back to article Western Digital formats hard disk drive factory as demand spins down

Western Digital will close its hard disk drive factory in Petaling Jaya, near the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, blaming lack of demand for the gear. WD powered up its operations in Malaysia in 1973, initially making custom semiconductors. It transformed the assembly lines in 1994 to make hard drives, and employed some 13,000 …

  1. Haku

    I guess this is a positive thing?

    A real, physical result of the increased demand for SSD over HDD, but with a 1TB SSD costing 5x that of a 1TB HDD there's still a significant demand for HDD.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Yeah, case in point : where am I going to go to replace my NAS drives now ?

      I don't have the money to put 4 3TB SSD drives in there, not at current prices.

      I guess I'll just have to advance my plans to replace the 3TB drives I have now with 8TB drives sooner than later, and hope that they'll last until SSDs become a dime a dozen.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: I guess this is a positive thing?

      "with a 1TB SSD costing 5x that of a 1TB HDD there's still a significant demand for HDD."

      Alternatively, with a 1TB SSD costing 5x that of a 1TB HDD we've reached the knee point.

      It's clear that the largest impediment to adoption of SSD over the last 4-5 years hasn't really been cost so much as availability of NAND. That said I won't buy WD or Seagate SSDs.

      1. Ken_A

        Re: I guess this is a positive thing?

        Which brand of SSD would you buy?

    3. Phil Kingston

      Re: I guess this is a positive thing?

      Shipment figures over the last few years show a clear downwards trend. Demand's still there, but much reduced.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. chrismevans

    Demand but not margin

    If you were looking at the market and saw that SSDs were in demand and had much better margin than HDD, which would you focus on? This just says that WD are focusing where their capital can be best applied. For them it clearly isn't in the HDD market. How long before manufacturing capability is sold off to the Chinese?

    1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Re: Demand but not margin

      HDD manufacturing plants make no sense without all the patents required to build them, and R&D to slowly increase capacity.

      The HDD duopoly is just doing what a monopoly does: increase benefit, and it is more profitable to produce less and raise prices. This is why we have antimonopoly laws.

      Remember, they want to get paid, not to produce HDDs, that is just what they need to get paid..

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    blaming lack of demand for the gear

    they blame lack of demand, I call it choking supply to keep prices up. Not for the first time.

  4. Joerg

    More managers b*ll just to raise prices again...

    More managers b*ll just to raise prices again... like the HDD prices ever returned to normal... it never happened.

    Now they will double prices once again and so on... then they will raise SSD prices too of course.

    These rich managers must be put in jail. That is where they belong.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What a load of bwll

      "b*ll"

      Bell? Ball? Boll? Bill?

      It's already shorn of the expletive anyway; censoring "bull" is kind of silly since you're implying the sweary bit either way, whether or not you (pointlessly) censor that first half. If it's *that* big a deal, you're better off choosing a completely different word/phrase.

      El Reg is probably okay if you want to say "bullshit" anyway. Or "fucking", for that matter.

  5. adam payne Silver badge

    SSD drives are in high demand that is true but if you want a large capacity drive you still have to go with a HDD, unless of course you want to remortgage your home.

    1. TVU Silver badge

      RE: Western Digital formats hard disk drive factory as demand spins down

      "SSD drives are in high demand that is true but if you want a large capacity drive you still have to go with a HDD, unless of course you want to remortgage your home"

      And that's why I currently suggest to anyone upgrading, or doing their own new home build PC, that they consider looking at the cost efficient hybrid hard drives that also come with 8GB NAND flash memory.

      1. Haku

        Re: RE: Western Digital formats hard disk drive factory as demand spins down

        I have a WD Black2 hybrid drive in this laptop, 120GB SSD / 1TB HDD, the damn thing randomly locks the computer up for literally 1-5 minutes until the drive light goes off and then everything continues as normal.

        When I've had Performance Monitor running and displaying HDD usage the line goes to 100% during that time, I have no idea why this happens, I've searched online but found nobody else with the same issue, it's a pain in the arse but it does boot quickish.

  6. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Well better that than what happened to Kodak

    I mean Kodak used to be a company deeply rooted in Film. They could have easily survived in the film busines if they had only gradually shrunken down that area and gradually invested in new technologies.

    This is what Western Digital seems to be doing now. They gradually move out of a business which might not exist any more in 10 or 20 years. During that transition period they can still use their existing expertice and gain new one.

    I know the march of progress in the flash world in the last 2 decades feels like a revolution, but it is just normal gradual progress.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well better that than what happened to Kodak

      Insofar as the two can be directly compared, I suspect the hard drive market is more like the film market during the 2000s than the 1990s- the changeover is *already* well under way, and it's open to question whether anyone who'd left it this late to *start* adapting had already left it too late.

      Of course, I don't know whether or not WD has already been working behind the scenes.

      Unlike the film business, I suspect that the HDD business will die completely when flash gets within sniffing distance in price/size terms (not helped by the fact that HDD will lose the economies of scale). There will (I'm guessing) probably still be niche uses that HDD would be preferable for, but I'm not sure they'll be enough to economically support a scaled-down industry.

      (On the other hand, the fact that film is still viable as a *niche* product didn't change the fact that a company like Kodak that had been built around selling it in mass-market quantities was going to be in trouble regardless, unless they adapted quickly enough. Spoiler- as we all know, they didn't.)

