Will HDD shortage drive adoption of SSD?

With the flooding in Thailand greatly reducing output of hard disk drives (HDDs) by Seagate Technology and Western Digital and with the rapid transition to 20nm-class process technologies by NAND flash makers causing prices to drop, SSDs may start to look more attractive to PC makers. But will we see widespread adoption of the technology?

Prices for hard disk drives are increasing dramatically because of the recent tragic flooding in Thailand. The floods, which are the worst that Thailand has seen in over 50 years is resulting in a shortage of hard disk drive supplies this quarter and are expected to impact the first quarter of 2012 as well.

About 25 percent of the world’s hard drive production facilities are located in Thailand. Western Digital produces roughly 60% of their hard drives there, and 50% of Toshiba’s hard drive production is also in Thailand.

However, the biggest impact from the floods could be on Nidec, a company which produces about 70% of the world’s hard drive motors in Thailand, including motors used by Western Digital, Seagate, Hitachi GST, Toshiba, and Samsung.

Amidst panic buying of remaining HDD stock, spiking prices and uncertainty as to when production will commence again, is now a good time to look at SSDs?

SSD Adoption

SSDs have been traditionally divided into two primary categories depending on the technology of the Flash memory on which they are built. Some SSDs feature single-level cell (SLC) memory technology, in which one bit of data occupies one cell of the flash memory, making it optimised for performance and data reliability. Other SSDs feature multilevel cell (MLC) technology, in which four bits of data occupy one cell of the Flash memory for greater capacity.

With the continual technology migration to 20nm-class processes, which are adding increased performance and reliability characteristics to MLC-based SSDs, NAND flash contract price is expected to decrease in November and December thus making solid-state drives cheaper.

Before the floods, a GB of SSD was over 10 times more expensive than a GB of HDD, however as the price per GB of HDD skyrockets SSD is now just over 3 times more expensive, presenting a compelling proposition to PC OEMs who should be seriously considering the adoption of SSD as a temporary replacement for HDD.

Research department of TrendForce, is predicting an increase in interest in SSD in light of the Thailand flooding with SSD adoption mostly occurring in the high-end corporate market; specifically, models that were designed to support both HDD and SSD. However they predict that if the HDD inventory shortage continues into Q1 2012, the proportion of SSD-equipped models may increase.

Not All About Price

Solid-state storage solutions offer a number of other advantages over their HDD counterparts.

Coming from an already notable lineage, the Patriot Pyro SE 120GB SSD adds synchronous NAND to its award winning design to raise the bar on performance, increasing write speeds across the board on compressed and non-compressed files.

The Patriot Pyro SE 120GB features the SF-2281 second generation SandForce controller and MLC NAND Flash for stellar performance, is able to deliver read/write speeds at a blistering 550/520 MB/s respectively.

Also, as the ongoing demand for data continues to surge, there is a great opportunity to make use of SSD in conjunction with cloud based storage across notebook and netbooks. This will offer the best blend of performance and capacity for the mobile customer.

The longer the delay of key component makers resuming operations in Thailand, the more likely PC OEMs will consider SSD as a temporary replacement for HDD, and whilst it is unlikely to trigger widespread adoption it will increase the growth of this category.

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Dave Stevinson is an accomplished business leader with over 15 years' experience in managing Sales and Marketing teams for fast growth electronics companies across EMEA particularly with an IT or technological bias. With a proven track record of opening up new markets, increasing product ranges, ensuring consistent and rapid business growth and an MBA from MBS, Dave has been instrumental in his current role of Sales Director for VIP Computers. Prior to joining VIP, Dave held board level positions in the technology sector, working for organisations that included CTX Europe, PGE Corporation, Teco Information Systems Europe.