How Big Will Hard Drives Get? Fun with Math

How Big Will Hard Drives Get? Fun with Math

What will be the size of hard drives in the year 2020?

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But Assumption 2 is already shot. The industry-revolutionising breakthrough is already upon us - affordable SSDs, which (based on current prices) divide the numbers by a factor of about 8-10 (a 250Gb SSD costs not far off as much as a 2Tb HDD), and as they become more prominent, so storage may well scale down.

Cloud storage is not looking likely to revolutionise the industry any time soon.

Kinitawowi:
But Assumption 2 is already shot. The industry-revolutionising breakthrough is already upon us - affordable SSDs, which (based on current prices) divide the numbers by a factor of about 8-10 (a 250Gb SSD costs not far off as much as a 2Tb HDD), and as they become more prominent, so storage may well scale down.

Cloud storage is not looking likely to revolutionise the industry any time soon.

Agreed. I think most desktop PC users have an SSD for their system drive (OS and productivity applications) and a traditional HD for their data (movies, music, photos, etc). Games also tend to wind up on the data drive by virtue of being storage hungry. In laptops, SSDs are starting to overtake HDs as the single drive.

It will be interesting to see what happens here. Will speed win out over price?

Facebook now stores all its data on SSDs. The cost must be astronomical, but the access times are clearly worth it for them.

I also disagree with this quick assessment, but in the opposite direction as the above posters; we've already seen with processing power that eventually you hit the physical limitations of miniaturization and have to look to find whole new ways of processing. I suspect something similar will happen (eventually, it could be soon or it could be way down the line) and the rate of advancement will drastically slow baring another new breakthrough (which granted is not impossible)

Edit: From the numerous quoting of my comment by people who almost certainly know more about hard drive technology than me I have learned that I was very very wrong about ssd being new technology, and have removed that section of my post. I was mostly attempting to convey a parallel between what happened in the development of one aspect of technology to another I felt reasonably comparable: that it seems logical to me that eventually (emphasis eventually and likely not soon as other people have pointed out to me) storage will face problems miniaturizing the technology

MoltenSilver:
I also disagree with this quick assessment, but in the opposite direction as the above posters; we've already seen with processing power that eventually you hit the physical limitations of miniaturization and have to look to find whole new ways of processing. I suspect something similar will happen (eventually, it could be soon or it could be way down the line) and the rate of advancement will drastically slow baring another new breakthrough (which granted is not impossible, as the recent creation of SSD technology shows)

The first SSD's entered the enterprise sector in the 90's it just took time like everything does for it to enter the consumer sphere (I bought my SSD in 2007 it will be 8 years old this year hardly new)

The 8TD Seagate drive is for archive only as to get that capacity it uses "shingled recording" were the platters are staggered rather than right on top of each other. This causes a significant loss in read/write performance that makes them unsuitable for consumer uses.

Also for games consoles the bigger problem is the vast reduction in research the 3 HDD makers are giving to 2.5" HDD's as SSD's replace them in the enterprise and premium laptops. This is why only 1 single model exists with a capacity over 1TB and it's rumoured to be ending production to lack of demand.

P-89 Scorpion:
The 8TD Seagate drive is for archive only as to get that capacity it uses "shingled recording" were the platters are staggered rather than right on top of each other. This causes a significant loss in read/write performance that makes them unsuitable for consumer uses.

Also for games consoles the bigger problem is the vast reduction in research the 3 HDD makers are giving to 2.5" HDD's as SSD's replace them in the enterprise and premium laptops. This is why only 1 single model exists with a capacity over 1TB and it's rumoured to be ending production to lack of demand.

Interesting - what do you think of the helium tech that these companies have been looking into?

MoltenSilver:
I also disagree with this quick assessment, but in the opposite direction as the above posters; we've already seen with processing power that eventually you hit the physical limitations of miniaturization and have to look to find whole new ways of processing. I suspect something similar will happen (eventually, it could be soon or it could be way down the line) and the rate of advancement will drastically slow baring another new breakthrough (which granted is not impossible, as the recent creation of SSD technology shows)

It's not only impossible, but it's likely. In fact, maintaining the current rate of growth (doubling capacity roughly every two years) has relied on a succession of breakthroughs. The history of the industry is rife with engineers saying that we've hit the limit with regard to hard drive density, volatile memory capacity, processor speed, bus speed, etc. And then, some smarter engineer comes along and turns current thinking on its head by doing the "impossible." A few months later, that technology is in your office, living room and/or cell phone.

SnowWookie:
It will be interesting to see what happens here. Will speed win out over price?

