Articles: Storage

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In the world of widespread digital content and documentation, storage sub-systems become tremendously important. But with demands for different qualities of storage - performance, capacity, reliability, portability, etc., it is impossible to distinguish, which of the modern storage technologies - hard disk drives or solid state drives, local or network-based - are the most important for today and for tomorrow and while will eventually prevail. In fact, now it looks like both solid-state and rotating media-based storage devices will continue to prosper for many years to come. In a bid to find out, what is going on with HDDs, SSDs now and what is likely to happen in the coming years, we decided to talk to a storage specialist from Toshiba, the only major company that sells all types of storage devices for different segments of the market.

X-bit labs: X-bit labs: Hello, thanks for the opportunity to discuss the forthcoming generations of storage devices. Please introduce yourself.

Joel Hagberg:
Joel Hagberg,  vice president of marketing at Toshiba America Electronic Components, Storage Products Business Unit.


Storage in General: HDD vs. SSD vs. Cloud

X-bit labs: Many HDD makers believe that only hard drives can satisfy demand for storage capacities of the world as NAND flash fabs are too expensive to build. Do you share this belief?

Joel Hagberg: The production of semiconductor and NAND Flash components is certainly a capital-intensive endeavor, but the design and manufacturing of rotating storage solutions is as well. The cost and expertise involved in producing high-quality hard drives in high volumes is one of the fundamental reasons behind consolidation of the HDD supplier base. Toshiba’s view is that both HDDs and SSDs play important roles in meeting the demand for housing the exponentially-increasing amounts of data that is created and shared every day. We see HDD and SSDs working synergistically in a storage ecosystem where one technology no longer suits all applications. Toshiba’s storage portfolio strongly reflects this view of storage today, and points to where we are heading in the future.

X-bit labs: Will solid-state storage possibly ever be able to substitute rotating media?

Joel Hagberg: The future is not about substitution of storage, it is about strategic deployment. Global enterprise needs the right storage at the right place at the right time. Information and data are growing both in volume and in value. We are really just at the beginning of the software, hardware and services that will reshape data centers and enable them to tackle the mammoth amount of big data that is created every day. Cloud computing requires tiered storage to help tackle the information deluge, and to enable companies to use that information in the most optimal way. HDDs and SSDs are both critical to these architectures, and will power the enterprise moving forward.

X-bit labs: Do you think that going forward - perhaps, three to five years from now - different applications will use different storage technologies? E.g., automobiles will use solid-state drives, local storage systems for entertainment content will stick to hard drives, and enterprise will use both for different kinds of usage and so on?

Joel Hagberg: It depends on what provides the most value to the application. Tablets use solid state memory to optimize for speed, power consumption and robustness; desktop PCs use HDDs to optimize for capacity and cost. Similarly, enterprises which consist of many applications will use strategically architected combinations of HDDs and SSDs. As an example, the need for speed in stock market systems is very clear and provides enough value for the company to afford to use faster storage – traditional enterprise HDDs and high performance enterprise SSDs. Email archive may be less urgent, and can be properly supported by nearline drives. A continuing evolution and specialization on a by-application basis is the future of storage deployment.

X-bit labs: Can you estimate how many exabytes of NAND flash and magnetic media will be made this year, next year, etc?

Joel Hagberg: Toshiba does not provide public production forecasts. Analyst firms such as IDC and Gartner are better sources for that type of data.

X-bit labs: Would you expect cloud storage to lower importance of local storage capacities? Perhaps, it can kill various USB flash sticks completely...

Joel Hagberg: The debate over localized storage versus cloud-based storage is dependent on many factors, including the cost per gigabyte of storage, the amount of storage capacity involved, the speed and pervasiveness of available connectivity, as well as the time management aspect of personal data and where it may reside. People still have valuable uses for USB flash drives and external drives. The cloud is a reliable data backup option, but the need for personal storage that can easily be touched is something that the average user will not give up easily.

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