A recent interview with Shawn Rosemarin, Vice President of R&D (Client Engineering Unit) at Pure Storage raised eyebrows after predicting no more hard drives will be sold after 2028 (i.e. from 2029).
Rising electricity prices will probably be the final nail in the coffin hard drive proliferation of hyperscalers, although the imminent advent of PLC (five level cell) technology and the ridiculously low terabyte price for SSD could play a role there.
Because in case you’re wondering, it’s about enterprise customers, not end users and consumers like you and me.
Of course, Pure Storage has a vested interest in moving and encouraging everyone to move beyond hard drives, as it sells AFA (All Flash Array) storage, equipped with its own proprietary SSD called DFM (for Direct Flash Array).
This plans to introduce models with a capacity of 300 TB by 2026 and I wouldn’t bet on a 600 TB model that will appear in 2029. Over the past few years, observers may have noticed a trend; economies of scale mean that hyperscalers – not the consumer market – are driving hard drive innovation. This would explain why 2.5-inch hard drives have been stuck at 5TB for seven years now, while their 3.5-inch brethren hit 30TB.
And as noted in this articleportable hard drives, the smaller ones (no external hard drives that use larger models), could disappear next year as the average price of large internal SSDs continues to fall with no end in sight. Currently the cheapest 2TB SSD costs around $30 per TB compared to $25 for a 2TB portable hard drive.
Consumers have been left behind
Innovation in consumer hard drives has already stalled: Toshiba, one of the big three, is not selling to customers, while the largest Seagate Barracuda drivethe 8 TB model, was launched in 2017 (ed: Seagate released the Firecud, an 8 TB hard drive for gamers, in 2022, but this is probably a slightly modified version).
As for Western Digital, capacity also stalled at 8TB for consumer products (blue, launching in 2021), although it has a thriving WD_Black gaming hard drive. So when an 8TB SSD hits $100, that will be the end of traditional hard drives for consumers.
Indeed, if you want higher capacities, you have to buy from enterprise, prosumer or business to get higher capacities, but even that is not enough (Exos, UltraStar.
In an exclusive interview with TR Pro, Western Digital Senior Vice President, HDD Product ManagementRavi Pendekanti bluntly told me that the reason we still can’t buy 26TB HDDs (26TB UltraSMR HDDs in this case) is because they are host managed drives that are not direct replacements for CMR hard drives.
Requires host software and stack mods with sequenced data streams and random write error handling. In other words, the greater the capacity, the more enterprise-ready technologies will be added in the future, making it costly and complicated for users to adopt them in the consumer world. SAS drives or NVMe hard drives anyone?
Where does that leave the big three?
Seagate and Western Digital have long hedged their bets as hard drives were written on the wall. Seagate already sells SSDs, and Western Digital is a major player with its acquisition of Sandisk and partnership with Kioxia. Toshiba, on the other hand, has been quite reticent about its SSD plans, if any.
There will always be a demand for high-capacity HDDs for the niche market for prosumers (mainly NAS) and it is likely to be served for the foreseeable future by HDD recyclers such as MaxDigitalData Or Water Panther who refurbished hard drives from hyperscalers, but offer a full warranty and a lower price.
There are enough hard drives data centers around the world for this ecosystem to thrive for the foreseeable future until hyperscalers decide to move on to something else, be it GOUTSSD or something else.