In a recent interview with Blocks & Files, Shawn Rosemarin, Vice President of R&D in the Customer Engineering division at Pure Storage, offered his perspective on the impending fate of hard disk drives (HDDs).
Rosemarin predicts that by 2028, HDD sales will cease entirely. Pure Storage, a prominent company specializing in flash storage, software, and cloud storage, presents this intriguing outlook, emphasizing factors that could accelerate the downfall of HDD technology.
Rosemarin outlines a two-pronged threat challenging HDDs in the storage industry. One aspect involves rising electricity costs and limited availability, both of which negatively impact the appeal and feasibility of HDDs. Concurrently, the persistent reduction in the cost per terabyte of flash storage represents the second aspect. While solid-state drives (SSDs) have become popular among PC gamers and enthusiasts due to their superior performance, businesses prioritize cost metrics such as total cost of ownership (TCO). Rosemarin contends that the fundamental driver of this shift is the cost of electricity, asserting, "It's just fundamentally coming down to the cost of electricity." As operational expenses increase, HDDs are expected to lose favor among businesses.
To bolster his argument, Rosemarin shares compelling data on power consumption in the business and enterprise sectors. He discloses that data center operations contribute to roughly 3% of global power consumption, with storage constituting about one-third of that percentage. This storage is predominantly powered by spinning disk HDDs. Rosemarin posits that replacing HDDs with SSDs could lead to an impressive 80 to 90 percent reduction in power consumption. Power costs are not the sole concern; some countries are enacting power usage quotas, potentially obstructing less efficient projects from obtaining necessary approvals or operating at all. Another benefit of adopting flash storage, particularly attractive to businesses, is the increased storage density offered by flash technology. NAND maker roadmaps indicate that flash storage density is set to improve significantly in the upcoming years.
While recent data demonstrates a decrease in HDD popularity, with HDD shipment numbers nearly halving and sales dropping by over a third year-on-year, no hyperscale data center companies have yet indicated a transition from HDDs to flash storage. This lack of movement towards SSDs within the hyperscaler community may imply that the total obsolescence of HDDs by 2028 is improbable. Although Pure Storage's predictions may seem ambitious, it appears that consumers weighing factors such as storage cost per terabyte and a balance between high capacity and performance will continue to employ hybrid setups, integrating both SSDs and HDDs to capitalize on their respective advantages. Nevertheless, the industry is already observing a nostalgic yearning for the mechanical noise of HDDs, as evidenced by projects like the HDD Clicker, which supplies various clicks, ticks, and whirs to complement quiet computing experiences.