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Wave of change to sweep computer storage space

Posted: 27 Apr 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Google? computer storage? SSD? hard drive? Microsoft?

The pace of transformation of computer storage for the past 30 years has been rather predictable. In particular, capacity doubled every three years and, while there was an initial price premium, the prices decreased to the same level as their predecessor. However, that all changed when solid-state drives (SSDs) entered the stage, changing the rules for measuring drives from capacity to performance metrics.

Within just five years, SSD had the "enterprise" drive makers forming a defensive circle, trying to justify a performance-based existence in a world where hard drives were out-classed by a factor of 1,000 times in IOPS.

Computer storage

Most of the other hard drive categories are also under siege. Desktop computer drives are up against Microsoft's stumble on Windows 8 and the (diskless) tablet trend. Attempts to market hybrid drives with a flash memory cache have not attracted high sales and there appears to be no expectation in the industry of a turnaround of the decline, since the boost in sales from upgrades to Windows XP looks to be over.

In fact, the only place where interest in spinning disks is robust is the use of cheap SATA drives as bulk storage. Capacities are growing fast, and there is a horse-race between WD and Seagate for market leadership.

Solid-state disk and flash drives are a totally different kettle of fish. Sales are growing rapidly, and new technology looks to match even bulk SATA drives in capacity (by 2017 according to most of the vendors) and price per terabyte (in 2018 per Intel). The HDD market likely will collapse once parity is reached, even if there is a moderate price premium for SSD, since SSD performance will be so dominant.

Those high-capacity drives, meanwhile, are changing the array and appliance business. We used to talk of multiple racks for a petabyte of storage, but today's 8TB drives can be packed in 80 to 4U of rack, or 800 drives per rack. That's 6.4 petabytes of storage.

With hard drives, the ratio of IOs to capacity has moved way out of balance. This, and the IO rate of even a few SSD, makes smaller appliances useful, increasing the front-end compute and network capability to be able to handle SSD. Even with this, the number of boxes sold has been reduced, even while total world storage is expanding rapidly.

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