back to article Return of the disk drive bigness? Not for poor old, busted WD

Western Digital has reported mixed numbers for its latest quarter, with a small revenue rise and a larger profits drop compared with the numbers it reported a year ago. Seagate reported sparkling numbers yesterday in comparison. For its first fiscal 2015 quarter, ended 3 October, revenues of $3.9bn were up modestly year-on- …

  1. Goldmember

    Shame

    I've always found WD drives to be the most robust, generally speaking. Of course some do fail, but from my experience (and others I've spoken to) the failure rate tends to be lower.

    The article doesn't list any possible reasons why WD is doing badly but Seagate is doing well...?

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Shame

      I've made this comment lots of times before, but once again: all, repeat all, manufacturers have shipped batches of lemons from time to time, caused by a batch of faulty components or (occasionally) an unanticipated premature ageing problem.

      If you run RAID drives in mirrored pairs, save yourself from (most) common-mode failure problems by pairing a drive from one manufacturer with a drive from another. If you have two drives with nearly consecutive serial numbers from the same manufacturer, it becomes far more likely that one will fail and then the other will fail from the common cause before the replacement drive is fully synched.

      Have to say, I do like WD "Red" drives. I don't have a large enough sample to comment on reliability (FWIW no failures so far). But they certainly run cool and are uncannily quiet. Perfect for NAS boxes in a domestic or small office environment.

      1. Mark 65 Silver badge

        Re: Shame

        The one drive I would never, and I do mean never, buy again is a WD green. Absolute piece of shit. Developed an issue with the intelli-whatever green part and just continually span up and down, up and down, when trying to access data. Took a couple of days to rescue (luckily) the data off of the 750GB disk.

        I'm now nervous of buying WD again, especially any drive that mentions the intell-guff componentry and any drive that fails to mention its rotational speed. Went to Hitachi Deskstar NAS as of this year although have had long term success with Seagate before getting a DOA.

    2. harmjschoonhoven
      Meh

      Re: Shame

      Over the decennia I had many bad experiences with WD drives. But they make several series (colours) with different MTBFs. Their high-end drives are reliable. Also Toshiba* claims a long MTBF for their drives.

      BTW AFAIK the the quality of spinning rust is mainly determined by the quality of the ball bearings: initial submicron differences in diameter of the spheres have just to wear off.

      * Pronounce with the stress on 'i'.

  2. Nigel 11

    A technology in decline

    There will be a place for Terabyte-plus drives for some time to come, but the writing is on the wall. Solid-state storage will displace the hard drive from most desktop and laptop systems, and will then eat its way up the capacity scale. (maybe faster than we think, if 3D Flash expands its 3-dimensionality, or if Memristor tech comes to fruition.)

    Hard drive manufacturing perhaps needs to become a sideline of a different business?

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge

      Re: A technology in decline

      Agreed. As soon as there are high-speed moving parts there's the potential introduction of issues. Would be good to see some long term MTBF/failure rates for normal SSD although I guess they're still advancing too fast to be of much use.

      I was pleased to be able to afford to update my home machine this year with a 1TB SSD giving both speed and capacity for a reasonable price (M550).

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So immediately following the Asian floods that "caused" hard drive supply shortages, both firms profits spiked ?

    Hmm.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Can be simple supply and demand - if people know supply may be restricted then some "stock up", hence more demand and so more profit.

      Of course this is not mutually exclusive with prices rising due to restricted supply also causing profit to rise, but that depends on the honour and ethics of the vendor. And that point is left as a personal judgement...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But prices are climbing again now, no flood excuse this time ?

    2. Nigel 11

      So immediately following the Asian floods that "caused" hard drive supply shortages, both firms profits spiked ?

      If you have any evidence that this was a mere cover story, make it public or share it with the authorities. Because any such collusion to raise prices is illegal (and because our governments are running out of banks to hit with billion-dollar fines :-)

      Simple economics tells you that such an event *should* raise profits. You make the same profit selling N drives at 6% margin as 2N drives at 3% margin. Ordinarily you are prevented from taking (say) 20% margin by a competitor who sees an opportunity to grab your share of the market and make only 15% ... and you retalliate, and margins fall back. If you have first-to-market advantage on a better product you sell it at a premium price for as long as you can. This is why the biggest drives cost more per TB than the smaller ones, even though the actual extra cost of making them is probably much less than in proportion to their capacity.

