's enough to hold a few apps from the DSi Shop. If it were a joke, why would Nintendo have used it?

    250GB will probably be just about big enough to hold one super-extra-high-definition video file.

    For one thing, the eye has a resolution limit, so why would people need more than, say, 2560x1440 (quad 720p) in home electronics? For another, are you talking about the consumer's use (which would be streaming rather than storage if the movie industry has its way) or the movie producer's use?

  • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by StoatBringer ( 552938 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @06:21PM (#29860273)
    You severely underestimate future requirements for porn storage.
  • You won't care (Score:3, Insightful)

    by coryking ( 104614 ) * on Saturday October 24, 2009 @06:40PM (#29860421) Homepage Journal

    but most users won't really care about that extra speedup.

    The hard drive has been a limiting factor in all kinds of things. Why were you taught to "always save your work"? Cause hard drives are slow and it was infeasable to have the application save data in real-time. With an SSD, most applications can probably save your work in real-time. Why does it take so long to boot? Cause the hard drive is slow. With an SSD you can probably afford to quickly dump all of your memory out to "disk" and shut the compute down in hibernate mode--none of this partial-sleep junk.

    Why does it take so long to load a program? Slow disk. Why does my computer lag sometimes? Probably slow disk moving around heads on a spinning platter.

    Why does it take so long to install things? Partially cause the OS has to set up a shadow copy so you can roll back. Why does my OS not have a shadow copy feature yet? Probably cause the designers thought it would be to slow to implement because of your slow-ass disk. Why does it take so long to search my filesystem or index it? Slow-ass disk.

    You think that extra speedup won't be cared about? Seriously? The fact we've delt with such a slow means of long-term storage has held us back for a long time. Remove the silly constraints forced by stupid mechanical devices and suddenly we can do a lot of creative, useful things that were not possible before. Surely even you can see that, right?

    Or am I forgetting this is slashdot home of the tech-Luddite and dog gon'nit a command-line and a green screen is good enough for me and should be good enough for anybody!

  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epine ( 68316 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @06:47PM (#29860453)

    At the rate we're going, by 2020 Windows will probably need 500GB for a base install

    Only if you install the Federation Font Pack and the holographic tridi layout engine. And that's supposing the SETI program makes an immediate break-through, like tomorrow, and Perl 7 ships on time.

    We've already passed the visual resolution where porn becomes gynaecology. Even lust has resolution limits.

    Or maybe Google decides it saves bandwidth to send out the entire public Internet encoded as a single quantum particle, but for some reason people don't disable their Mozilla page cache.

    Extrapolation is a valid exercise, but works better accompanied by graphs and data points rather than historical fat jokes. The last time Windows hung over its pants like a muffin top, I had a 6GB hard drive. Seagate hasn't sold anything smaller than a military surplus tent awning for years now. Hard to believe, times change.

  • by Hortensia Patel ( 101296 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @07:00PM (#29860529)

    But.. why would you do this? DVD's successor is *already* mainstream, and the successor's successor is already being hinted at.

    Why do people rip their CD collections? Because they've got them, and they don't have any burning desire to buy them all over again, and dealing with huge numbers of physical discs is a royal PITA.

    DVD for me hits a "good enough" spot: cheap, reasonable quality, ineffectual DRM. Blu-Ray is higher quality, sure, but I gather the DRM is really obnoxious, and even if it weren't the filesizes are so ludicrous as to rule out all the possibilities that make digital formats a good thing. iTunes downloads and the like are OK for rentals, and I've used them for that, but I actually like owning movies, and that doesn't seem to be an option in the current marketplace. ("DRM that hasn't screwed you yet" is not "ownership".)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 24, 2009 @08:05PM (#29860919)

    You missed one very important point. Anyone so closely connected to Seagate as a former CTO of Seagate, is very likely to still have connections with that company and that part of the industry. Seagate and other hard drive companies don't want solid state to dominate, as their business is in conventional hard drives. Now we have solid state drives that means the chip manufacturers are now direct competitors with hard drive companies, which means a lot more competitors for hard drive companies.

    So any press release has to be considered very suspect at best. Seagate and other hard drive companies would totally loose out if solid state dominates the market so they are never going to admit they are in trouble or that they are in danger of becoming obsolite. No company would admit that.

  • Re:Fragmentation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by owlstead ( 636356 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @08:26PM (#29861027)

    Or for some reason have a defective firmware, like I have on my Intel G2 SSD. Of course, that was maybe to be expected for any early adopter. Be aware though that this is a rather new technology. Some things are still developing like TRIM support and fast(er) writes.

