back to article Talk about beating heads against brick walls... Hard disk drive unit shipments slowly spinning down

Disk drive shipments sank from 104.8 million in Q4 of 2017 to 88-89 million in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to a preliminary report from research house TrendFocus. The single largest category was 2.5-inch mobile and consumer electronics (CE) drives at 44-45 million shipped, a 13 per cent drop annually from around 51 …

  1. Mage Silver badge
    Coat

    Or drop in system sales?

    How many traditional HDD laptops and desktops selling compared with 5 years ago and compared to tablets, phones, ultralight etc that doesn't use spinning disk drives?

    Many of the "SSD" sold in popular entry level kit are nothing like "enterprise" SSD either and can be slower sequential write and lower life than HDD.

    1. muhfugen

      Re: Or drop in system sales?

      "Many of the "SSD" sold in popular entry level kit are nothing like "enterprise" SSD either and can be slower sequential write"

      What SSDs are you referring to? SD cards? Just about any consumer grade SSD of the past 5 years beats a comparable HDD at sequential write throughput

      1. Andy Nugent

        Re: Or drop in system sales?

        Think he's referring to the eMMC drives in really cheap kit.

  2. tip pc Bronze badge

    Steep drop in prices for SSD

    Useful capacity SSD’s are now becoming reasonably priced, and hugely outperform HDD’s. Bagged a 1Tb Samsung SSD for ~£130. It’ll do for know but I expect 4Tb for that much Black Friday this year.

    That’s why HDD sales are tanking.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

      No one doubts that, but how small the drop is is more surprising.

      As for as getting a 4 TB SSD for that price this year. NOT A CHANCE. I doubt you will even in 2020. Prices are not halving every six months!!

      1. tip pc Bronze badge

        Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

        4Tb Samsung 860 SSD from ebuyer is already down to £575 and it’s only January.

        https://www.ebuyer.com/824752-samsung-860-evo-4tb-ssd-mz-76e4t0b-eu?mkwid=s_dm&pcrid=51482419619&pkw=&pmt=&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI0cTK_pDk3wIV2IjVCh1Y1wKuEAkYASABEgKzCvD_BwE

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

          Which is a higher per bit price than the 1 TB model. So it needs to drop by more than 75% in 10 months. Not a chance in hell.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

      Yep.

      The 1TB SSD for around £150 seems to be a sweet spot at the moment.

      Go above 1TB and you'd better have a deep, deep wallet.

      Until a 4TB SSD is around £300 I'll stick with my 2TB sized bits of rotating rust.

      My photo archive is over 2TB and I've already added 3GB this month.

      1. Justthefacts

        Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

        Maybe you are a professional photographer, I’m genuinely trying to understand who uses that much for photos?

        3GB per two weeks is a run rate of 75GB per year, which would take 13 years to hit 2TB (and picture sizes were much smaller 13 years ago). And my photos are 10MB each, so apparently you are storing 20 high-quality photos per day. That’s why I’ve felt the sweet spot for final victory of SSD would be £100 for 2TB, allowing 1TB each for movies and photos. But I might be wrong.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "I’m genuinely trying to understand who uses that much for photos?"

          (Real) Cameras images went from an average of about 18-24 megapixel to 28-40 megapixel and more in the past few years. That means the average size of a photo RAW file may start around 30MB, or more. It takes little to generate some GBs per day, depending on what kind of photographer you are.

          Then if you also output final images in something alike high quality TIFFs it will take a lot of space too (JPEGs will take less, but are not good enough for some needs).

          I use a tiered system where SSDs are used to improve processing speeds, and spinning disks to archive data.

          BTW, my main processing machine is a desktop system. After all you need a powerful CPU/GPU combo, a lot of RAM, more than one disk (and some redundancy like RAID), and external large wide gamut monitor(s). Sure, you could also use a laptop, a docking station, a DAS, etc. etc. but the setup is just more complex, takes more space (the desktop is actually under the desk...), and is less reliable overall.

