The combined effect of a drop-off in PC demand and the pace of SSD adoption led to a significant fall in hard drive shipments last quarter, a new report suggests.
Data from analyst firm Trendfocus shows HDD shipments plummeted 15.4% in Q2 on a quarter-to-quarter basis, with unit sales among vendors like Toshiba dropping by as much as 17.3%.
Although the picture looks a little less bleak when it comes to performance-focused enterprise drives and nearline units (which bridge the gap between online and offline storage), demand for most HDD segments fell by doubt-digit percentages across the period.
The death of the HDD?
Commentators have long exaggerated the immediacy of the threat to the hard drive market posed by SSDs. Although HDDs are dramatically slower, the cost per capacity remains lower, which means organizations that need to store massive volumes of data still stand to benefit. HDDs are still relatively common in non-premium consumer devices too.
However, as solid state drives become faster, cheaper and more capacious, the number of use cases for the HDD is undoubtedly shrinking.
Earlier this year, for example, Micron became the first company to ship 176-layer QLC NAND flash at volume, a development that has the potential to bring SSDs to even the cheapest laptops.
Microsoft is also preparing to force PC manufacturers to abandon HDD boot drives, presumably in an effort to increase the level and consistency of performance across Windows 11 hardware. Although the ban applies to boot drives exclusively, dual-drive systems are a rarity, which means HDDs will effectively be pushed to the fringes of the PC market.
In an enterprise context, meanwhile, it is expected that the maximum SSD capacity will jump significantly (to perhaps 400TB) off the back of new technologies, closing the gap on hard drives from a cost per capacity perspective.
HDDs are also being squeezed from the opposite direction; increases in the capacity of magnetic tape (the current generation, LTO-9, has a native capacity of 18TB) means the case for using hard drives for archival purposes is increasingly weak.
Although analysts maintain businesses are best served by maintaining a balanced storage stack comprised of tape, HDDs and SSDs, which should cover off every use case in the most economical manner, the hard drive will only find itself in an increasingly perilous position.
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