  • Re:Prediction eh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdflat.cCHICAGOom minus city> on Saturday October 24, 2009 @09:38PM (#29861357) Journal
    Actually, it's a pretty solid argument... at least if you talk in terms of historical precedent. Every time that I can think of in the past that somebody in such a position has predicted some new technology not really taking off anytime soon, that prediction has been quite wrong.
  • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @09:40PM (#29861365) Homepage

    It's been my professional experience that a nice percentage of drive failures happen because of the logic board going out, not mechanical. Of course, it could be the heat that's killing them.

    It's too soon to tell, but I'm a little skittish regarding SSD technology. It's getting better, but I'll wait a few more product generations before using them in SQL servers. With HDD crashes, at least the data can be professionally recovered to some degree. But what about SSDs? If the controller dies and/or a PSU fries every chip, I'm afraid all the data would be lost forever!

    Only a historical record of this new technology will determine my level of trust in the future.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SilentSandman ( 1488023 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @10:21PM (#29861603)

    Really? I've got 5 of them sitting on my desk right now, and they're all full... and I don't even pirate games/movies/etc... the interesting thing is, a good portion of my friends and workmates all have similar amounts of storage space -in use-. Sure we're all game developers and a good portion of us are artists as well, but it's not as rare as you might think. Especially when you re-include the pirates. :\

  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eil ( 82413 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @10:42PM (#29861721) Homepage Journal

    So these people can predict the future now?! Really, you never know what is going to happen for sure.

    If you want to see what's going to happen in regard to mechanical vs solid state hard disks, you don't need a crystal ball. Just look at the transition from CRT to LCD displays. It wasn't so long ago (seems like only a few years) that LCD monitors were horribly expensive and that fact (combined with their other drawbacks) made them an unattractive option for most people. I can recall many, many people right here on Slashdot saying that they would never give up their enormous, power-hungry, failure-prone CRT displays. Now, you can't even buy a CRT computer monitor because LCD quality caught up and surpassed CRTs for most purposes while price plummeted. The same will happen with mechanical disks and SSDs. Maybe it'll happen faster, maybe slower, but it will happen.

    Keep in mind also which company this "prediction" is coming from: Seagate lived a long and prosperous career engineering and manufacturing mechanical hard disks. They are a huge company whose entire operation is based around the concept of shipping hunks of metal with rotating platters inside. Since an SSD is just a bunch of memory chips duct-taped together, the memory companies (Transcend, Crucial, Corsair, Samsung, etc) were the first ones with SSDs on the market. The SSD thing likely hit Seagate by surprise and they can see that their run won't last long. It's not too late for them to start transitioning to manufacturing memory chips, but doing so would be brutal for many reasons. To start with, their decades of mechanical drive development experience, manufacturing facilities, engineers, trade secrets, R&D, etc are mostly about to be worthless. If they start selling this stuff off now while it's still fairly valuable, shareholders are going to do a huge "WTF?" and walk off. Second, the memory companies have a few years head start. Even if Seagate could enter the market and compete with them, the company would be leaving their position as a market leader to be a market newcomer, taking cues from everyone else. (Cue the sound of their last few shareholders stomping out.)

    Basically, unless Seagate can buy up a few of the leading memory companies making SSDs right now, they're screwed. Until (or unless) that happens, all they can do right now is appease their shareholders and put their executives up on stage to have them parrot the lie that their business is going to be viable for a good long time yet. Oh, and frivolously sue all the SSD manufacturers on broad patent infringement grounds.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @11:00PM (#29861837)

    This is more a matter of dialectical usage. In North America it is typical to refer to companies in the singular whereas the plural interpretation is more typical for British English and those regions it has influence over. It is interesting to note that the term "company" is itself a plural word but "corporation" refers to a plurality of parts (share holders in this case) forming a single body. Then throw in that, in the US at least, companies are legally regarded as individuals and you have a recipe for confusion regarding proper pluralization for corporate entities.

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @02:43AM (#29862701) Homepage Journal

    1) HDDs don't have excessive wear and tear from use. We don't know how long high end SSDs will last - but HDDs can go years of heavy read/write use.

    You're joking, right? One of the most common causes of hard drive failures is damage to the heads from the head ramp. That's mechanical damage every time the heads get parked. And in laptops, the rate of damage is even worse because when they get bumped around, the head arm slams itself against the ramp to protect the platters. And the second most common cause is data corruption of the control track, without which the hard drive becomes a brick; there's a theory [dataclinic.co.uk] from one data recovery company that fluid bearings cause vibration that leads to this corruption. And that's not even counting the fact that you have a head arm moving back and forth, bearings spinning, etc. There's plenty of mechanical wear and tear going on, and some of it can be quite catastrophic.

