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Study: HDDs Headed for the Bargain Bin, Not Obsolescence


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by Paul Lilly

Maybe not next year, or even the year after, but sometime in the not too distant future, mainstream storage duties are destined to make the jump from mechanical hard drives to flash-based SSDs, right? Not according to a new study published in a recent issue of IEEE Transactions on Magnetics. Not only are hard drives in it for the long haul, but the cost to storage ratio will shrink dramatically, the study suggests.

Some would argue it already has, but study authors Professor Mark Kryder and PhD student Chang Soo Kim of Carnegie Mellon University predict that by the year 2020, a two-disk, 2.5-inch HDD with 14TB of storage capacity will run a mere $40. And if that weren't enough to keep mechanical storage media relevant into the next decade and beyond, the duo also suggest that flash memory technology will run into technical roadblocks that will halt its continued scaling before 2020.

The predictions surprised even the study's authors, who set out to examine 13 up-and-coming nonvolatile memory (NVM) technologies and see if one of them had the potential to leapfrog HDDs on a cost-per-terabyte basis by 2020.

"We were surprised to find that the study indicated that, even in 2020, hard drives were likely to be considerably less expensive on a cost per terabyte basis than any of the competing technologies," Kryder told PhysOrg.com. "It was also somewhat surprising to find that the technical potential of a technology was not necessarily well-correlated with where the industry was investing the most dollars; rather, industrial firms are tending to invest where they have they most know-how. This is not necessarily the wisest decision, but is quite understandable."

Before dismissing the findings as unlikely, it should be noted that Kryder previously served as CTO for Seagate, so he's at least familiar with the storage sector. Nevertheless, do you see HDDs standing in the spotlight for another decade?

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