Tuesday, 13 December 2011 07:08

The Global HDD Shortage Continues...

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HDD-PicThe HDD shortage has been a big story almost since the day the flooding started in Thailand. Initially it appeared that Western Digital was the hardest hit and the ones that would bear the brunt of the damage as not only were they the only company to have their factories completely submerged during the worst of the flooding, but they also lost a legal battle with Seagate and had to pay up over 300 Million Dollars to cover damages. Things were looking very bleak for them, but many other companies found themselves in trouble as the supply of key parts were affected.

Now we hear that due to flood damage (and a worker’s strike) the supply of HDDs to the PC industry many still be hindered. Accordingly many PC manufacturers have cut their Q1 outlook (Intel cut theirs by $1 Billion!). We have noticed that companies like Dell and HP are telling customers that orders can be delayed by as much as four weeks with essential enterprise parts like disk arrays taking even longer.

The situation is problematic to say the least. Even Seagate (whose factories are still operational) is having a hard time due to the lack of key components from other manufacturers. Meanwhile Seagate is pushing forward with their plans to finish building a read/write head plant in a region (Nakhon Ratchasima) that is known for flooding. Apparently the project was too far along to abandon and would have had an even larger impact to the HDD shortage.

Now in all of this you may be wondering why SSDs have not simply slid into the HDD space. Well there are two primary reasons for this. The first one is that an SSD, at the current point it its evolution does not have the same level of longevity or write performance than an HDD does. There are also concerns running SSDs in large arrays. For some reason (most likely the TRIM firmware) when you stack SSDs up in RAID their write performance is severely impacted. In mission critical and high I/O situations this can spell disaster for a large company.

I have designed and built server clusters (for SQL and other Database usage) with arrays that contained over 96 individual drives all in RAID 10 to ensure sufficient Read/Write performance. I simply cannot imagine trying to substitute SSDs into one of those designs with the issues we have witnessed.
Now this issue takes the enterprise into account, but it does not explain why consumer PCs are not leaning toward the SSD. Well the reason for this is price. The simple fact is that PCs makers would have to spend as much as four times more per unit and would end up getting less storage per device. This would drive up the cost of desktops and laptops quite a bit, which in turn would affect consumer demand.

The last reason the SSD cannot take up the slack is that there is (according to a few sources) not enough NAND flash to keep up with the increased demand. There is plenty for the current demand, but not enough to make up for a 600 Million unit shortfall. The next few months are going to be very rough for PC makers as the individual HDD companies work to clean out their factories in the flooded regions. Until this is completed roughly 25 to 30% of the global HDD manufacturing capacity will be affected..

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Read 2958 times Last modified on Tuesday, 13 December 2011 07:16

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