    SSDs have none of those mechanical failure modes. And even the risk of solder ball failure (a common cause of hard drive controller board failure) should be significantly lower because solid state drives generally don't dissipate as much heat as spinning drives. Thus, the failure of a SSD is likely to be fairly predictable in write count to the point that you could set your watch by it, and the exceptions are likely to be much fewer than with hard drives.

    To put this in perspective, ask yourself this: when is the last time you had RAM suddenly go bad? In my life, I can only think of one single time when I've seen RAM that worked from the factory stop working, and I'm not 100% sure even of that one. Hard drives? I lost four last year alone. So it's not a question of whether SSDs will be more reliable on average, but how many orders of magnitude more reliable they will be. My money is on either 2 or 3.

    2) As prices of SSDs drop, companies will flock to the new market, shovelling out short lived crap. (Same thing happened to HDDs)

    Maybe so, but this is what reviews are for. :-)

    2) HDDs will have superior capacity for a very long time. It will be hard to match that for the "best value" drives priced at around $100, or even the cheapest ones priced at ~$50.

    Again, though, if 95% of customers don't need that capacity, there's no reason for them to buy a less reliable technology. And there's little question, given the failure rates [pcworld.com] on hard drives, that even the most poorly built junk SSDs are going to be more reliable on average, assuming you ignore all drives that are DOA....

    3) HDDs can ramp up the cache to have very awesome performance.

    I'd settle for a tenth of hard drive performance to have avoided my four hard drive failures last year. It was a brutal year. As soon as I can move entirely to SSDs, I'm switching and never looking back.

    Now picture a modern 3.5" drive with dual or quad heads from WD. Add in 4GB of cache, and make it 10000 RPM. Stick it in a DVD drive bay and include battery backup. The cost would literally be hundreds of dollars, but you'd have something like 8TB of space capable of almost maxing out SATA3. (500MB/sec for short bursts under 3 minutes long isn't unrealistic)

    And the average computer user would use... pretty much the 4 GB of cache, and wouldn't ever read or write a single byte to the physical platter except for data reliability reasons.... Saying that hard drive vendors could increase space by fourfold doesn't matter. They could increase it a hundredfold and it wouldn't matter if 95% of the customers don't care. It's like the problem with selling software upgrades. If customers don't see enough value in upgrading, they won't.

  • by BikeHelmet ( 1437881 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @02:59AM (#29862739) Journal

    Wow, I don't know how I missed writing two 2's into that post. :O

    1) Some vendors have a lot better track records. The real question is when have I had a drive fail within two years?

    Well, Seagate 7200.10's were particularly bad. I had two of those start chirping loudly, and RMA'd before the trouble started. But now that I'm mostly WD it seems okay. All my WD drives(~6) have been doing fine for 0-9 years. I even have an old Raptor still going strong, and matching modern drives for performance. (But not capacity or noise)

    The thing is... I've had SD cards fail silently. I'm not so trusting of NAND until it proves itself, and all the reviews are good. I guess you could say, I'm waiting for third gen tech.

    2a) True, true. :P

    2b) Oh, usage will easily rise to 60+ GB for a light user. I mean, we're starting to see games between 10-25GB, and the OS is taking up more and more room, so 60-120GB for a light user is plausible.

    But I see your point about capacity.

    3) If you run Linux... go software RAID on multiple drives. If you run Windows... run a backup script at night - or go RAID-1 and make sure it works properly.

    I've been grateful for backups a couple times now.

    Your point about the value of upgrading is true - but I'm sure Microsoft will do something about it. After all, they helped AMD and Intel with that challenge. ;)

  • by LordVader717 ( 888547 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @04:28AM (#29863005)

    Now this is a situation which is best left to hard drives. Blu-Ray discs have only a small multiple of space than DVDs. They're currently much more expensive than DVDs, and both a far behind the 5 cents/GB you get for hard drives these days.
    Then you have the added inconvenience of fiddling around with 40 discs vs. one single TB hard drive. If you want to be careful, you should also regularly check your backups for integrity, which is much easier for a single SATA hard drive.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Sunday October 25, 2009 @08:40AM (#29863791) Journal

    Hate to break this to you, but the desktop PC gaming market is irrelevant these days. Go to any gaming store. You might find a shelf with a few PC games...

    That's how you measure the world of computing? By what's on the shelves at the local GameShop?

    It's like measuring the state of the health care industry by what's in your medicine cabinet.

    Anyway, I wasn't trying to say that PCs are 9/10 of the computer industry, just that the term "just a fraction" doesn't mean what you think it does.

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.