Comparing Storage Technologies: Pros, Cons and Future Predictions – Part One

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Serving a market sector of more than $35 billion, the storage device industry has exhibited constant innovation and improvement. In this two-part blog, we will discuss the pros and cons of current technologies being utilized in the storage market as well as Spectra’s predictions for where these technologies are headed in the coming years.

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1. Solid State (Flash): NAND flash, or solid-state storage, is currently the fastest growing technology in the storage market. On the high end, flash is gaining ground for database applications. On the low end, flash is rapidly replacing small hard disks and is considered the de facto technology for digital cameras, smart phones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers.

  • Reliability – Flash contains no mechanical parts and produces less heat than HDDs.
  • Performance – It allows for high speed data transfer to and from storage media.
  • Cost – Consumer grade solid-state drives consisting of flash storage are currently selling for approximately $0.25 per GB, while consumer-grade magnetic disk drives are selling for approximately $0.025 per GB.
  • Capacity – Flash is restricted. The higher the capacity, the lower the performance.
  • Durability – While the read/write life of flash is improving, it’s still far more restricted than disk or tape.
    Predictions: In the coming years, flash will have the highest growth rate in terms of exabytes shipped. Manufacturing of flash technology will increase, as well as the capacity per piece.

2. Magnetic Disk: The magnetic disk industry is being challenged by flash. Disk is being removed from remote devices (laptops and desktops) – which are now being sold with solid-state storage. Disk drives in home gaming devices and digital video recorders are also anticipated to be replaced, although not necessarily by flash. By 2020, the disk industry will be servicing a singular market – large IT shops and cloud providers.

  • Cost – Disk storage is cheaper than flash.
  • Capacity – New disk technologies – helium-filled drives, shingled magnetic recording (SMR) drives, variable capacity drives — offer increased capacity.
  • Roadmap – Many of the new disk technologies mentioned above (helium-filled, SMR & variable capacity drives) are more of a “one time” fix and do not offer a product roadmap for ongoing greater capacity devices.
  • Speed – Magnetic disk is slower than flash
  • Reliability – Disk is less reliable than flash in terms of bit error rate.
    Predictions: Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) technology drives hold promise for increased capacity, but HAMR technology has missed many promised release dates already. If it doesn’t come to market, flash will continue to steal market share. Regardless, Seagate and Western Digital, the two disk drive market leaders, will continue to innovate and produce new disk technologies including new interfaces such as an Ethernet drives.

Stay tuned for part two of “Comparing Storage Technologies: Pros, Cons and Future Predictions,” where we will cover two additional storage technologies being utilized in the industry today. For more information about trends and predictions in storage media development and availability, check out Spectra Logic’s new “Digital Data Storage Outlook 2017” white paper.

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