NAND, Flash, SSDs and HDDs - what's happening?

It was only a year ago that a shortage of NAND, due to high demand from smart phone producers and a restructuring of manufacturing, meant SSD prices remained high, too high for many to consider them an alternative to HDDs for data storage. How times have changed. We now have a global over-supply of NAND, and it’s a supply that’s growing by 15% a year.

Intel’s fabrication plant in Dalian, China is doubling its capacity. Samsung is increasing the output of its Chinese plant in Xian, due to come on stream next year and the firm’s new plant in Korea began production this year. There are many others coming on stream soon.

As it costs in the region of $10bn to open a NAND fabrication plant, those suppliers splashing the cash are clearly serious about continuing supply at this level and must, therefore, expect to see demand continuing to grow. But will it?

True, demand is currently growing by 5% a year. As the network of connected devices grows - the Internet of Things - demand for data storage rises and the very nature of the instantaneous, fast retrieval needed by IoT means NAND will be the method of choice. But that’s still some way behind the current growth in supply.

SSD prices are expected to start to drop as the producers’ strategy to get the price down to a comparable point to challenge HDDs kicks in. Few, however, expect we will see parity.

HDD providers are responding to this sector development by enhancing the advantage disks have over Flash; capacity. Storage density can be increased, for example, via the use of SMR (Shingle Magnetic Recording) where data is stored on overlapping grooves.

Seagate and Western Digital are both investing heavily in HDDs, which is evidence that there are no immediate concerns that cheaper SSDs will steal the HDD market. While speed is the USP for Flash, it’s capacity that gives the disks their edge. As there will be no profit is selling, say, 4TB disks, the future lies in high capacity. Seagate is predicting we will see 100TB HDDs by 2025, using HAMR technology. Western Digital is putting its faith in the alternative technology MAMR.

This innovation is much needed. According to IBM, the world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. And as this opinion piece from Exertis Hammer shows, there is some high level innovation taking place in the industry to ensure data storage continues to meet this fast-growing demand.

Source: Hammer
Published Date: 06/12/2018

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