          Last but not least, many older desktop systems were revved up exactly replacing an old, slower HDD with an SSD, extending their lives.

      2. Flak_Monkey
        Trollface

        Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

        "My photo pr0n archive is over 2TB and I've already added 3GB this month."

        FTFY

    3. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

      SSDs still make me too nervous to actually use them. The thing that spooks me is that I've heard too many tales of them dying without warning.

      Say want you want about spinning platters, but they're very reliable over the long term (my impression is that they live much longer than SSDs), they are likely to start giving you lots of warning before they actually die, and even after they die, you're very likely to be able to recover most of the data that was on them.

      1. Rusty 1

        Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

        I've got 7 Crucial SSDs of various capacities that have been in use (sometimes heavy) for years, with no issues.

        I've also tried a couple of Corsair SSDs and one was DOA and the other failed with days.

        These days the controllers within the SSDs are a lot better than in times gone - the Corsair SSDs were notorious for problems with the controllers.

        Pluck up the courage and try some SSDs. Just remember to backup frequently, as you do with your spinning disks.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

          "Pluck up the courage and try some SSDs."

          I might, the next time I need a new disk. But I'm not going to replace serviceable platters with SSDs without a reason, and the performance increase is not something that I find incredibly compelling.

          Also, I do have one test machine running a small SSD that I inherited. We'll see how that plays out over the long term.

          I certainly back up frequently, and using SSDs won't change that. But backups are for disaster recovery (it's a pain in the ass to restore from backups), and I strongly prefer to avoid that disaster in the first place. Having lots of warning that a drive is going to fail is a huge part of letting me do that, as I can image the drive immediately.

          1. Rusty 1

            Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

            @JohnFen

            Backups are not just for disaster recovery - they are also critical in servicing that call "Ooops, I've just deleted that file I need - can you get it back". A filesystem that supports snapshots (e.g. ZFS) services this need rather nicely.

            "it's a pain in the ass to restore from backups" - that means you are doing it wrong. From an estate of

            50TB I reckon to restore a file or set of files of varying vintage, going back a few years, within a few minutes.

            It's important to remember that the call to restore from backup is going to under duress at any time of day or night, so needs to be straightforward.

        2. paulf Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

          +1 for Crucial SSDs. I got a 1TB MX200 to replace the 500GB spinning rust in my MacBook Pro which is from the long gone age of 2010 when you could just replace the standard SATA HDD/SSD with another standard SATA storage device.

          That was just over three years ago and it's not missed a beat in that time - I'm relieved to say - despite regular use. I just hope Crucial is still good on quality as they're my preferred upgrade path for the 9 year old WD spinning rust in my Windows box.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

            3 years is too short to be a test of what concerns me. I'm more interested in timeframes on the order of a decade or so.

            But, really, life span is of less interest to me than failure mode. Can you tell when an SSD is about to die? If it dies before you can replace it, can you still engage in data recovery? Those are the issues that I'm most interested in.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

              "But, really, life span is of less interest to me than failure mode. Can you tell when an SSD is about to die? If it dies before you can replace it, can you still engage in data recovery? Those are the issues that I'm most interested in."

              I can't comment on lifespan other than to say we deal with customers who have 1000's of laptops with SSDs in them and we don't replace a significant number of them due to failure. But when they do fail, the vast majority of failures are total failures.

      2. disco_stu

        Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

        I setup a new install of Windows 10 on a Samsung 970 SSD last month, the install was completed in less than 5 minutes, there's no way I could go back to Slow Spinning Rust given the disparity in speed.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

          Yes, I can see the appeal of this if your system is slower than you'd like to begin with. None of mine are, though. More speed is great, of course, but unless I actually need it, it isn't something I'm willing to sacrifice other benefits for.

      3. DougS Silver badge

        So mirror them

        If you trust hard drives you are dumb, they can fail without notice too. Sometimes you might see them throwing errors, but when the controller dies you are SOL with zero warning whether that's the controller on an HDD or on an SSD.