No, speed will come down in price. SSDs are already cheap compared to five years ago and all but free compared to a decade ago, in another five years I bet they'll only somewhat more expensive than spinning platter drives.

Once SSDs are the default, price wars will start as the OEMs fight to get those manufacturing contracts. When I can have a couple of 1TB SSDs in my system I'll be happy chappy.

MoltenSilver:
I also disagree with this quick assessment, but in the opposite direction as the above posters; we've already seen with processing power that eventually you hit the physical limitations of miniaturization and have to look to find whole new ways of processing. I suspect something similar will happen (eventually, it could be soon or it could be way down the line) and the rate of advancement will drastically slow baring another new breakthrough (which granted is not impossible, as the recent creation of SSD technology shows)

SSD's aren't really new technology. More... Repurposing and repackaging of existing things.

Fundamentally they are pretty much the same technology as memory cards. SD Cards, even the memory cards from old consoles, all work along similar principles to an SSD...

In some ways it just shows how circular the nature of technology can be. While not exactly the same, SSD's have far more in common with the ROM cartridges most game consoles used during the 80's and early 90's than they do with hard drives...

It's not really a matter of technology as such, merely cost. Solid state storage has always been very expensive relatively speaking... SSD's by comparison are quite cheap. Still nowhere near the same level as mechanical/magnetic hard drives, but much closer than comparable storage would have been in the past...

P-89 Scorpion:

Also for games consoles the bigger problem is the vast reduction in research the 3 HDD makers are giving to 2.5" HDD's as SSD's replace them in the enterprise and premium laptops. This is why only 1 single model exists with a capacity over 1TB and it's rumoured to be ending production to lack of demand.

Really? Because I have a 2TB 2.5" drive, and I'm fairly certain there were alternatives in the same capacity made by other manufacturers...

(I assume you are referring to hard disks, and not game consoles here).

We certainly haven't reached the point where there's only a single model of 2.5" drive over 1 TB yet...
Though the Hard Drive market in general is looking pretty flaky with just Seagate and Western Digital really still making much of anything... (Well, toshiba still makes drives, but on the whole, that's it...)

CrystalShadow:
[quote="MoltenSilver" post="6.869707.21782330"]

Really? Because I have a 2TB 2.5" drive, and I'm fairly certain there were alternatives in the same capacity made by other manufacturers...

(I assume you are referring to hard disks, and not game consoles here).

We certainly haven't reached the point where there's only a single model of 2.5" drive over 1 TB yet...
Though the Hard Drive market in general is looking pretty flaky with just Seagate and Western Digital really still making much of anything... (Well, toshiba still makes drives, but on the whole, that's it...)

I should have said "in the 9.5mm height range" that modern consoles use.

But 2.5" HDD development is slowing the 3.5" still gets regular capacity increases but 2.5" HDD's haven't seen a capacity increase in 3 years in the 12.5mm segment and the Seagate/Samsung 9.5mm 2TB HDD is also over a year old and neither WD or Toshiba have released a competitor.

P-89 Scorpion:

CrystalShadow:
[quote="MoltenSilver" post="6.869707.21782330"]

Really? Because I have a 2TB 2.5" drive, and I'm fairly certain there were alternatives in the same capacity made by other manufacturers...

(I assume you are referring to hard disks, and not game consoles here).

We certainly haven't reached the point where there's only a single model of 2.5" drive over 1 TB yet...
Though the Hard Drive market in general is looking pretty flaky with just Seagate and Western Digital really still making much of anything... (Well, toshiba still makes drives, but on the whole, that's it...)

I should have said "in the 9.5mm height range" that modern consoles use.

But 2.5" HDD development is slowing the 3.5" still gets regular capacity increases but 2.5" HDD's haven't seen a capacity increase in 3 years in the 12.5mm segment and the Seagate/Samsung 9.5mm 2TB HDD is also over a year old and neither WD or Toshiba have released a competitor.

That makes more sense. The varying heights of 2.5" drive make the discussion somewhat more confusing... I don't own any devices that sensitive to the exact height of the drive, so I guess I never really paid attention to that detail...

Rhykker:

P-89 Scorpion:
The 8TD Seagate drive is for archive only as to get that capacity it uses "shingled recording" were the platters are staggered rather than right on top of each other. This causes a significant loss in read/write performance that makes them unsuitable for consumer uses.

Also for games consoles the bigger problem is the vast reduction in research the 3 HDD makers are giving to 2.5" HDD's as SSD's replace them in the enterprise and premium laptops. This is why only 1 single model exists with a capacity over 1TB and it's rumoured to be ending production to lack of demand.

Interesting - what do you think of the helium tech that these companies have been looking into?

