The Hard Disk Drive is dead – What ?

There I said it. May as well start the ‘Hard Disk Drive is Dead’ mantra now. Especially as the ‘Tape is dead’ mantra is probably feeling lonely. To be serious I first heard the ‘Tape is Dead’ mantra over 20 Years ago and it still isn’t dead. So to hear talk in the market that the HDD is dead is pure garbage. The plain fact is that the price delta between Flash and HDD technology will remain consistent at least until the end of this decade. From the analyst predictions the lines on the graph are not converging any time soon. Indeed the factory output capacity comparison for HDD vs Flash indicates a 10:1 output capability difference. Fab Foundries are very expensive, and risky, to build so despite the fact that Flash, as a mainstream storage technology, is over 30 years old, in the enterprise compute space, it is young and still evolving.


History is probably not a bad place to start because we have been here before. There was a time, not so long ago when ‘Online’ disk space was seriously expensive. At that time the Sys Admins (or Systems Programmers for those who remember them)

spent inordinate amounts  of time ensuring the ‘Working Set’ resided on the most appropriate media to meet cost, efficiency, performance and business goals. Tape was used for capacity, archive, backups, at rest data etc while disk captured the

primary working data. Hierarchical Storage Managers where  the order of the day and orchestrated the automatic movement of data between the tiers, but they were very needy systems to manage. Does this sound familiar ? Today tape is still used

for cost efficient deep archive, where data sleeps, and that is where I will park it for now.  Not dead yet, still has a place. Flash and HDD have changed the online landscape. Flash becoming the higher cost performance tier, while HDD increasingly plays the

lower cost capacity tier. And so we have similar challenges today. I fully expect to see focus on applications and solutions to improve the exploitation of Flash over the coming years, and we should not forget the upcoming new solid-state storage  technologies that look promising. ReRAM is one to watch with one prominent company expecting to launch a 1TB ReRAM chip next year.  The characteristics also look impressive from a power, density, footprint, durability and reliability point of view. But let’s not forget that it took the best part of 30 Years for Flash to achieve enterprise grade, however the sector is very dynamic so who knows. One thing is clear, vendors need to look to develop systems for a range of future solid state persistent storage technologies, and we are today.


At this point in the technology cycle it is very easy to get sucked into the industry hype and end up buying a solution that exceeds business requirements. If you have done your homework, then fine, go for it, talk to us, we have Flash Solutions that meet these extreme performance requirements. More likely is that the outcome from your capacity and performance planning exercises will point to a range of requirements. From the NetApp perspective it is paramount that we provide a corresponding range of solutions. Such as:


  • All Flash: For extreme, consistent performance and response.
  • Hybrid-Flash and HDD: Dynamic high performance for variable or bursty workloads.
  • HDD: For online capacity and performance workloads.


A key consideration is the requirement for Data Management. Where the data management processes run may influence the type of solution you select. For example if your data management capability is in the application, look at hardware design centred Flash Systems, such as the NetApp E and EF Series. If your requirements are for Rich Data Management then a software design centred solution, such as NetApp FAS and Data ONTAP, will fit your requirement. At this stage in the Flash market development the keyword is flexibility. Flexibility that allows you to make the right choice for your business, now and in the future


Technology aside, we have that fully covered, the fact remains is that NetApp, and our partners, will start by understanding the customer

business problems and challenges. In my view the Flash(y) vendor that walks through the door and say’s ‘Mr Customer what you need is this

bright shiny new All Flash system, now what’s your business problem’ needs to be reminded where the exit door is !


Here is a link to a multitude of Flash Assets that will assist you in following the right path, and making an informed choice


NetApp Flash Technologies


Follow me on twitter @lozdjames


I have two NetApps I work with. Ill get the specific model numbers. But basically they cost ~20k for 3-4TB of usable storage. My write-rate from vmware is about 10MB/sec. This is horrific. This is slower than a single nearline drive. NetApp needs to get its products back into reality for the private cloud era.


Netapp should never not have SSD-tiered storage, and the price per TB of SSD storage is 10x the commodity price. Outrageous. 


So while the HDD may not be dead, NetApps's days of making 10x-20x over the commodity price of hard drives is numbered.