        I used to have two HDDs in my PC. Currently I have two HDDs and two SSDs. The next PC I build in a few years will have two SSDs and no HDDs. I'm hoping some laptops will include two m.2 slots so it will be possible to mirror there as well next time I buy.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: So mirror them

          I don't trust hard drives. But I have to say that over the decades that I've been using them, I've only had three actually die, and all three gave plenty of warning before they did.

          1. DCFusor Silver badge

            Re: So mirror them

            I use both types here, a lot. I've become more comfortable with SSDs now, but I do tend to overprovision them, and back them up. I also do that with spinners. So far, I've had really good luck both ways. I've had some fail, but that was apparently a quality control issue with an SSD from Crucial, supposedly due to shipping some stock from a company they'd bought that had problems or similar.

            The drive had gone into total CMOS latchup - a flaw probably in the controller (acted like a short on 5v) but it was temperature dependent and I was able to recover *from that drive* which was a bit better than using the backups I also had.

            The one spinner I recently had issues with was a seagate 2 tb 2.5" drive that started to have some vibration after about 2 years in 24/7 use for a home weather database - lots of writes. It's never failed, but I switched it out and now use it for archival backups. I think the bearings were starting to go bad after spinning that long. It was never spun down in use.

            The only drives we had fail here - and we lost data, also the only time ever, were IBM deskstar drives, which had been backing up one another on workstations in an off grid system that had no central server - all was peer to peer. When they all failed within 3 days of one another, we lost some data, and they were right jerks about even giving us new drives, just before they sold that line to Fujitsu. They insisted we run their diagnostics, which passed (it had been warm but had cooled down by the time that happened) - but our data was gone anyway.

            We used them as targets on the shooting range, most satisfying, along with a few old floppy drives.

            I've had issues with USB flash more or less burning out if used constantly for writes on say, a raspberry pi. Never with a real SSD. When I set things like that up, I make a tempfs to do those usually not worth it logging writes (once things are setup, do you really need to know every time something else on your lan reads a database or connects via samba, or hits a local webserver?).

            Long story short - our single actual data loss, and it was without warning, was spinners. In the decades from 1980 on up. Probably shouldn't use the same brand, model and age for backups as the main show.

            1. DougS Silver badge

              Re: So mirror them

              You've used "spinners" for many more years than SSDs, so you have more chance to encounter failures with them. I've never had an SSD die on me, but I've had hard drives die on me. But that makes sense, since I've owned a lot more hard drives in the past 25 years than I've owned SSDs in the past 10.

              In fact I still use the same pair of 80GB Intel SSDs that were the first ones I ever bought, on my PC today (as root/home) They still work, they still have plenty of write life left per S.M.A.R.T., and they are mirrored in case of sudden unexpected failure, so they will probably still be working fine when I retire them alongside a collection of old hard drives that retired "working but too small to be useful any longer".

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Steep drop in prices for SSD

        "The thing that spooks me is that I've heard too many tales of them dying without warning."

        Ah, someone who doesn't make backups.

  3. chivo243 Silver badge

    Best tool for the job

    I'll stick with spinners for bulk storage. For end user, boot\system drives I'll take the SSD.

    1. Rustbucket

      Re: Best tool for the job

      Yes, spinning rust is still required for long term, not-plugged-in archival storage.

  4. JohnFen Silver badge

    I did my part

    I just bought 8 high capacity hard drives. That should keep them afloat for about 20 femtoseconds.

  5. guyr

    New math

    "The third category was nearline and other high-capacity (3.5-inch) drives at 11 million supplied, down 9.5 per cent on the year from about 10 million."

    10 million last year to 11 million this year is ... "down 9.5 per cent"???

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Freddellmeister

    Good Catch, I was surprised to see nearline market declining in the Big Data storm..