      When there is a shortage of product compared to market demand, not only does price competition stop, but prices (hence margins) have to be raised to choke off demand. Price is a mechanism to make sure that the people who most need the drives get them, and the people who need them less, choose to wait a bit. The Soviets never did understand this. They thought that central planning would work better. It didn't. Politics aside [utopia to the nth power, that], no-one can solve a large travelling-salesman problem, which is what it would take to do central planning properly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You explain why shortages would cause prices to rise, but not why profits would rise. Exploiting a shortage is called profiteering for a reason.

        And now there are no shortages, but prices are rising again, even as technological advance makes them ever cheaper to produce.

  4. Lunatik

    WD or Seagate? Hmmmm....

    I've had good and bad experiences with most brands over the last 20 years or so, but I found this interesting breakdown of some real-world stats on HDD reliability. Shows a marked difference between Seagate and WD, and the ex-IBM, ex-Hitachi HGST drives.

    https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hard-drive-reliability-update-september-2014/

    Based on that I know where my money would be going. Spinning rust will be around for a bit yet.

    1. Decade
      Alert

      Re: WD or Seagate? Hmmmm....

      As useful as Backblaze's data are, they're using the drives in a completely different way than I am. They're buying the drives in bulk, and they're using proprietary replication software to stay ahead of hardware failures. I can't afford to buy drives in bulk, so I need each drive to be as reliable as possible.

      In particular, I'm noticing that they do not have Toshiba drives. I don't know how reliable Toshiba drives are. HGST drives are more reliable, but their per-TB costs are much higher than Seagate and Western Digital. Digital storage technology sucks.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: WD or Seagate? Hmmmm....

        If you can't afford pairs of drives with mirroring, how much is the data on the drive worth?

        BTW That's not a rhetorical question. Where I work we have many tens of TB of data on unmirrored (JBOD) drives. But this is a sort of a cache of simulation results that scientists think it might be useful to refer back to later. If a drive dies, so be it. They'd rather use any spare money on cacheing more results. And if they badly want to see a particular result that was lost, they can re-run the simulation.

  5. sequester

    So how does HGST fit into the picture, especially when it comes to market share? They're WD too except for some antitrust blinds.

  6. Sureo

    Unfortunately they did not rate my Seagate 2TB ST2000DM001 drive. So far it has been running without problems in my PC for just over a year, knock wood.

  7. 420Penguin

    I have 3 WD 1 TB drives of different lines (Blue, Green) running in 3 different PCs for over 3 years without a hiccup. Always found WD drives very reliable. Spinning disks are great ways to store a lot of data these days very cheaply, but I somehow feel that as flash has replaced optical disks, SSD will replace HDD in the future.

    1. Nigel 11

      I have 3 WD 1 TB drives of different lines (Blue, Green) running in 3 different PCs for over 3 years without a hiccup.

      Sigh. When one of them fails, you'll have a failure rate of 33% and suddenly WD is terrible?

      Statistics 101. The accuracy of an average is related to the square root of the number of observations that went into it. So Backblaze's observations of thousands of drives probably allow them to compare failure rates to about 1.3% (ie annual failure rate 4% means ina range ~ 2.7% to 5.3% range) and just about everyone else's set of data is too small to say anything much at all.

      But in any case, the real devil is common-mode-correlated failures. You can almost always protect against randomly distributed rare failures by using mirrored pairs of drives. But if you deploy two drives with near-consecutive serial numbers, failure of the first from certain causes becomes a good predictor of the imminent failure of the second. So buy one from each of two manufacturers and pair them. Even if the second manufacturer's drives are reliably known to have a higher failure rate, using it makes it far less likely that you will suffer a two-drive failure and downtime or worse.

      Oh, and do make sure that someone is monitoring the drives. Recently I heard about a NAS box that had been screaming "one of my drives is dead" at the e-mail address of an ex-employee for about two years ... yes, the other drive died defore anyone noticed. TbftgoGgI.

  8. Ant Evans

    Sorry

    These results are my fault. I was going to buy another scorpio black the other day, hit some browser problem, and then forgot about it.

  9. nerdbert

    It's the product mix

    Seagate is big in enterprise and desktop. They have relatively small market share in laptops.

    WD/HGST have a bigger exposure to laptops, well more than half the market.

    Laptops are transitioning to flash, as well as dropping in sales terms as tablets/phablets increase in popularity.

    Put it all together and you can see why Seagate had a better quarter than WD.

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