Digital storage has been thriving in recent years, apparently surviving the
recent global downturn with fewer bruises than many other high technology sectors.
The appetite for storage grows by leaps and bounds with every new computer,
every new digital entertainment device, and every new convert to the digital
download age. Video and music files of both high and low definition jam the
Web, which has become as much an entertainment highway as an info-highway. Anecdotally,
virtually every retail computer or technology store SPCR staff members visit
regularly reports unabted sales of high capacity hard drives, network attached
storage, multiple drive home servers, and other similar storage devices. At
the same time, the price of hard drive capacity has been dropping at an incredible
rate. The explosion in consumer demand has a parallel in the server markets;
all of those huge files reside at least temporarily in umpteen servers all over
The emergence of the solid state drive as a viable alternative to traditional
hard drives is another twist in the storage scene. While SSDs began looking
interesting for limited high end applications a few years ago, and prices had
been steadily dropping to more affordable levels, it was Intel's entry in late-2008
that was the real signal for the SSD market to heat up. If you're reading only
the tech web sites, you'd be forgiven for believing that SSDs have all but conquered
the digital world, so frequently are they touted to be here, now and better
than any HDD. Yet in the stores, SSDs are in only a handful of high end laptops,
and the awareness of the term itself extends very little beyond tech geeks.
Seagate had been utterly mum on the topic of SSD until a few days ago when the
new Pulsar series was announced.
SPCR had an opportunity recently to chat with Henry Fabian, the executive
director of Seagate Core Business Product Marketing, about Seagate, digital
storage, hard drives and SSDs. Seagate is the single largest enterprise in digital
storage, with about 30% of the world market. What emerges from this interview
is a somewhat different picture that presented by the typical tech web blog.
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SPCR: What are Seagate's plans for expanding into SSD manufacturing and
how is this being done? Any acquisitions/partnerships that can be discussed?
Henry Fabian, Seagate: Seagate is storage agnostic, meaning that we
look at the market opportunities that can best serve our customers, and will
supply the specific storage solutions that are best fit for their needs. With
SSDs, the best market opportunity is the enterprise space and that will be
where we focus with our first SSD product. Seagate has a dedicated core team
of development and engineering staff working on SSDs internally, but we also
do work with outside partners as well, just as we would with suppliers of
certain components of our HDDs.
SPCR: Are there any advancements (either forthcoming or
already extant) in HDD technology that would further delay the storage transition
Henry Fabian, Seagate: HDDs have a long life ahead of them and we
see HDDs and SSDs as complementary and together expanding the overall market.
Because of the TAM expansion effect the combination of HDD and SSD provides,
we are working hard to enable SSDs that meet the demanding needs of the enterprise.
Seagate views SSDs as being well-suited for performance applications, while
HDDs will be necessary for capacity-hungry applications. HDDs currently use
perpendicular recording technology, but we expect other technologies to enable
the extension of areal densities further for the next decade and beyond. Heat
Assisted Magnetic Recording (a.k.a. HAMR) and Bit Patterned Media are two
promising technologies that we're working on. One of these technologies will
be seen on HDDs within the next five years.
SPCR: Has there been any loss of Seagate HDD market share
Henry Fabian, Seagate: No - to date, SSD has been additive to the
market, albeit in relatively small volumes (<1% of total enterprise TAM).
Within five years we see SSD representing 5-7% of the enterprise market, an
important component to an overall expansion of the storage market. Our entry
into SSD has been timed to intersect when we see SSD volume adoption starting
to ramp to interesting numbers.
SPCR: Do you anticipate loss of market share to SSD? Which
Henry Fabian, Seagate: The big opportunity that Seagate sees is in
the high-performance and blade server market space. This is where SSDs fit
well and can deliver benefits to these upper tier storage environments. Certainly
over time, as SSDs become proven and are built to industry-defined standards,
SSDs will be an important part of the enterprise storage portfolio and will
fill the role of very high performance storage devices - complemented by the
very important role HDDs have played, and will continue to play in the enterprise.
But the need for greater storage capacity continues and is being fueled by
many devices and internet-based applications. These will continue on HDDs
SPCR: Seagate's announcement in the last few days about the
new Pulsar SSD for the enterprise market may have taken some
of our readers by surprise. It is the first official entry by a HDD maker into
the realm of SSDs. Please comment.
Henry Fabian, Seagate: With regard to Pulsar, it's the first of many
to come in the family. While this one is specifically built for blade servers
(one of the reasons it is SATA is that our blade server OEMs are currently
being built to the current standard chipsets and 3Gb/s SATA interface), future
variations will undoubtedly use SAS. As to SSDs in general, Seagate's focus
is on the enterprise market and that is where the volume opportunity for our
business is best fit. Not to say that we aren't looking at the other markets;
we'll always keep an eye out and continue to examine them.
SPCR: What is the total world market for
HDDs? How does it break down?
Henry Fabian, Seagate: To give an idea of the market size for HDDs,
last quarter in Q1 FY2009 alone, the industry shipped 152.3 million HDDs and
Seagate represented a total of 46.3 million of those units. From the overall
industry total available market (TAM), the sectors can be divided into Enterprise
(6.6M units), Desktop (59.2M units), Notebook (64.2M units) and Consumer (22.4M
units) categories. Seagates overall revenue for the quarter was 2.66
SPCR: Are Seagate HDD sales growing? How
about market share?
Henry Fabian, Seagate: Seagate's past quarter financial results are
evidence that there is growth in HDDs, even as the world continues to struggle
through a recession. Our overall market share across our businesses during
the past quarter was 30%, the highest in the industry. Our view is that the
demand to consume and store content will continue to grow and Seagate will
continue to take a technology-neutral approach as SSDs and HDDs clearly both
have their place. Its a great time to be involved in storage and we
look forward to an exciting future ahead of us.
* * *
this article in the SPCR forums.
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