  7. Binraider666

    Stagnating performance = no rush to upgrade

    This is all not very surprising - changes in PC specifications are well into marginal gains territory now; so other than workstation or gaming markets there's no rush to upgrade. Whether I have a 6 or an 8TB HDD has absolutely no impact on when I choose to upgrade; my only worry is when will device X break. Essentially the only difference between a average desktop today, and one of 5 years ago is a bit of reduced power consumption. A 5 year old machine is good enough for most tasks; so turnover is down other than for asset replacements.

    Cloud storage is starting to appear on even the most staid and backward corporate IT. Local storage is increasingly irrelevant, and indeed as offices increasingly ban USB storage devices due to security risks (cue reduction in memory stick sales), cloud is becoming a necessity. As Win7 approaches end of life, and corporates roll out increasingly more invasive and CPU-hungry internal spyware (Tanium client, anyone?) demand has definitely shunted over to performance over space.

    Incidentally, our office had a load of perfectly good Lenovo T430's and T440's with spinning rust drives. Their performance was acceptable, up until the rollout of tanium. While the base hardware is basically good; the whole fleet are now being changed to T470's with SSD. Win10 is apparently due on the desktop later this year. Hope they got the hardware spec right for it to allow for MSSlurp plus all the corporate crapware!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Key question here..

    Is it really more expensive to manufacture SSD than it is to manufacture spinning rust with all its separate mechanical components and precision assembly needs, or are SSDs presently priced higher because they can or because market demand still exceeds production?

    IMHO, the moment there is near parity between SSDs and "traditional" drives I think it's probably game over for the hard disk, assuming reliability is the same. I can't see anyone opt for a slower, more vulnerable mechanical drive if SSDs can be had at only a slightly higher price.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Maybe not

      But someone has to pay for the R&D.

    2. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: Key question here..

      Is it really more expensive to manufacture SSD than it is to manufacture spinning rust with all its separate mechanical components and precision assembly needs, or are SSDs presently priced higher because they can or because market demand still exceeds production?

      On a per-unit basis, probably not, the problem is the huge sunk costs in semiconductor fabrication that need to be recovered over a relatively short lifespan. Sure a factory making spinng rust drives is working to tight tolerances but those are largely a given in high quality mass production environments - one of the favourite examples is that a Swatch watch is made to finer tolerances than a Rolex, not because that accuracy is needed, it is simply inherent in the process. Then after a few years the retooling a hard drive factory for the next model is perfectly realistic - i.e. the one from five years ago making 1TB drives can be converted to make next years 12TB units.

      On the other hand semiconductor fabs seem to run to a couple of billion a piece these days before you even start making chips, and that sunk cost has to be recovered over a very definite lifespan: if you want to upgrade that 22nm fab from five years ago to 10nm for next year you are essentially starting over in terms of plant. The same goes for 3D and similar semiconductor advances.

  9. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Choice

    It's always a price/performance trade off coupled with risk mitigation costs.

    With a small amount of planning, virtualisation and liberal use of mounted drives a reasonably priced 250-500Gig Fast SSD can provide a very easy to maintain system with slower SSD or spinning rust capacity used for non OS/application storage. If the OS SSD goes phut without warning then it's a new SSD, a clean OS & Vbox (in my case) install, mount the relevant drives, copy over the guests from backup and carry on where you left off, everything else is just h/w replacement & backups.

    Unfortunately this isn't an option for the average user so we're stuck with the trade off.

    Backup systems can last along time, My 10 yr old Synology DS209 (SATA300) can write about 1-Gig/min which is fine as the VM backup box. HDD failure is flagged well in advance (only happened once so far) swapping out disks and rebuilding the array is a doddle.

    A nod goes to Synology who it seems provide security updates forever on old kit.

  10. Hans 1 Silver badge

    NVe, anyone ? That is what all the hype is about these days ... spinning rust is on the out ...

    I will flock 2Tb SSD drives into my Nas next time, non NVe SSD's are gertting cheaper and cheaper and are more than enough for my nas, bonus ? I can disable the fan !

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