Brian

When Will WD and Seagate Transition to Flash Vendors? Discussion

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If you listen to the proclamations of outspoken flash peddlers, we're to believe that hard drives are dead, near death, or at least reading over hospice pamphlets. With the ballooning data sets found in the enterprise though, it's easy to scoff at such claims declaring them the propaganda of an overactive marketing guy. The thing is, flash guy might be right.

When Will WD and Seagate Transition to Flash Vendors?

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This is an interesting, premise however the other side of the coin which never seems to be discussed says that NAND will also hit a density limit without a breakthrough on the FAB process or more exotic packaging i.e. 3d stacking

Case is point; roughly speaking this is the density vs capacity for a give space.

45nm MLC NAND = 4GB

32nm MLC NAND = 8GB

22nm MLC NAND = 16GB

14nm MLC NAND = 32GB < pending?

10nm MLC NAND = 64GB < projected

7nm MLC NAND = 128GB < projected

5nm MLC NAND = 256GB < projected

The problem area is the 14nm/10nm process. FABs are having a really hard time pushing past the 14nm. Without the reduction, at some point they too will not be able to scale and stagnate like the cpus.

So the question becomes who will hit what wall first, and at what cost.

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3D or V NAND is expected next year. That will give the business another big technology boost for both capacity and performance.

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Pricing is still an issue with flash, specially when it comes to backup storage or storage servers that read/write blocks from 64K+ at which HDDs do well enough at. I understand that flash is not the same, but at least we'd like more reasonable prices at high capacities.

For most of us, a combination of SSD/HDD/RAM is the way to go at the moment.

Edited by Maxtor storage

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The issue is that in order to supply the amount of capacity to unseat hard drives it would require 75 more fabs. These weigh in at 10 billion apiece. There is simply no where near the capacity production to unseat HDDs, now or anytime within the forseeable future. Just one fab is a significant investment, and we do not see those popping up, except when necessary to replace older process fabs. They aren't actually increasing the number of fabs pumping out NAND, they are just replacing the old ones.

Edited by Computurd

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The issue here isn't that NAND will outpace HDD immediately, the issue is that NAND demand will grow and limited supply will cause problems for those without internal access to it. As customers start buying more SSDs from vendors that make it in house, there is less incentive to sell it at lower prices to third parties. Without the huge investments early on, manufacturers trying to sell high volume in the flash space without a foot in the fab won't be able to compete on margin.

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Fabs are expensive yes, but the ones online now are being repositioned to handle die shrinks. Once you have a few you don't necessarily need more to handle things like 3D NAND. The demand for the old stuff is gone, artificially or otherwise.

Those arguing in favor of hard drive tech as the long term storage solution are delusional.

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I agree absolutely that those without Fabs are going the way of the dodo. They will have to differentiate on software offerings, but even that will wane as the companies with valuable software tech are vacuumed up by the fabs. HDDs imo are kind of like tape, they will just progress down the storage stack into lower and slower tiers. No doubt the performance tier is going to flash almost immediately, but I'm not sure about the capacity tier, at least for a longer period of time.

Flash Forward (SanDisk/Tosh) have 2 fabs, Samsung has 3 with one being built, Micron has 3 and Hynix has 2. That is a long way from being able to support the EB capacity required. I personally think we will be on to ReRAM or some other memory tech before flash can supplant HDD.

Edited by Computurd

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HAMR+He (7platter) could take HDD up to 43.7TB-87.5TB per 3.5 Drive and between 12.5TB-37.5TB for a 2.5 Drive. With these density’s HDD could up the capacity even more by moving from Constant Angular Movement to Constant Linear Movement this would increase the overall space yet again. With amount of raw space people would not use this to instant access everything like a SSD, it becomes more of long term storage device.

Again it becomes who will hit what wall first. It might Ping-Pong for a few iterations on the mass storage side, but it is ultimately good for the consumer

My final analysis is more of a comparison of other technologies. These might be bad comparisons, but the overall message is stil the same.

  1. There are more Vinyl records being produced today than there where when they had the dominate market share. However if you plot the growth of the market, the overall growth would be anemic compared to that of CD and digital downloads, but it’s still growth and it’s still profitable.
  2. Also look how long it to for CD to replace 3.5inch disks, it never did? It wasn’t telling USB an entirely different technology existed that the 3.5inch disk was effectively killed off.
  3. "640K ought to be enough for anybody” As long as there is enough of a price delta between HDD and SSD and/or the total capacity is significantly different SSD may encroach on HDD, but may not supplant till much further down the road.

So in the end you have it both ways. HHD will stick around for a lot longer than people think, it’s just what it becomes used for and who uses it will evolve.

Edited by Mkruer

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Its important to remember that SSDs only account for 3% of the storage mix in the datacenter, possibly 4% if you are being generous. There are periods of time now where the fabs are placing orders on hold, simply because they cannot physically make more flash. We are currently having periodic NAND shortages every few months just trying to populate this tiny sliver of the datacenter capacity, with more severe flash shortages in the future being predicted by nearly all analysts. There is no way we can even scratch the capacity required to replace HDD with flash.

Edited by Computurd

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The fab capacity issue is a good and valid point, which is why more fabs are needed and if the pure HDD guys are going to do anything with flash, they need to invest now. There's no reason not to have wagers on more than one horse.

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I agree, they definitely need to get more involved. There are so many benefits of SSD that to stay with HDD is just a waste, especially from a power perspective.

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