Will SSD Replace HDD?
SSDs are clearly better than HDDs when it comes to performance, the problem has always been one of price and capacity. But with flash prices plummeting over the last few years, how soon can we see the prices equal those of hard drives?
HDD Pricing is Dropping
Andy Higginbotham, President of PriceG2, a market research and consulting company that tracks retail prices of storage products, addressed this question last year. PriceG2 compared the prices of 256 GB SSDs vs. 250 GB 2.5” HDDs and 512 GB SSDs vs 500 GB 2.5” HDDs. He found that:\
The retail price for 256GB and 512GB SSDs has been dropping at a linear rate since 2010. In comparison, HDD pricing and new technology introductions have been stagnant. The HDD industry’s highest capacity in a 2.5″ 2-disk configuration has been the same 1TB for the last 3+ years. If SSD pricing continued to fall at the same rate, then mathematically SSDs would match HDD pricing by mid to late 2013; however, a recent up-tick in SSD pricing, noted by the orange circle in the charts below, is expected to delay the intercept into 2014 or beyond.”
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That recent up-tick he was referring to showed that “For the first quarter of 2013, HDD pricing dropped by about 5% overall, where SSD pricing increased up to 8% on some models. To date in 2013, it appears as if NAND flash manufacturers have opted to control pricing more strictly and have no immediate goal to replace HDD’s with a similar capacity SSD for the same price.” At that point in time, there was an 8:1 price/GB differential between the 512 GB SSDs and the 500 GB HDDs. On the smaller drives, the ratio was 4:1.
SSD Price Trends – Still More Expensive than HDD
The price flattening that Higginbotham noted has continued and SSDs’ prices remain significantly more costly than HDDs, though far less expensive than they used to be. And this is just looking at the relatively small drive capacities. SSDs are completely uncompetitive with the high-capacity 2, 3 and 4TB HDDs. So while SSDs are finding a niche in the laptop and high-performance server space, bulk storage will continue to be ruled by HDDs for the coming future. While SSD production continues its rapid growth, HDD production also continues to grow, given the 50% annual storage capacity growth rate.
In an interview last year, Rajesh Kurana of Seagate India, said it would take more than a trillion dollar investment to build enough capacity to catch up with HDDs production.
“It is simply far less expensive to manufacture drives,” Kurana told the Indian IT website CIOL.com. “A new facility for producing hard drives costs about $35 to $50 million and can be operational in about four months. A similar NAND flash factory that can produce 100,000 wafers a month cost $4 billion and takes two years to build.”
Will SSH Replace HDD? Not Anytime Soon
So, it looks like it will be a long time before flash fully replaces HDD. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; not every application benefits from the speed that Flash offers. But given the price trends, with hybrid drives and storage tiering, it is now cost effective to use Flash when high-performance matters and HDDs for bulk storage.
At Zetta, we will continue to extensively use Flash and SSDs to service our clients. We consider that the benefit our clients receive from faster cloud backup and restore make it worth it. We are, of course, looking forward to the prices dropping further, but we are not willing to compromise on service.