Overview of HDDs in 2023: emerging trends

There is no doubt that hard disk drives (HDD) are always an important data storage device. A few years ago, many industry analysts believed that HDDs would be completely replaced by SSDs. A large number of them predict that this will happen by 2020. We are now in 2023 and it is abundantly clear to everyone that this is not yet the case. And it won’t happen in the near future. High overall capacities and low cost per unit of capacity mean that hard drives remain an attractive choice for a wide variety of different tasks.

The total amount of data created and then stored has grown exponentially over the past decade, far beyond what anyone could have imagined in the past. Moreover, it continues to grow. Relying on SDDs alone would be simply impossible. First, the amount of SDD produced cannot meet the demand. Second, they are not cost-effective enough to meet many cost-sensitive applications that require large-scale data storage.

HDD Technology Innovations

Ongoing technical developments help keep hard drives competitive. For example, the introduction of helium-filled discs was decisive. Having the discs in a housing filled with helium (a light, homogeneous gas) instead of air causes less friction when spinning the discs. As a result, turbulence problems are eliminated and the thickness of discs can be significantly reduced. The ability to pack more of these slim driver trays translates into increased storage capacity. In recent years, revolutionary 10-plate hard drives have been developed. The capacity of these 3.5-inch drives reaches 20 TB. Improvements in read and write heads have also been developed. An increase in hard disk storage density of 2 TB per year is already possible. Thus, solutions with capacities up to 24 TB are on the way in the near future.

The dynamics currently defining the storage media market

In addition to the technological advancements described above, several major key influences are affecting the global data storage business. Some of the most important are:

• When it comes to clients/PCs and boot drives, HDDs have certainly been largely replaced by SSDs. In particular, the compact M.2 format with NVM-e interface, which is well established in portable computing equipment and smartphones. However, it should be noted that proper SSDs are still about 4 times more expensive per unit of capacity than HDDs (equivalent cost of a 500GB SSD and a 2TB HDD). It is for this reason that inexpensive computers with higher memory requirements are always equipped with hard drives.

• The increased focus on online storage is something that has been observed for several years now. Modern society is increasingly accessing cloud-based platforms, and doing so with increasing frequency. This can be for streaming entertainment content (such as music or movies), as well as e-commerce, gaming and social media activities. The greater prevalence of telecommuting is another factor. All the data needed for these purposes are primarily stored in large data centers that use hard drives as a storage medium. Optimization of processing speed plays an increasingly important role. Although individual HDDs are quite slow compared to SSDs, connecting a large number of HDDs together means that relatively high speeds can be achieved. In the past, storage solutions typically consisted of arrays of up to 24 hard drives integrated into a chassis and controlled by a host computer, but today we are starting to see configurations with 60 or more drives in a single unit, allowing for larger volumes of data to be processed. gives . But the challenge here is to scale up the overall processing speed. The 8GB/s capability of an adapter card with 8 PCI-Express Gen3 host interface lanes with 24 hard drives each capable of transferring data at approximately 280MB/s is sufficient for a theoretical 24x 280MB/s = 6.7 GB/s. on the host system and network. But with the prospect of involving up to 60 drives, a total performance of almost 17 GB/s is possible – provided that the bottleneck can be removed. With the implementation of PCI-Express Gen4 technology, a speed of almost 16 GB/s can be achieved on all 8 interface lanes. For additional expansion, adapter cards with 16 PCI-Express Gen4 lanes are now available. They have a limit of about 31 GB/s, which is enough even for configurations where 100 hard drives are integrated into the system.

• Making data center operations more sustainable and reliable are areas where hard drives play a key role. There is growing concern about the environmental impact of these facilities; due to the large amount of energy they consume. OEM partners’ high-density JBOD solutions (based on our enterprise-class 18TB hard drive arrays) have been extensively tested to verify the environmental impact. Tests show that data center sites can implement HDD technology that will meet the need for more data storage resources while maintaining the energy efficiency levels envisioned in the industry’s ambitious roadmaps. It’s also worth noting that incorporating temperature measurement mechanisms into enterprise hard drives means you can better manage conditions and optimize hard drive life.

• In terms of storage of surveillance data, deployments now include a greater number of cameras with higher resolution functionality. To cope with all these high-quality video streams, a new generation of HDD solutions is needed. Since 24/7 operation is usually mandatory, these must be robust enough to ensure reliable operation at all times, even under heavy duty conditions. Along with the ability to achieve reliable and performance-optimized solutions, another top priority for customers in this industry is the ability to keep the total cost of ownership (TCO) to an absolute minimum. Hard drives have already proven their effectiveness in the context of surveillance applications – they are widely adopted by customers around the world. They are designed to accommodate up to 64 HD video streaming inputs and have an operating temperature range of 0°C to 70°C. It will also be important to limit the energy consumption of the system, both in terms of operational costs and sustainability. Since they rotate at 5400-5700 rpm, the amount of energy consumed during recording is significantly reduced. The low-friction featured by the helium-filled MG Series facility allows them to run efficiently at 7,200 rpm for advanced AI-based control analytics workloads.

Thanks to the increased demand we just described, as well as announced technical advances, hard drive speeds are certainly not slowing down. It is important to invest more in increasing production capacity and to work closely with data center equipment suppliers, surveillance system integrators and IT equipment manufacturers to bring new high-performance solutions that offer real differentiation.

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