Why SSD and HDD Prices Move in Parallel

ASTC 2016 HDD RoadmapWhy are HDD prices tracking SSD prices?  Why don’t they cross over?  These are questions that The SSD Guy is often asked, especially by people who anticipate a crossover in the near future.

In essence it’s because both the HDD industry and the semiconductor industry have set goals for themselves to achieve 30% average annual price reductions.  If they are both on the same trajectory, and if there’s an order of magnitude difference between HDD and SSD prices today, then there will be an order of magnitude difference in the future as well.

The 30% average annual decline in SSD prices has a convenient name: Moore’s Law.  Although there’s no physical, economic, or other restriction behind Moore’s Law (so it’s not really a law at all) it serves as a guide for the industry.  Chip makers set their sights at doubling the number of transistors on a chip every couple of years, and this equates to average annual price decreases of 30%.

The HDD business also Continue reading

Toshiba Reveals Restructuring Plans

Toshiba's Yokkaichi Manufacturing ComplexOn Friday Toshiba revealed its restructuring plans aimed at returning the company to profitability and growth through management accountability.

Of special interest to The SSD Guy was the fact that the company will refocus its semiconductor and HDD businesses, currently called the “Semiconductor & Storage Products Company” partly by giving it a new name: “Storage & Electron Devices Company”.  This division will focus on the semiconductor group’s good prospects and profitability while maintaining a focus on the fact that SSDs and HDDs share a business.  In the not-too-distant past Toshiba has run these two businesses separately.

The group plans to be “A pillar of income with Memories as a core business”.  To achieve this, Toshiba has stated that it will enhance its NAND cost competitiveness by accelerating development of BiCS (Toshiba’s 3D NAND technology) and by expanding the SSD business.   There are three parts to this Continue reading

Why Aren’t SSDs Popular in New PCs?

Fry's Electronics PC adFor the past decade I have been asked when SSDs will overtake HDDs in the PC market- when will more PCs ship with an SSD than with an HDD?

My usual reply is: “Never!”  I then go on to explain that two factors work against this ever happening.  The first is the fact that SSD prices are unlikely to ever match HDD price per gigabyte, which is the subject of a few posts on The SSD Guy, the most recent appearing HERE.  The second reason is that most PC buyers find SSDs unappealing when they are shopping for a new PC because of the price difference between an SSD and an HDD of the same capacity.

There are six Continue reading

Big New HDDs Indefinitely Postpone SSD/HDD Price Crossover

HGST's 10TB Shingled HDDEarlier this month Western Digital’s HGST division invited The SSD Guy to a launch of a number of products.  On the HDD side there were:

  • 6TB air HDD, HGST’s last air-filled enterprise HDD
  • 8TB helium HDD, an incremental upgrade of last year’s 6TB helium HDD
  • 10TB shingled helium HDD (pictured)

I view these as very solid evidence that HDD costs will continue to stay an order of magnitude cheaper than SSD costs, thwarting the price-per-gigabyte crossover that others have been predicting for years.

In fact, since my last post on the price crossover in 2011, very little has changed.

It’s safe to assume that the HDD industry will Continue reading

Are HDDs Vibration Sensitive?

Brendan Gregg in Sun's Fishworks Lab shouting at an HDD arrayOne reason to use SSDs is that, with no moving parts, these devices are insensitive to shock and vibration.  HDDs, on the other hand, are sensitive enough to vibration that it can cause access delays.

How sensitive are they?  Well, I have seen some overblown claims from SSD makers that shock will cause HDD head crashes.  I am not sure that I believe such claims, but I certainly do believe that an HDD’s actuator (the read/write head mechanism) can be shaken away from its track, causing a Continue reading

Apple’s Fusion Drive – An SSD Cache for the Macintosh

Apple's Chart of Fusion Drive Performance for the new Mac MiniOn October 23 along with the highly-anticipated announcement of the iPad 4, Apple rolled out new Macintosh computers that for the first time in an Apple product pairs an SSD with a conventional HDD to get the best combination of capacity, speed, and price.  The company calls this its Fusion Drive, not to be confused with Fusion-io’s highly-regarded products.

The SSD Guy did not attend the announcement, and there is little on the Apple website.  I contacted Apple, and they don’t have very much detail to share at this time.  This is important to note, since Continue reading

For the Lack of a Fab…

SanDisk-Toshiba Yokkaichi Plant from WD 2007 IDEMA PresentationOne popular argument to explain why SSDs have not displaced the HDDs in all PCs is that there isn’t enough NAND flash production capacity to support this business and there never can be.

This argument has been posed as long ago as 2007 by WD CEO John Coyne at an IDEMA conference (the source of this post’s graphic), SanDisk’s Eli Harari at the Flash Memory Summit in 2008, and Seagate‘s CEO Steve Luczo in a Forbes interview as recently as last April.  These are captains of the industry.  Their arguments make people stand up and take notice.

It’s a really flawed argument.

It goes like this: Continue reading

Seagate Invests in DensBits

Seagate and DensBits Strategic AgreementSeagate today announced an investment and technology agreement with DensBits, an Israeli SSD controller company mentioned by The SSD Guy in another post.

According to the press release Seagate will use DensBits’ technology for “consumer and enterprise applications including 3 bits/cell (“TLC”) 1Xnm Flash-based consumer-grade SSD, and 2 bits/cell (“MLC”) 1Xnm Flash-based enterprise-grade SSD.”

A pattern is starting to emerge.  We understand that Seagate’s current Pulsar SSDs use chips from Link_A_Media (the subject of another recent post) which has only recently Continue reading

Toshiba Reveals Hybrid HDD Research

Hybrid HDD - An HDD with a NAND Flash CacheNikkei Electronics published an article on May 22 detailing a May 17 briefing by Toshiba president Norio Sasaki. Mr. Sasaki told of the company’s plans to introduce a hybrid HDD (HHDD) in September of this year that is aimed at the Ultrabook market. The article notes that Toshiba is the only company that produces both NAND flash and HDDs, now that Samsung sold its HDD business to Seagate.

The article also says that Toshiba: “aims to become one of the top three companies in the HDD market in terms of market share.” The SSD Guy is forced to wonder at this comment, since there are only three HDD manufacturers in existence today: Toshiba, Western Digital, and Seagate.

The Seagate Momentus XT, the only Continue reading


RAID ConfigurationThe SSD Guy has been asked a number of questions lately about SSDs and RAID.  Most of these center around the difference in failure behaviors between SSDs and HDDs – HDDs fail randomly (if ever), while SSDs fail relatively predictably due to wear.

Oddly enough, SSD failures due to wear make them a little friendlier than HDDs.  The wear mechanism is managed by the controller in the SSD.  SSDs have spare blocks, and the controller manages those blocks, so the controller understands exactly how much wear the SSD has undergone and how much room is left before the SSD will start to have difficulties. Continue reading


Jim Handy
Objective Analysis
SSD Market Research
+1 (408) 356-2549
Jim.Handy (at) Objective-Analysis.com

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