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SSD Advantages: Is HDD Dead?

April 29, 2017

SSD Advantages: Is HDD Dead?

Armed with the knowledge of the many advantages of solid-state drives (SSDs), value-added resellers (VARs) are increasingly being asked if the hard disk drive (HDD) is dead. There is certainly ample evidence that can lend credence to that scenario, but the decision for clients to move to SSDs is about SSD advantages and their superiority as a solution for their particular need.

Capacity, Power, and Speed

The recent announcement of the successful development of the world’s largest HDD, at a whopping 16 TB of storage capacity in a small 2.5-inch form factor, is the latest salvo in the parity wars. These high-capacity SSDs will drastically change storage needs for a wide variety of professional and business users, because they are smaller, lighter, noise-free, and much more reliable than any HDD out there.

HDDs are noisy, slow, and hot, while SSDs are fast, cool, and quiet; these are important distinctions for power users and businesses. Those benefits alone are enough for people to use SSDs as main storage drives in order to run operating systems and frequently used applications. Even if HDDs can be realistically seen to be on their way out as primary storage volumes, they continue to serve a role for mass storage and data backup for the foreseeable future.

Price and Sales Parity

The recent speculation from leading financial analysts that vendors may be shedding its HDD business in order to concentrate on SSD was recently profiled in a Forbes article and elsewhere. Whether the manufacturer follows through or not, the speculation speaks to the changing of the guard between SSDs and HDDs, if not being a sign of impending death for HDDs.

Data Storage Industry research firm Trendfocus, Inc. published a report that shows a continuing decline in HDD sales in Q4 2015 of 1.8 percent to 3.0 percent compared to Q3 2015. These declines have been happening for some time now, but the market share of HDDs is still so significant that it’s difficult to speculate if this foreshadows an eventual HDD demise.

Gartner, Inc. sees enterprise SSD–HDD revenue crossover by 2017, while PCWorld Senior Editor Mark Hachman went on record in a recent article to say that continuing pricing trends could spell the end of conventional notebook hard drives by 2018. Whether or not this becomes a reality, it’s already true that VARs are seeing growing interest in replacing HDDs with fast, slim, reliable, and increasingly more affordable SSDs.

When it comes to latency and I/O performance as well as write endurance, SSDs are the equal or better performer when the right SSD is matched to the specific workload. When VARs add in all of the benefits of SSDs that are topped by reduced power consumption, SSDs are the clear bargain for business clients.

Last Gasps or New Order?

The entrance of helium-filled 10TB Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDDs may breathe some life into HDDs for a while, with the first entrants aimed at Web-scale data centers. Because helium offers less resistance than air, its use in hard drives reduces traditional HDD power requirements, weight, disk vibration, mechanical wear, and drive temperature. The main challenge is the unproven ability to keep the gas sealed within the enclosure for the lifetime of the drive.

Google predicts that most HDDs will soon be used for cloud storage, as they are clearly losing the battle in use as a storage medium for laptops, desktops, and mobile devices. This perspective on realignment is premised on HDD reliability being less important than price and storage capacity.

Of course, it’s already been widely proven that today’s SSDs are faster and more reliable, provide equal levels of capacity, and are reaching price parity with HDDs. This makes the storage realignment usage for HDDS a moot point, because, at best, it can be seen as an either/or choice in most instances, with clear SSD advantages often tipping the scale.

Choosing Based on SSD Advantages

For IT professionals in the know, price parity between SSD and HDD is ultimately a non-starter in predicting the death of HDD, because the technologies behind SSDs and HDDs make them suited for different tasks. Measuring both types of drives using the price-per-GB metric is essentially a useless way to compare them.

Choosing on the basis of life expectancy is also a non-starter, as SSDs are equal to or better than HDDs in this regard when usage factors are equal. Even when comparing different SSDs, performance and reliability factors should drive the purchasing decision based on expected usage patterns.

For VARs, helping clients choose between SSDs and HDDs is about much more important factors than speculation on the future demise of HDDs. While the predictions of the eminent death of HDDs may be premature, the speed, reliability, capacity, and increasingly attractive prices that comprise just some of the SSD advantages put them in the lead role for use by small to medium-sized businesses and enterprises moving forward.