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 follow HGST’s lead with competitors shipping both enterprise and client versions of these capacities.  As HDD makers always do, they will then drive the price of these products to the same level as their predecessors, or roughly $50 for the client HDD & $350 for enterprise version.  This will allow the price per gigabyte for HDDs to drop significantly over the next few years.

HDD capacities typically increase in lurches, with vendors extending one technology as long as they can, then moving to the next to cause price per gigabyte to drop rapidly for a while.  This happened in the past with the onset of air bearings, giant magnetoresistance (GMR), perpendicular recording, and other technologies that The SSD Guy, because of his semiconductor focus, doesn’t know much about.  We are now entering another phase of rapid price drops enabled by the move to helium and shingled recording.

This change will once again prevent SSD prices from approaching the price of an HDD.

Assuming that a client version of HGST’s 10TB shingled HDD sells for $50 three years from now the price of HDD storage will drop to $5/TB.  If NAND successfully follows its historical price decline of -40%/year (starting in late 2012 when prices stabilized) it should cost $30/TB by then.

Most people think that a 40%/year NAND price decline is no longer attainable.  If NAND prices decline at the less aggressive 30%/year price reduction that DRAM has historically followed then NAND would cost $67/TB by mid-2017.

NAND prices would have to drop by an average of 58%/year to reach price parity with a $5/TB HDD by mid 2017.  It’s pretty certain that this isn’t going to happen!

At Objective Analysis our business is to help our clients understand how the future will impact them.  When our clients ask about an SSD/HDD price per gigabyte crossover we provide this sort of analysis to show that HDDs will enjoy an ongoing price advantage over SSDs.  Please contact us to learn how you can take advantage of our insight and understanding to gain a competitive edge.

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