The rise of SSDs is pushing the hard drive market closer to the brink

The death of the HDD?

Commentators have long exaggerated the immediacy of the threat to the hard drive market posed by SSDs. Although HDDs are dramatically slower, the cost per capacity remains lower, which means organizations that need to store massive volumes of data still stand to benefit. HDDs are still relatively common in non-premium consumer devices too.

However, as solid state drives become faster, cheaper and more capacious, the number of use cases for the HDD is undoubtedly shrinking.

Earlier this year, for example, Micron became the first company to ship 176-layer QLC NAND flash at volume, a development that has the potential to bring SSDs to even the cheapest laptops.

Microsoft is also preparing to force PC manufacturers to abandon HDD boot drives, presumably in an effort to increase the level and consistency of performance across Windows 11 hardware. Although the ban applies to boot drives exclusively, dual-drive systems are a rarity, which means HDDs will effectively be pushed to the fringes of the PC market.

In an enterprise context, meanwhile, it is expected that the maximum SSD capacity will jump significantly (to perhaps 400TB) off the back of new technologies, closing the gap on hard drives from a cost per capacity perspective.

HDDs are also being squeezed from the opposite direction; increases in the capacity of magnetic tape (the current generation, LTO-9, has a native capacity of 18TB) means the case for using hard drives for archival purposes is increasingly weak.

Although analysts maintain businesses are best served by maintaining a balanced storage stack comprised of tape, HDDs and SSDs, which should cover off every use case in the most economical manner, the hard drive will only find itself in an increasingly perilous position.

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