Despite some analysts' predictions that hard disk drives will soon fall into oblivion, losing their place under the sun to SSDs, the reality may be different. SSDs and HDDs are likely to sell well over the next few years.
The fact is that companies that are developing artificial intelligence technologies, cloud services, etc., are constantly in need of new storage solutions. Accordingly, HDDs are selling as well, and the demand is increasing every year. Details below.
What kind of forecast is this?
According to analysts at Coughlin Associates, the decline in hard disk drive sales will end in 2023. From there, it will begin a slow but steady growth until 2028. It is also predicted that SSDs will be sold along with tape drives. The latter have been in use for a very long time, but are still popular. Of course, not for regular users, but for companies that constantly need more and more storage capacity.
And it is the digitalization of most industries, the rapid development of artificial intelligence, IoT and other technologies that will trigger the growth of data storage sales.
The diagram shows that analysts expect growth in sales of HDDs of different form factors, both 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch. Experts believe that especially active will be sold high-capacity HDDs, which are produced by manufacturing companies. There are already 30TB disks available now, and it is likely that higher capacity models will be on sale in the near future.
All of them are needed to store massive amounts of data for AI training, medical archives, social media images, and similar tasks. SSDs don't quite fit the bill. For one thing, the real high-capacity models that companies could use are still expensive. In addition, HDD failure can be predicted, while SSDs are more complicated in this regard - they can simply stop working at one point, and that's it.
There is another opinion
It is that hard disks will almost disappear from the sale due to loss of demand, the year 2028. True, this opinion was expressed by a clearly interested party in such a thing - the manufacturer of enterprise SSDs Pure Storage.
In early March 2023, the company released SSDs with a capacity of 300 TB and almost immediately told about its vision of the future of the hard disk drive market. According to Pure Storage, disks will go out of business for a variety of reasons, including the falling cost of SSDs and the low power efficiency of HDDs.
According to the same expert, by 2028, the total cost of ownership of SSDs by corporations will be lower than the same indicator for hard disk arrays. We are talking primarily about SSDs with QLC memory chips.
New HDD models
Just recently Seagate announced the start of shipments of hard disks with capacity from 30 TB. At the moment this is just the beginning, the main volume of deliveries is scheduled for the end of this year. The disks are designed with HAMR technology, which allows to achieve a very large capacity.
The essence of the technology consists in local heating by laser and remagnetization in the process of recording the surface of the hard disk platters. The laser built into the disk head allows heating the plate surface up to 500 degrees Celsius. Accordingly, the desired area of the plate is magnetized even by a relatively weak magnet in order to record data. The developers of the technology report that neither physical nor chemical properties of the plate are changed. But the capacity - yes, it can be significantly increased, and after cooling the plate data is not lost, they can be read without problems.
At the moment, some of the released disks are already installed in Exos Corvault storage, which is also developed by Seagate. The 4U form factor rack accommodates 106 HDDs connected via SAS interface.
But so far, HDDs have problems
Or rather, not the disks themselves, but the market. For example, in the first quarter of 2023, HDD sales volume decreased by 35% compared to the same period in 2022. About 35 million HDDs were sold in Q1, a total figure for the three largest hard disk drive manufacturers - Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba.
The situation is difficult for both the corporate and consumer segments of the market. The latter showed a sales drop of 24% for desktop HDDs and 33% for 2.5-inch disks. Here is a table that clearly shows the state of the market.
|Supplier||Number of units||Changes quarterly/quarterly||Year-to-year changes||Market Share|
|Seagate||15.00 - 15.50 million||-2.3% — -1%||-34.7% — -32.6%||44.8% - 44.4%|
|Toshiba||6.30 - 6.70 million||-21.4% — -16.5%||-37.2% — -33.2%||18.8% - 9.2%|
|WDC||12.20 - 12.70 million||-5.4% — -1.5%||-38.2% — -35.6%||36.4% - 36.4%|
|Total||33.50 - 34.90 million||-7.6% — -3.8%||-36.5 — -33.9%||100%|
Some hard disk drive manufacturers believe that sales may increase, but this is probably just the companies' desire to show confidence in the future. Of course, HDDs aren't going anywhere, as there are plenty of industries that use them. But SSDs, solid state drives, are becoming more reliable, larger and cheaper. Over time, they are capturing more and more of the HDD market share.
Be that as it may, hyperscalers are gradually increasing business activity, so HDD manufacturers are hoping for a gradual increase in sales. As said above, slow but steady. It remains to wait for a few months, and then it will be seen which of the analysts is right and which - not so much.