It's already in use and allows the platters to be stacked closer together for higher capacity but no performance increase.

WD/Hitachi will have a 10TB 3.5" HDD using both helium and shingled platter stacking this year though where we go from here is anyone's guess (helium and shingled platters were on the road map over 5 years ago but there has been no updates to what new methods will be used just 'something will come along')

CrystalShadow:

P-89 Scorpion:

CrystalShadow:
[quote="MoltenSilver" post="6.869707.21782330"]

Really? Because I have a 2TB 2.5" drive, and I'm fairly certain there were alternatives in the same capacity made by other manufacturers...

(I assume you are referring to hard disks, and not game consoles here).

We certainly haven't reached the point where there's only a single model of 2.5" drive over 1 TB yet...
Though the Hard Drive market in general is looking pretty flaky with just Seagate and Western Digital really still making much of anything... (Well, toshiba still makes drives, but on the whole, that's it...)

I should have said "in the 9.5mm height range" that modern consoles use.

But 2.5" HDD development is slowing the 3.5" still gets regular capacity increases but 2.5" HDD's haven't seen a capacity increase in 3 years in the 12.5mm segment and the Seagate/Samsung 9.5mm 2TB HDD is also over a year old and neither WD or Toshiba have released a competitor.

That makes more sense. The varying heights of 2.5" drive make the discussion somewhat more confusing... I don't own any devices that sensitive to the exact height of the drive, so I guess I never really paid attention to that detail...

You don't own a 360, PS3, PS4, Xbone or laptop? since all but the PS4 console can use a HDD with a height greater thicker than 9.5mm and the PS4 is limited to 12.5mm and most laptops are 9.5mm or under as well.

Correction 2.5" HDD's come in 5mm, 7mm, 9.5mm, 12.5mm, and 15mm

All but one 2.5" HDD's with a capacity greater than 1TB has a height of 15mm the only one with a 9.5mm height is the Seagate/Samsung, Samsung Spinpoint M9T there was a Seagate branded variant but it seems to have been discontinued.

P-89 Scorpion:

CrystalShadow:

P-89 Scorpion:

I should have said "in the 9.5mm height range" that modern consoles use.

But 2.5" HDD development is slowing the 3.5" still gets regular capacity increases but 2.5" HDD's haven't seen a capacity increase in 3 years in the 12.5mm segment and the Seagate/Samsung 9.5mm 2TB HDD is also over a year old and neither WD or Toshiba have released a competitor.

That makes more sense. The varying heights of 2.5" drive make the discussion somewhat more confusing... I don't own any devices that sensitive to the exact height of the drive, so I guess I never really paid attention to that detail...

You don't own a 360, PS3, PS4, Xbone or laptop? since all but the PS4 console can use a HDD with a height greater thicker than 9.5mm and the PS4 is limited to 12.5mm and most laptops are 9.5mm or under as well.

Correction 2.5" HDD's come in 5mm, 7mm, 9.5mm, 12.5mm, and 15mm

All but one 2.5" HDD's with a capacity greater than 1TB has a height of 15mm the only one with a 9.5mm height is the Seagate/Samsung, Samsung Spinpoint M9T there was a Seagate branded variant but it seems to have been discontinued.

No, I do not own any consoles which use hard drives.

And while I do own a laptop, it makes absolutely no difference which size 2.5" drive you put in it. As long as it's a 2.5" SATA drive, it'll work. Same with all the drives I've shoved into external enclosures over the years.
I have never at any point even had to pay attention to the drive height.

Just seems like a colossal nuisance.

CrystalShadow:

No, I do not own any consoles which use hard drives.

And while I do own a laptop, it makes absolutely no difference which size 2.5" drive you put in it. As long as it's a 2.5" SATA drive, it'll work. Same with all the drives I've shoved into external enclosures over the years.
I have never at any point even had to pay attention to the drive height.

Just seems like a colossal nuisance.

It does make a difference what height your 2.5" HDD has as it may or may not fit your laptop.

Is your current HDD a 1TB or under model? or is your laptop a 17" desk top replacement? because otherwise watch out.

P-89 Scorpion:

CrystalShadow:

No, I do not own any consoles which use hard drives.

And while I do own a laptop, it makes absolutely no difference which size 2.5" drive you put in it. As long as it's a 2.5" SATA drive, it'll work. Same with all the drives I've shoved into external enclosures over the years.
I have never at any point even had to pay attention to the drive height.

Just seems like a colossal nuisance.

It does make a difference what height your 2.5" HDD has as it may or may not fit your laptop.

Is your current HDD a 1TB or under model? or is your laptop a 17" desk top replacement? because otherwise watch out.

