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Storage Systems: HDD vs. SSD vs. Cloud

With the ultimate evolution of the cloud computing in ten years from now the question will be not whether we will need local storage in general, but how much local storage we will need and how fast it should be. Ultimately, it is HDD vs. SSD vs. Cloud.

Local storage will play a much less important role in 2020 compared to the role it plays today. Nowadays we keep the absolute majority of our own files on local hard drives and this is where we install our applications. In a decade from now the importance of cloud-based applications and storage will grow so considerably that this fact alone will redefine the market of PC storage much more than any evolution of technology.

The large hard drives today are used to store multimedia files (primarily video files) by general consumers as well as large data files by professionals (e.g., engineers or designers). Multimedia – audio and video – tends to get higher quality and storage requirements. Files used by specialist require both storage space and security. Let us consider both usage models.

Ten years ago everyone was satisfied with 128Kb/s MP3s and DivX movies. Today that level of quality is unacceptable. Nowadays even 384Kb/s MP3s can be streamed from the Internet, but files encoded using FLAC or similar lossless audio formats cannot be streamed. It will take several years before it will be possible. The same applies to video. 720p HD video can barely be streamed today. Obviously, high-definition video (50GB per movie) will be possible to stream directly from the Internet in 2020, but given the fact that multimedia is evolving rapidly and already today we face both stereo-3D as well as ultra high-definition video, it is more than possible that in a decade from now video files will require times more storage space. As a result, physical media and large HDDs will still be in use by the consumers. Nonetheless, cloud storage will be needed to share photos, videos and other types of data that one wants to share.

On the other hand, it is not cast in stone that optical media will remain on the market. If it extinct, then all the storage requirements will be put onto the local storage, which will increase the demand for storage and will drive importance of low-cost-per-gigabyte hard disk drives among the consumers. Potentially, this completely redefines the market of consumer-oriented storage technology. In fact, analyst Jon Peddie believes that optical media was a flaw from the very beginning.

"Optical media was developed in the early 90s. It was clear then to many people, and certainly should have been to the giant companies developing the CD and DVD, that [Internet] bandwidth would increase and coverage would become ubiquitous within a decade or less. Also Moore’ s law was well understood and the density and price of RAM could be easily forecasted. And, HDDs were on the same exponential line of development. Knowing all that, why would a company invest billions of dollars in a technology that would follow the same obsolesce curve as 8-tarck, cassette, and video tape?," asks Jon Peddie.





Keeping work files locally allows a professional to ensure rapid access to them and to use them very efficiently. Manipulating with photos that are 600MB large nowadays using even high-speed Internet is a torture to say at least. Naturally, the demands for storage will expand in 2020. However, keeping confidential corporate documents locally is not something completely safe and it makes a lot of sense to keep all the secret documents in the cloud. As a result, relatively small/moderate and confidential files will migrate from local storage devices to the cloud. Moreover, most product information will be in the cloud. Without need to keep documents, product information, emails and other business-related things locally, the demand for storage in business PCs will either remain similar to today or will grow intangibly. Consequently, while workstations will require large local storage systems, most business PCs will not need large local storage devices.

To sum up:


  • A lot of consumers will continue to need a lot of local storage. As a result, they will use hard disk drives (HDDs) for maximally low cost per gigabyte. But many consumers will adopt solid-state drives (SSDs) for maximum performance. So, SSDs and HDDs are likely to co-exist in systems that are primarily used at home. Virtually all of the consumers will use some form of cloud storage for various types of data needed to be shared or archived.
  • Professionals will also need large local storage systems and since price per gigabyte of SSDs will decline seriously in 2020 the primary local storage devices for professionals will be solid-state drives. HDDs will be used for archiving purposes and cloud-based storage will be used for sharing.
  • Business users are unlikely to need to store a lot of their data locally due to security requirements that are best served by the cloud. As a result, it is more than likely that all business-oriented laptops of the future will come with SSDs, not HDDs.
  • There will naturally be situations when different requirements overlap, but solutions will be found to fulfill different demands.

Prices of solid-state drives have been decreasing in the recent years at a pretty rapid pace, whereas requirements towards benefits offered by SSDs have only been increasing. That said, we believe that SSDs will be used in about 50% of PCs shipped in 2020 (developing markets will stick to HDDs due to many reasons). Perhaps, those SSDs will not be used as primary storage devices for media, but they will be installed for performance boosting reasons. HDDs will continue to hold the vast majority of information, but they will have to coexist with flash-based storage. In fact, it is more than likely that hybrid storage devices featuring rotating media and sufficient amount of flash will emerge in the coming years. But not everyone thinks that SSDs will grab a significant market share. According to Jon Peddie, HDDs will continue to prevail.

"[Solid-state storage will not be able to grab a significant (over 33%) market share]. Life time operation, cost, and negligible performance difference from 10k and 15k HDDs limits SSDs to special cases (high impact, EMI, maybe size.)," said Jon Peddie, the head of the Jon Peddie Research analyst firm.

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