Quo vadis, storage?

Buffalo ministation

For years now, people have been passionately discussing where the storage industry is heading. The hard disc drive (HDD) has been declared dead many times by critics, while some experts have claimed that solid-state drive (SSD) is the way of the future. Scientists have even found a way to store data on artificial strands of DNA!

It is not only a question of which storage medium, but also where we will store our data: in the cloud? On local direct/network attached storage? Or both? What will be the right solution for whom?
There are also questions around how small businesses will react to ever-growing data needs and security requirements, while being challenged by limited budgets. How will enterprises deal with storage in times of NSA and industrial espionage?

In our series “Quo vadis, storage?”, we put these questions to different Buffalo employees. We also hope to involve our readers in this discussion.

Today, we begin the first part of our series by interviewing our Sales Engineer, Harald Falzmann, on the topic of The HDD is dead vs. long live the HDD?

What do you think about the future of the hard disk drive?

In my opinion, it is too early to proclaim the death of the HDD. There are many reasons for this. For now, SSDs are still not able to compete with hard drives when it comes to capacity-cost relation. A 6TB consumer hard drive starts at prices of around 180 GBP, while a 1TB consumer SSD (TLC) retails at around 220 GBP. That’s more than seven times more expensive! Comparing enterprise class drives, the SSD might be up to eight or ten times more expensive than the HDD.

Advocates of the SSD point to the fact that these drives consume less power and might therefore be cheaper long-term. And yes – prices of SSDs are coming down very quickly, but prices are always a matter of supply and demand. In my opinion, I think the demand will soon outgrow supply.

So, you are saying SSDs alone will not be able to meet the exponentially growing demand for storage?

Yes, exactly. HDD experts have shown the mismatch of worldwide storage demand and SSD factory capacities. At the moment, it is unclear how long it would take to build sufficient factories and secure the supply chain, but it is likely to take several years.

It’s also interesting that a handful of experts have been quick to dismiss HDD when a greater demand for HDD technology is coming from the use of new mobile devices. These devices are producing more and more data – nowadays a single digital picture taken with a smartphone can take up to 4MB. This is before we consider the great data demands of video files. Once users exhaust the limits of their smartphone SSD storage, they start looking for a long-term storage solution, which is often where HDD technology comes in.

There is no doubt that SSDs are incredibly fast, small and robust. This is useful for mobile devices and other purposes requiring very high transfer rates, but SSD alone is not yet able to cater for all storage needs. SSDs cannot yet meet the global demand for storage space and are not a cost-effective solution for large data amounts. HDD continues to fill this void.

Also, in the HDD corner, there have been some amazing new developments such as Shingle Magnet Recording (SMR) and filling drives with helium. HGST just recently announced a hard drive combining the two technologies: SMR and HelioSeal, reaching an unprecedented 10TB capacity. This SMR technology does come at the cost of speed, but it also brings unrivalled capacity to the storage market and is well-suited to archiving purposes.

Does this mean that Buffalo only uses HDD?

At present, it still doesn’t make sense for Buffalo to completely populate its solutions with SSD. Our customers need affordable and reliable storage solutions with high capacities, above speed and footprint.

That’s not to say that Buffalo doesn’t offer SSD. When dealing with direct attached storage (DAS) with USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt interfaces, the story changes. Our SSD-WAT series DriveStation™ Mini Thunderbolt™ is a DAS product populated with two SSDs. The Thunderbolt interface, combined with the SSD, provides the speeds that are needed in creative environments and demanding applications such as editing 4K video. But again – this product is not designed for backups or storing data long-term. The users only really benefit from the SSD inside, when fast reading and writing of data is frequently required.

This being said, Buffalo is constantly monitoring what our customers need and ask for. We are flexible and can react fast, when demand for storage solutions populated with SSD significantly grows.

For more information on HDD storage solutions from Buffalo, please click here.

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