storage

Digital Storage Projections For 2020, Part 1

I have done a series of projections for the digital storage industry for several years now.  This set of projections is especially interesting at the beginning of a new decade.  As in prior years we will start with a piece on magnetic storage technology projections for 2020.  Our second article will look at projections for solid state storage, including NAND and emerging non-volatile memory technology.  Our last article will look at expected developments in storage systems technology including on-premises and cloud storage.

As projected in our 2019 magnetic storage projection, NAND flash prices have declined in 2019 and this price decline is projected to continue in 2020 as an oversupply situation continues.  Continued SSD price declines will continue the move from HDD to SSDs in client computing applications, where SSDs now have over 50% market share.  15,000 RPM HDDs are no longer in production and enterprise SSDs will gradually reduce market share for 10,000 RPM SAS HDDs through 2020.

We project that HDDs unit shipments will continue to decline in the next few years as shown below.  In 2019 we estimate close to a 15% overall annual unit shipment decline compared to 2018.

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Unlike year over year growth in 2018 near-line HDD unit shipments, 2019 shipments are expected to be down about 8% from 2018.  However, we expect nearline HDDs to continue to grow to meet data center demand, with unit shipment growth expected in 2020.  Total near line HDD Exabyte shipments are moving towards a projected periodic peak in 2020, which should also drive unit shipments.  Total projected HDD storage capacity shipments were 959 Exabytes in 2019 and should grow to 1.17 Zettabytes in 2020.  By 2024 total HDD annual capacity shipments should exceed 4 Zettabytes.

HDD unit prices continue to increase as higher priced nearline HDDs become a larger part of the market as shown below.  In CQ3 2019 HDD average price was about $75.  The CQ2 and CQ3 HDD prices exceeded the average HDD price in CQ1 2012, the peak quarter in higher prices due to the HDD shortages from the Thailand floods in the Fall of 2011.  We expect continued overall HDD unit price ASP increases 2020.

In order to remain competitive with SSDs HDDs must continue to increase the HDD areal density (the amount of information that can be stored on a given area of the disc surface).   This will allow HDDs to maintain a significant $/TB difference over SSDs.  The figure below shows maximum announced product areal density for HDDs, showing little improvement in the maximum areal density since 2015.  Despite the slow-down in HDD areal density growth near line HDD capacities have grown by increasing the number of disks in the drive.

This was made possible by introducing He-fill sealed HDDs, now available from all three HDD manufacturers (Seagate Technology, Western Digital and Toshiba).  HDDs with up to 9 disks are available today and this may jump to 10 disks in a conventional 3.5-inch form factor in 2020.  A start-up company, L2 Drive, is pushing the production of HDDs with a partial vacuum inside to achieve higher HDD areal density than is possible with conventional HDDs.

In order to increase HDD areal density, the HDD companies are turning to energy assisted magnetic recording.  The applied energy helps to write stable high-density information on high coercivity magnetic recording media, that supports retention of this data.  Seagate said that they would introduce heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) drives by 2020.  Western Digital said that they would introduce HDDs with microwave assisted magnetic recording (MAMR).

In September of 2019 they introduced energy assisted 18 TB HDDs that could supply 20 TB with shingled magnetic recording where the track density is increased by partially overwriting adjacent tracks of information.  Samples of these drives shipped to customers in December 2019 and initial production should happen in the first half of 2020.  Seagate and Toshiba will likely introduce their own high capacity energy assisted HDDs in 2020. As HDD storage capacity increases the data rate doesn’t increase at the same rate.  This makes it harder to manage large HDDs in storage systems.  Both Seagate and Western Digital have announced building enterprise HDDs with 2 actuators using the same pivot and independently accessing different sets of disks at the same time.  Seagate recently reported that Microsoft was able to get almost double the data rate of single actuator HDDs using their Mach 2 dual actuator drives .   In 2020, Seagate will ship dual actuator HDDs for customer qualification and we expect that Western Digital will be doing the same.  The higher data rates from dual actuator HDDs allow faster drive rebuilds.  Dual actuator HDDs could be common in 20 TB+ HDDs in the next decade and 4 actuator HDDs using the same head stack pivot could appear as HDD storage capacity climbs towards 40 TB. Western Digital continues to work on incorporating RISC-V into their HDDs to provide new HDD and SSD functionality and programmability.  At the December 2019 RISC-V Summit  Western Digital announced the development and commercialization of purpose-built technologies based on RISC-V. New additions to the company’s open sourced RISC-V-based SweRV Core family include the world’s first dual-threaded, commercial, embedded RISC-V core, SweRV Core EH2, and the company’s smallest SweRV Core to date, EL2. In addition, the company is announcing a hardware reference design for OmniXtend, the open “direct to cache over Ethernet” fabric protocol developed by Western Digital.

In addition to HDDs, magnetic tape still plays an important role in data archiving, in large cloud storage data centers and some independent data centers.  LTO tape is the market leader for magnetic tape.   Total shipped magnetic tape capacity is projected to increase in 2020 after an apparent slow-down in 2019.  In the last half of 2019, LTO 8 tape became more widely available and this should help with shipment growth in 2020.

The LTO tape roadmap goes out to generation 12 with a native capacity of 192 TB on a single cartridge as shown below. While HDD areal densities are a bit over 1 Tbpsi, LTO-8 tape areal density is about 9 Gbpsi (over 100X less).  HDD magnetic technology provides a lot of density growth potential for magnetic tape.  Laboratory demonstrations by IBM and Sony in 2017 demonstrated 201 Gbpsi tape recording, which would provide as much as 330 TB of data in a half inch tape cartridge.

Magnetic storage, including HDDs and magnetic tape are now and will likely remain the least expensive digital storage technology for some time to come.  Magnetic tape media is probably less than $10/TB and near line HDDs provide storage for less than $30/TB.  This should be compared to SSDs with storage capacities for enterprise applications of at least $150/TB.  Magnetic storage will continue to grow to store the rapidly growing data generated by big data, IoT, AI and 5G applications.

HDDs are declining in many applications but look to experience continued growth for secondary storage applications in data centers.  Magnetic tape continues to be relevant for long term data archiving.  Storage capacity growth for long term data retention will grow with the onslaught of new data generating applications.

[“source=forbes”]