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Thread: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

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    Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    Jim Welsh, WD’s consumer branded products boss, sees more potential than ever for external HDDs.
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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    I don' think Western Digital will be too worried about SSD as that is balanced by the amout of extra storage that the average user now needs compared to say 4 or 5 years ago. With the explosion of High Def and faster broadband a 1TB drive is now smallfry.

    And WD will only really have to start worrying about Apple and Google TV once they actually get the product right - and that could take a good few go's by the looks of things. The first company that can produce an all in one media players/streamer that can record Dual DVB-T2 and has a nice interface without faffing about - they will instantly win a watch ...

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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    Is anyone aware of any other drawback to SSDs than just the price?

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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    Quote Originally Posted by hermano pequeño View Post
    Is anyone aware of any other drawback to SSDs than just the price?
    IMO Price/Capacity is the main drawback, the only other negatives are relatively minor:

    1. They only have a limited number of write cycles, so they wear out eventually, although it does take awhile.

    2. Currently there's still a lack of TRIM in RAID

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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    Quote Originally Posted by davidcrofter View Post
    I don't think Western Digital will be too worried about SSD as that is balanced by the amout of extra storage that the average user now needs compared to say 4 or 5 years ago. With the explosion of High Def and faster broadband a 1TB drive is now smallfry.
    Agree with what you're saying - I figure that the WD 'raptors are going to be cut when there's little price advantage v's SSD's. On the other hand the relative cheapness of the 1.5, 2.0 and 2.0+ TB drives surely makes them ideal for offline backup use, and possibly less so for online archives - e.g. that multi-gigabyte iTunes library. In which case, WD's focus on DAS and NAS seems to be a smart move.

    On the other hand, the elderliness of my Windows PC means that a pair of 1TB units - one for main, the other storing backups - works fine. Lord only knows what storage I'll need when I finally get enough dosh together to be able to upgrade to Win7 running on a multicore box.

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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    I agree with WDs analysis, and have often said so.

    In my opinion, SSDs are far more about performance enhancing than they are, at least so far, about mass storage. And for a LOT of people, the premium for that performance enhancement is simply too high. Clearly, a lot of the users on a site like this will pay out for it, either because they're power users where the performance difference is important, or because they simply want to adopt the latest tech. Or perhaps even for grabbing rights. Etc.

    But I doubt that the average Joe or Josephine Public would know an SSD if it bit them on the butt, and at the current cost/GB, would care even less.

    The biggest problem with SSDs is that in this multimedia-intensive age, big SSDs cost about as much as a decent PC, and the 'reasonably' priced SSDs are too small to be anything much more than a boot disk. To clarify that, as soon as you start talking about storing loads of music files, let alone video, or large collections of hi-res photos, etc, 30GB is next to useless and even 60GB isn't anywhere near enough. So, other than portable devices like netbooks, for many types of use, an SSD is an addition to one or more HDs, not a substitute. Not yet, anyway. Price is moving in the right direction, but it remains to be seen when, and indeed, if they can ever directly compete with HDs on cost/GB.

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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    Quote Originally Posted by Saracen View Post
    I agree with WDs analysis, and have often said so.

    In my opinion, SSDs are far more about performance enhancing than they are, at least so far, about mass storage. And for a LOT of people, the premium for that performance enhancement is simply too high. Clearly, a lot of the users on a site like this will pay out for it, either because they're power users where the performance difference is important, or because they simply want to adopt the latest tech. Or perhaps even for grabbing rights. Etc.

    But I doubt that the average Joe or Josephine Public would know an SSD if it bit them on the butt, and at the current cost/GB, would care even less.

    The biggest problem with SSDs is that in this multimedia-intensive age, big SSDs cost about as much as a decent PC, and the 'reasonably' priced SSDs are too small to be anything much more than a boot disk. To clarify that, as soon as you start talking about storing loads of music files, let alone video, or large collections of hi-res photos, etc, 30GB is next to useless and even 60GB isn't anywhere near enough. So, other than portable devices like netbooks, for many types of use, an SSD is an addition to one or more HDs, not a substitute. Not yet, anyway. Price is moving in the right direction, but it remains to be seen when, and indeed, if they can ever directly compete with HDs on cost/GB.

    This is true but then there is no need to keep video files let alone mp3's on a ssd. Fast read and access times are clearly optimal for a system drive not a storage drive.

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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    Quote Originally Posted by mark22 View Post
    This is true but then there is no need to keep video files let alone mp3's on a ssd. Fast read and access times are clearly optimal for a system drive not a storage drive.
    That was my point .... and WDs too - HDs are about storage and SSDs are about performance, and until the cost per GB of SSDs comes down a LOT, and the capacity goes up, they'll be an addition to mass storage in PCs, and not, in the vast majority of home machines, a replacement. And while PC aficionados may care enough about performance to add on an SSD, probably as a system drive, Joe and Josephine Public don't. Ergo WD saying the smart money is still on HDs - SSDs are still something of a niche product, and HDs are the mass market device. It's likely to remain that way for quite a while too.

