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SSD and HDD Economic Forecast: Analyst Jim Handy Speaks Out

Comments(0)By Steve Leibson for Denali Software

If you’re waiting for solid-state drives (SSDs) to overtake hard-disk drives (HDDs) as the storage device of choice in computers, servers, and consumer devices then Objective Analysis’ Jim Handy has a message for you: It’s not happening any time soon. Handy’s been following storage trends for many years. He’s tracked the pricing trends of HDDs for a while and SSDs for their short but dynamic life. Based on his presentation at the recent Storage Visions 2010 conference in Las Vegas, here’s what Handy forecasts:

Courtesy of Objective Analysis (www.objective-analysis.com)

The cost/Gbyte for HDDs is roughly 20x lower than for SSDs and Handy expects that relationship to be stable for the next 20 years. Sure, the cost/Gbyte will decrease for both types of storage device, but HDDs will remain the low-cost leader for high-capacity storage.

These predictions are built on some “basic truths”:

These raw numbers are fascinating, but the implications for storage consumers and marketers are even more interesting. For example, Handy asked the question “What can you do with $10 of NAND Flash memory now and what will you be able to do with it in twenty years?” He answered that question with the following graph:

Courtesy of Objective Analysis (www.objective-analysis.com)

Today, you can store about a thousand songs on $10 worth of NAND Flash memory. You can store perhaps one or two standard-definition (DVD-quality) movies or two HD (Blu-ray quality) movies. As NAND Flash capacities rise, you’ll be able to store more music and more movies for that same $10. Around the year 2026 or 2027, said Handy, you’ll be able to store the entire iTunes music catalog--all 10 million songs--on $10 worth of NAND Flash. That information nugget suggests that there will someday be consumer-class devices that will ship pre-loaded with every song you might ever want and that you’ll merely pay a fee to unlock the songs that you want to hear. Don’t believe it? Well, back in the year 2000, the music companies didn’t believe they’d be selling songs by subscription instead of quaint plastic discs called CDs. Now CD sales are way down and iTunes rules the roost with downloadable music.

Then Handy asked a similar question about HDDs: What can you do with a $50 HDD? Here’s the graph he showed to answer that question:

Courtesy of Objective Analysis (www.objective-analysis.com)

Today, you can store more than 100,000 songs or 100 DVD-quality movies on a $50 HDD. By the year 2017, you’ll be putting the entire iTunes catalog, all 10 million songs, on that same HDD. By the year 2025, you’ll be able to fit the entire Internet Movie Database (www.IMDB.com) movie catalog--500,000 films--on one $50 HDD. By then, once again, you may be buying a consumer product preloaded with every movie ever made and simply paying a fee to watch the movies you want.

Handy claims that people will eventually collect movies on hard disk as they do now for music. Currently, people buy or rent DVDs and Blu-ray discs rather than keep them in HDD storage but eventually media storage will be so inexpensive that even movies will disappear comfortably into the maw of a $50 HDD. A subsequent panel of teenager media users underscored that point at Storage Visions 2010. The young panelists described their current media-consumption habits. Unlike their parents, they never buy music CDs unless giving them as gifts. They download all of their music. However, they currently do want physical DVDs and Blu-ray discs. Their children probably won’t.


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