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: Well better that than what happened to Kodak

        Well the change is obviously underway. There used to be times when we stored 20 Megabytes on harddisks. The point from which on we use disks has gradually changed from kilobytes to Tterabytes. Today for sizes below a terabyte flash is cheaper than harddisks. As flash gets cheaper and harddisk sizes and prices start to stall, that border will move more and more upwards.

    2. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: Well better that than what happened to Kodak

      Western Digital was a semiconductor company. They got their start in MOS, brought out a floppy disk controller chip, then a hard drive controller chip, then ... the rest is history.

      They aren't changing businesses: just going back towards their roots.

  7. dmacleo

    very possibly indicative of a deeper viability issue with the company itself. they have already killed off their home entertainment/media player division, dropping manufacturing for items used in their OWN nas boxes is a symptom I think.

  8. GrapeBunch Silver badge

    More bits of big biz bids.

    WD are not getting out of the HD biz, they're reducing capacity to about two-thirds of current. Yes, no doubt they want to make more by making less.

    I'd assume that most of WD's market is OEMs. Possibly the factory they're closing, manufactures low capacity (say 1TB) HDs. Weeks ago, I bought a bog-standard WD external USB-powered 4TB drive from <Greek Mythology Female Warrior Clan>, and today the prices are $cdn5 to $cdn15 higher. That could simply reflect weakness in the $cdn, or maybe the announcement paid off already.

    Funny, I wouldn't buy a 1TB anything. For SSD it's too expensive, smaller works. For HD it's too small. MMV. From my POV, HD capacities have been stagnant for a long time. Does this mean there will never be an affordable 2.5" 20TB drive? Heck, how about a 20TB full-size drive? That's about the same data density as the ubiquitous 2.5" 4TB HDs of today. I don't know if the issue is technical (such as heat dissipation), marketing, or whether they're selling them like mad to TLAs. If they did, why would they tell us?

  9. Gustavo Fring
    Meh

    bits shippedc

    wd are still probably shipping more bits than ever before , its just that its in much larger units, so the profit and value hs gone out of 1 2 3 tB discs but large datacentre beastys are selling like gang busters.

    WD , I like their WD blacks ran two for 5-6 years, Now got a wd green and two wd reds (6tbx2) liked their WD media player , brilliant in its day., wd NAS pretty underwhelming and their new WD black nvme SSDs are getting good reviews, but make sure you get version 2 cos version 1 is mediocre. So business as usual for WD , roll on qlc ssd

  10. JJKing Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Closing Malaysia, is this a bit of a gamble?

    Interesting that Thailand will be the sole WD spinning rust producers. What happens when they have another flood that cause the shortages a while back?

    I was a winner from that flood coz I had a 2TB WD Green that failed but due to the lack of Greens because of the flood, I was sent a WD Black as a replacement. Took a little while to figure out that it was because the WD Green had 64MB of cache just like the Black. I am just glad I didn't get sent their Blue piece of crap. I did like the WD Green. It was a cheap (until the flood) storage device and the performance wasn't really all that bad.

    1. Adam Jarvis

      Re: Closing Malaysia, is this a bit of a gamble?

      You were sent a WD refurbished hard drive, they all have black labels to distinguish them, but are either Green, Red, Blue or Black refurbished hard drives depending on what you send back.

      1. Bavaria Blu

        Johnnie Walker whisky colours

        The various colours green, red & black sound like those of the famous whisky

  11. nil0

    C>park

    (for the old-timers)

  12. Bavaria Blu
    Go

    news is that they still have two hard drive plants

    In about 2002 I though flat screen monitors would take ages to take off, the first generation were so fuzzy and had terrible coloour reproduiction and the viewing angles were also problematic. Within 5 years the best displays were LCD.

    I haven't bought a hard drive in five years - laptops come with flash and the needs of most office workers are met with an affordable SSD. The big hard drive buyers must be for corporate datacentres and the main cloud suppliers, do consumers really buy hard drives these days? 1 TB on Google for €9.99 a month. Cloud storrage is as cheap as chips! Probably still hard drive rather than chips mind!

    I feel sorry for the workers - 13,000 is a lot of people.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: news is that they still have two hard drive plants

      BS.

      I bought a no-name 19" LCD in 2002 and it was superb. It's still in use every day connected to my second notebook. And yet all Samsung LCDs between 2004 and 2011 died withing two years because of bad quality. True is that LCDs quickly took of in 2002/2003, the same happened in the same year with USB thumb drives that replaced floppy disks.

      I sincerely hope HDDs stay around at least another 20 years. SSDs simply die way too quickly, and HDDs last at least 10 years. So as backup media and to store big files like movies and huge photos, there is nothing viable but HDDs. Also the cloud server farms are mainly running on HDDs, at least Amazon, Google and M$ - behind the hood.

    2. redroof

      Re: news is that they still have two hard drive plants

      "do consumers really buy hard drives these days? 1 TB on Google for €9.99 a month. Cloud storrage is as cheap as chips!"

      Of course.

      36€ 7200rpm Barracuda. Private. Virtually infinite. Fast. Working offline.

      What 36€ buy me online? Funny 3 months on Google's servers with a view to pay and pay and pay forever? C'mon...

  13. john.jones.name
    WTF?

    supply chain

    they have agreements with other companies and not being able to say you have diverse supply chain will I suspect get some people rightly worked up...

    2 factories in the same rainy country is not diverse at all

  14. priceblaze

    Sounds Good

    Western Digital is a perfect choice and this decision with Malaysian government is awesome sounds good.

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