Despite what you may have heard, hard disk drives (HDDs) aren’t going to be obsolete anytime soon.
In general, radical storage drive development seems to be only gaining momentum. Many believed that the development of the solid-state drive (SSD) in the late 2000’s would spell the end of the HDDs, and for good reason. The speed of the CPU on an SSD is significantly faster than that of a conventional hard drive, making SSDs a much better option for high-end business tasks and gaming.
Not to mention SSDs keep getting better; the recent debut of 3D NAND promises to improve SSD density over the next 5-7 years. Before the development of 3D NAND, SSDs weren’t able to store quite as much storage as a hard drive. However, the new storage technology should allow SSDs to surpass hard drives in storage capacity this year, while supposedly closing the gap in relative prices.
That said, predictions that SSDs will rapidly phase out HDDs seem to forget some basic aspects of the HDD-SSD competition that has developed over the past handful of years.
First off, hard drive storage capacities haven’t leveled out by any means. According to experts, 20TB hard drives are expected to hit the market by 2020, potentially with the added bonus of heat-assisted magnetic recording.
HGST’s helium drive technology is also expected to enable further drive stacking, meaning storage capacities of hard drives will be possible to increase without a corresponding increase in areal density.
And that price gap between SSDs and HDDs remains substantially wide, wide enough that rumors of solid-states becoming as cheap as hard drives by the end of the year seem somewhat unlikely.
For example, it currently costs around $350 to own a 1TB SSD. Compared to the $48 1TB HDD from NewEgg, the average consumer’s storage choice is basically a no-brainer.
It’s true that the cost difference between the two technologies has dropped very quickly in the past few years, but there is no indication that the difference will continue narrowing at that rate.
In fact, there’s substantial evidence to the contrary. In 2017, if the price of an SSD fell dramatically to half its current price tag (which would mean about 15 cents per GB), while HDD prices declined by only 2.5 cents per GB, HDDs would still cost much less, especially for larger storage devices. Given this hypothetical situation, a 4TB HDD would cost around $100 while a 4TB SSD would cost a whopping $600.
Another indicator that hard drives are going to be around for years to come? Take a look at the laptops in the sub-$1000 price bracket; most $600-$800 systems opt into conventional hard drives. These are expensive enough systems to be able to afford SSDs, but because laptop manufacturers have primed buyers to seek storage capacity as opposed to storage performance, there’s less incentive to switch over.
Yes, SSDs have made a substantial appearance in laptops above the $1000 price bracket, and consumers are likely to see higher capacity drives and better market adoption as SSDs become less expensive. That said, it’s important to realize that each kind of storage drive occupies a particular niche in the storage market.
Hard drives are exceptionally useful when it comes to storing tons and tons of data- that’s not going to change in the next 12 months. They’re not speedy, but they can be more reliable, considerably less expensive, and, most importantly, preserve data when unplugged indefinitely.
In conclusion, let’s not forget the endurance of tape drives; the invention of hard drives didn’t wipe those out of existence, just as the invention of SSDs won’t end the hard drive… at least not yet.