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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    Quote Originally Posted by Saracen View Post
    That was my point .... and WDs too - HDs are about storage and SSDs are about performance, and until the cost per GB of SSDs comes down a LOT, and the capacity goes up, they'll be an addition to mass storage in PCs, and not, in the vast majority of home machines, a replacement. And while PC aficionados may care enough about performance to add on an SSD, probably as a system drive, Joe and Josephine Public don't. Ergo WD saying the smart money is still on HDs - SSDs are still something of a niche product, and HDs are the mass market device. It's likely to remain that way for quite a while too.
    Yes, there's quite a lot in what you're saying - and I certainly agree that in the short term we're not going to see SSD-only systems, apart from the odd Linux netbook.

    On the other hand, SSD's - being memory based - are going to be subject to the same rocket-powered development cycles as memory, processors and flash drives. Heck, look at how much SSD you can get for 300 quid these days compared to 12 months ago, or how much flash drive you can get for 100 quid. It doesn't hurt any that the big iron makers - like IBM, HP, EMC - are starting to offer hybrid SAN arrays where some of the storage pool is made up of SSD. And I'm sure I saw IBM offering some of their servers (blades?) with SSD only. All that demand is sure to drive down the price.

    When we can get a 500GB SSD for a tenth of the price that we can now, then I'll believe that they've "arrived". Until then I think I'll save my money and put up with a slower spinning disk. Especially, as "reddragon" points out, current SSD's wear out (relatively?) quickly and have issues in a RAID array.

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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    Especially, as "reddragon" points out, current SSD's wear out (relatively?) quickly and have issues in a RAID array.
    I suspect you'll find current gen SSDs to last longer on average than current gen HDDs

    Lack of TRIM is worth bearing in mind but isn't the be-all and end-all. Although I would debate the point of RAIDing SSDs anyway, but if you have money to burn...

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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    Quote Originally Posted by crossy View Post
    Yes, there's quite a lot in what you're saying - and I certainly agree that in the short term we're not going to see SSD-only systems, apart from the odd Linux netbook.

    On the other hand, SSD's - being memory based - are going to be subject to the same rocket-powered development cycles as memory, processors and flash drives. Heck, look at how much SSD you can get for 300 quid these days compared to 12 months ago, or how much flash drive you can get for 100 quid. It doesn't hurt any that the big iron makers - like IBM, HP, EMC - are starting to offer hybrid SAN arrays where some of the storage pool is made up of SSD. And I'm sure I saw IBM offering some of their servers (blades?) with SSD only. All that demand is sure to drive down the price.

    When we can get a 500GB SSD for a tenth of the price that we can now, then I'll believe that they've "arrived". Until then I think I'll save my money and put up with a slower spinning disk. Especially, as "reddragon" points out, current SSD's wear out (relatively?) quickly and have issues in a RAID array.
    In the corporate market you may be right, but then, all sorts of other factors, like power consumption, heat output (and aircon needs), longevity and reliabilty are come into the equation and price per GB tends to be less important.

    If SSD prices do drop by that order of magnitude, and you can get SSDs of 500GB (or larger) for prices that don't involve remortaging the house or selling your first-born, then I'd agree with you. But memory (RAM) prices in the last year or so have risen substantially over what they were, and though they've dropped back a bit, are still significantly higher than they were 18 months or so back.

    At the sort of level most domestic users will be looking at, what does £75-£100 buy you? A 2TB HD, or a couple of 1TBs (maybe 1.5TBs), or maybe a 40-60GB SSD. In broad terms, and depending on exactly which units you compare, we're currently talking of SSDs being about 20 times the price, per GB, of most SSDs (excluding the Raptor-type drives, SCSI, etc).

    One more thought .... when you say "When we can get a 500GB SSD for a tenth of the price that we can now, then I'll believe that they've "arrived"" .... don't forget that HDs aren't standing still. 18 months ago, the "sweet spot" for HDs was probably 640GB, but now, it's probably 1.5TB By "sweet spot" I mean the capacity just before the price/GB starts to jump disproportionately when you go up a capacity level.

    So yes, SSD cost/GB will drop, but odds are, so will cost/GB of HDs.

    The real test will be when, and indeed if (in the reasonably near future) SSD cost/GB starts to get into the same general area as that of HDs. When it gets to 2x or 3x, I'd say maybe they've arrived, but at 20x or so (cost/GB of an HD compared to budget 40-60GB SSDs), they're going to appeal to a limited number of users in the desktop domestic arena. It's different for netbooks, and even for laptops, but for desktops, we're a long way off yet, IMHO.

    I'm not saying it won't happen, but I'd be very surprised if it happens in the next year or two.

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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    Comparisons to RAM aren't actually all that useful, except on a broad scale of cost - for example, current MLC drives store two bits per cell, whereas Intel's (for example) next gen drives are reported to be three bits per cell - something that brings cost/GB down significantly more than a process shrink alone would be able to do (~20% more, a quick Google suggests as a ballpark figure). As far as I know, there is no equivalent way of cutting RAM cost/GB.£/

    Agreed on your other points though (except based on £50 for lowest £/GB and £100 for 60GB Vertex 2e, more like 50x more expensive ).
    Last edited by miniyazz; 18-10-2010 at 03:04 AM.

