Solid State Drives will never match the price-per-gigabyte ratios of traditional hard drives, at least according to Seagate Technology. The company says that while they expect the density of SSDs to reach and exceed that of hard drives eventually, the costs associated with the drive’s manufacture, the controller, as well as the integrated memory will never reach the expected $0.05c per GB ratio that the company anticipates will be the norm in 2020. This is an important message that Seagate’s clients should pick up on, because the company already makes their own solid state drives for enterprise and consumers (though they haven’t yet refreshed the Seagate 600 series with a newer controller or better flash technology).
Seagate is one of four remaining hard drive manufacturers in the world, along with Western Digital (aka WD), Toshiba Corporation, and Hitachi Global Storage, which is owned by WD. The cost of SSDs has been dropping year-on year overseas, and has dropped to almost $0.30 cents per gigabyte for drives in the 1TB segment. Older controllers like the Sandforce SF2281 allow drives to be cheaper than ever, and old flash technology is still being used to bring cost-effective products to market by companies like ADATA and Transcend.
“The disparity between the cost on a dollar per gigabyte is upper to 20 to 1,” said Dave Morton, senior vice president of finance at Seagate, at the Citigroup global technology conference. “I personally will never foresee the day when there is a crossover. In 2020 we [will] have drives in the portfolio that will be less than half a penny per-gigabyte. I just don’t see how you could get that from the competing technology.”
Consider, though, that hard drives are really Seagate’s bread and butter. Unlike WD, they’ve actually gotten to the point where they’ve made and sold a consumer SSD – WD’s only product that includes a fully functional SSS is the WD Black2, which mates a 120GB drive alongside a 5400RPM 1TB hard drive inside a 2.5-inch chassis. Hard drives will still be useful for a while yet for cold storage for the enterprise, but SSDs will eventually take over everywhere for every product that currently uses a hard drive for storage.
It also could be that Seagate is hedging their bets against the SSD market with statements like these, hoping that there’ll be a stall period where growth will be halted, giving them more time to work on superior products of their own. The company acquired Sandforce and all of the controller IP from Avago/LSI in May 2014 and is currently working on getting the SF-3700 controller out of the door properly.