Hard drive unit sales have been generally trending down for years, but the rate of decline may have just accelerated sharply. From 2017 – 2020, the HDD market fell by 7-18 percent per year. 2021 bucked that trend, with drive sales holding steady, but Q2 2022 shipments are much lower than this time last year. Enterprise drive demand has mostly held steady, but the bottom dropped out of other markets.
The site StorageNewsletter tracks drive shipments across client and enterprise for the three remaining HDD manufacturers. It reports that just 45 million hard drives are believed to have shipped in Q2, down from a peak of 162 million drives in 2010. The report emphasizes “client” demand is softening, so this mostly applies to PCs and laptops. Demand for internal and external HDDs for consumers fell over 30 percent year-over-year (YoY). Overall, the total shipments for the quarter were just 13 million units. The “weakness” in demand was felt across surveillance, PCs, and retail drive sectors.
The hardest hit market was the 2.5″ market for mobile devices. It suffered a painful 40 percent drop quarter-to-quarter. The analysis notes this sharp reduction in drive shipments was driven largely by two factors: Soft retail demand and a sharp decline in PC shipments. The authors also highlight the mobile industry’s move to flash-based storage instead of HDDs. While that transition has been happening for years, it may be accelerating at the low end of the market. Microsoft’s That’s a transition that has been ongoing for many years. However, it now appears to be accelerating. This also comes at a time when Microsoft is urging PC makers to stop using HDDs for boot drives. It’s not a stretch to assume these two events are related.
The only market that still seems to be relatively unaffected by economic jitters and the move to SSDs is enterprise. The report states “performance enterprise” demand only dipped “slightly.” Meanwhile, nearline shipments remained “flat” overall, at 19 million units shipped. This is despite vendors still holding inventory from the previous quarter, and softening demand from OEMs. Consumer demand for HDDs is dropping, but the nearline and enterprise segments will use spinning disks for years to come. SSDs are still inferior to HDDs as far as capacity/price goes, and when you’re talking about a data center or storage at scale, it’s clear the hard drive will be around for a while yet.
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