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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    Quote Originally Posted by miniyazz View Post
    Comparisons to RAM aren't actually all that useful, except on a broad scale of cost - for example, current MLC drives store two bits per cell, whereas Intel's (for example) next gen drives are reported to be three bits per cell - something that brings cost/GB down significantly more than a process shrink alone would be able to do (~20% more, a quick Google suggests as a ballpark figure). As far as I know, there is no equivalent way of cutting RAM cost/GB.
    Perhaps so. I was merely commenting on the comment made "On the other hand, SSD's - being memory based - are going to be subject to the same rocket-powered development cycles as memory, processors and flash drives.".

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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    Indeed.
    Mine was more a response to your statement that memory prices are higher than they were 18 months ago, which while true, doesn't necessarily mean that SSDs may become more expensive. Which was probably obvious to all anyway, sorry if I came across as overly argumentative

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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    Fascinating discussion (thanks all concerned). Especially as, from other Hexus comments/articles, I got the impression that the standard these days for a "good" system was an SSD-booted OS paired with a large conventional drive. So what the WD guy is saying is correct, we'll be buying Caviar's etc for a long time yet.

    If I get a chance I'll take a look back at previous Hexus articles on the subject- could be interesting to see how much better an SSD booted system is compared to - for example - a striped mirror RAID pairing using decent disks (e.g. Caviar Blue)

    Saracen: yes, apologies for the business-slanted nature of my posts - it occasionally gets difficult to change gear to think about boxes which aren't so many U high in a rack.

    Maybe SSD's will finally replace the spinning-plates-of-rust when someone can sell us on the idea of not keep so much rubbish on our PC drives ... (he says, ducking and running quickly off stage)

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    Re: Analysis - Western Digital says the smart money is still on hard drives

    Quote Originally Posted by miniyazz View Post
    Indeed.
    Mine was more a response to your statement that memory prices are higher than they were 18 months ago, which while true, doesn't necessarily mean that SSDs may become more expensive. Which was probably obvious to all anyway, sorry if I came across as overly argumentative
    Not argumentative at all, that wasn't at all how I took it.

    Oh, and I agree with you, by the way.

    The point was that despite the "rocket-powered" development cycles of RAM, discs, processors, etc, and I also agree with crossy that product development has indeed been extremely fast, prices can still go up, not down, in the short/medium term, because factors other than development cycles and large-scale economies can also come into play.

    But those cycles sure have been rocket-powered. It doesn't seem like all that long ago that a client of mine wanted wanted to add more terminals to a Unix server, and he paid £1000 for a 128MB board (and I do mean MB not GB) to do it. A bit over a year ago, I paid (from memory) about £31 for 4GB of RAM. That same memory is now about £57 (ex VAT). So .... long term, memory has come down hugely, especially in cost/MB. But over a year or more, it's doubled, and not yet. dropped back.

    But it's not just the price over time that bears on the comparative cost of SSDs and HDs, but the comparative capacity. Yes, the price of SSDs has come down, as I would expect it to do, both as products evolve and as they move out of the early-adopter phase of a marketing strategy into the mass-market phase, and as the technology evolves. And yes, the capacity points are moving (fairly slowly) up, but hard drive capacities aren't standing still either.

    The way I see it is this. A hard drive, regardless of capacity, has a minimum price point. After all, just about all modern drives share a cost for case, motor, platters, etc, and broadly, the same manufacturing and distribution costs. That's why the smaller ones vanish, and what was state of the art a few years ago is now impossible to buy - the capacity you get for that minimum price level goes up all the time, making smaller drives unattractive to buy, and therefore pretty pointless to make.

    That's the hurdle SSDs have to overcome to become mass-market.

    While they have some fairly significant performance benefits for power users, they'll make little to no real world difference for many undemanding users. For those users that use a PC for email, maybe write a few letters, browse the web and do their shopping research, SSDs are pretty pointless. It might save a minute or so on boot, but that's about all they'll notice. Any modern PC is probably 99% idle during that type of use anyway, so making it 99.9% idle gives poor return for the cost, as users move up the power scale.

    All of which is why I think WD are right and that SSDs still aren't mainstream, and won't be until :-

    a) capacities can more or less match HDs
    b) for equivalent capacity to an HD, price is much closer to equal

    HD development may no longer be of the rocket-powered type, but capacities are still moving steadily, and fairly rapidly, up, eroding any gains in price comparisons from, improvements in SSDs so far.

    It may well be that SSDs do hit critical mass at some point, though it's by no means certain unless cost/GB comes down to the point where much larger capacities being ergonomically feasible for the mass market, but until then, SSDs will (IMHO) remain largely a niche product for power and technical users, and the mass market will stay with HDs because of their much greater capacity and value per GB.

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