Gartner: SSDs Simply Can’t Replace Hard Drives

These aren’t going away anytime soon.

Hard-drive manufacturers can breathe a sigh of relief—solid-state disks (SSDs) won’t replace their “traditional” product lines anytime soon, according to a new Gartner report.

Given the enormity of future capacity needs, it will be impossible for CIOs and IT managers to completely replace hard drives with SSDs during the next five to 10 years in data centers, stated the report, reposted in its entirety by StorageNewsletter.com.

Gartner’s thesis is that, although SSDs will increase hardware performance, there simply won’t be enough manufacturing capacity—let alone actually flash memory or SSDs—to satisfy all demand for the foreseeable future. On top of that, application workloads will still require software optimization, no matter how fast SSDs run. The bottom line: SSDs will continue to complement hard disk drives while replacing the fastest 15,000-RPM drives.

What datacenter operators and server manufacturers alike already know is that the rise of in-memory databases are creating a new, all-DRAM tier of storage. SSDs are being inserted “underneath” them, creating a slightly less “hot” tier of frequently accessed data. Traditional hard drives are next, followed by the option to use tape as “cold,” rarely accessed storage.

SSDs will simply not fill the need for ubiquitous hot storage, however, because of the disparity between hard drive and SSD manufacturing. In 2012, the HDD industry delivered 66,358 petabytes in 63.4 million business-critical and mission-critical HDDs, whereas the NAND industry delivered only 1,781 PB in 5.7 million enterprise-grade server and storage SSDs, Gartner wrote. It would cost the NAND industry hundreds of billions of dollars to construct enough new fabrication plants to displace even 20 percent of the forecasted need for enterprise storage.

Brendan Collins, vice president of product management at HGST (now owned by Western Digital), suggested in an emailed statement that he agreed with Gartner’s findings. “[W]e understand the synergy these two technologies can have delivering the highest level of performance at the lowest total cost of ownership when they are properly tiered by application and workload in the datacenter,” he wrote. “We expect HDDs will continue to store the vast majority of data for the foreseeable future while SSDs will be used strategically for the most demanding applications.”

Storage costs will vary by class; Gartner found that the price of an enterprise “business-critical” hard drive will be about 5 cents per gigabyte in 2013, versus $1/GB for an enterprise-grade server SSD. So-called “mission critical” hard drives will cost about 33 cents/GB, while enterprise-grade SSDs will cost $1.87 GB (a premium of 6.9 to 1).

Other factors to consider include the TCO requirements, Gartner noted. SSDs run cooler, but the power saved might be dwarfed by other factors. “Often more compelling from a TCO perspective is the potential for server consolidation to offer a more favorable density per rack,” the report suggested. “Lastly, the improved CPU utilization can lead to server consolidation due to a reduction of performance bottlenecks, which also potentially reduce software licensing costs, providing further justification for SSD purchasing.”

Still, the heart of the problem will be left up to CIOs and admins: what data goes where? On that front, the conclusion seems to be: you’re on your own.

 

Image: kubais/Shutterstock.com

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