Eh, I don't upgrade it anymore. It's 9 years old. There's no point. But for the record, it's gone through 3 drives in it's life, and is currently using a 500 gb samsung drive. The drive bay is so large though that I highly doubt I'd be able to find something that doesn't fit...

CrystalShadow:
And while I do own a laptop, it makes absolutely no difference which size 2.5" drive you put in it. As long as it's a 2.5" SATA drive, it'll work. Same with all the drives I've shoved into external enclosures over the years.
I have never at any point even had to pay attention to the drive height.

Just seems like a colossal nuisance.

There are some high-end ultrabook-type laptops out there that won't take a 9.5mm drive - they're 7mm only. Lenovo in particular are a bugger for it.

Kinitawowi:

CrystalShadow:
And while I do own a laptop, it makes absolutely no difference which size 2.5" drive you put in it. As long as it's a 2.5" SATA drive, it'll work. Same with all the drives I've shoved into external enclosures over the years.
I have never at any point even had to pay attention to the drive height.

Just seems like a colossal nuisance.

There are some high-end ultrabook-type laptops out there that won't take a 9.5mm drive - they're 7mm only. Lenovo in particular are a bugger for it.

ugh. Anything to make it a couple of millimeters thinner right? XD

It's almost laughable how ridiculous we get with tech these days... Sure a 1.5 kg laptop is easier to carry around than a 3 kg one...

But is it REALLY going to matter that it's 17 mm thick instead of 14?

Rhykker:
ASSUMPTION 3: OUR STORAGE NEEDS WILL CONTINUE TO INCREASE OVER TIME.

That's probably the worst of your assumptions.

FOR MOVIES: It's very unlikely that people will be storing large numbers of 4k videos on their local hard drive. The industry certainly won't allow people to just have digital versions of their movies (illegal downloads aside...people who do that habitually have already found ways to increase their storage without the need for stupidly large individual hard drives...they won't be driving the demand for larger storage enough to push the entire PC industry in that direction). There are also so many streaming options that don't even require a computer.

FOR GAMES: Cost of game development is pretty directly related to install size of games. We're already reaching a plateau where AAA game development is prohibitively expensive. I doubt we'll be seeing double the install size because that would imply roughly double the development costs, and pretty much no game would be profitable then.

All other file types just don't take up that much space. Even a massive library of music, pictures or other assorted files will fit on existing storage hardware.

Avaholic03:

Rhykker:
ASSUMPTION 3: OUR STORAGE NEEDS WILL CONTINUE TO INCREASE OVER TIME.

That's probably the worst of your assumptions.

History has shown otherwise.

Avaholic03:

FOR GAMES: Cost of game development is pretty directly related to install size of games. We're already reaching a plateau where AAA game development is prohibitively expensive. I doubt we'll be seeing double the install size because that would imply roughly double the development costs, and pretty much no game would be profitable then.

Sorry, but that's simply not the case. Game size was previously dictated by storage medium, with the move from floppy to cd to dvd to blu ray. PCs have already essentially ditched physical media altogether. Increased storage allows development companies to do things like higher quality audio, larger textures etc, that add nothing to the cost of development (since they are typically developed in high quality and then downscaled as appropriate).

Don't believe me? Try installing Titanfall on a PC (50GB).

Or preorder Evolve (50GB) or worse GTAV (65GB).

Avaholic03:

All other file types just don't take up that much space. Even a massive library of music, pictures or other assorted files will fit on existing storage hardware.

Yes, but again, increased storage capacity will allow higher quality files.

And that's before we even consider new technology. As 3d printing and VR become more mainstream, the average user is more like to start wanting to edit 3d files. There are already scanners that can create 3d models of existing objects; consumer version of those are just a matter of demand.

Every time we have more storage space available, a technology appears to use it.

fix-the-spade:

SnowWookie:
It will be interesting to see what happens here. Will speed win out over price?

No, speed will come down in price. SSDs are already cheap compared to five years ago and all but free compared to a decade ago, in another five years I bet they'll only somewhat more expensive than spinning platter drives.

Once SSDs are the default, price wars will start as the OEMs fight to get those manufacturing contracts. When I can have a couple of 1TB SSDs in my system I'll be happy chappy.

Well, the question is whether spinning platters can continue to fall in price at the same rate. It's all good to say that in 5 years you can get a 1TB SSD for $100, but if your storage needs are 10TB and you can get a 20TB platter for the same money, an SSD is still a hard sell.

That said, I think you're probably right. We'll see platters run into diminishing returns in terms of how cheap they can get compared to SSDs, and ultimately, the price gap will probably narrow into insignificance.

MoltenSilver:
I also disagree with this quick assessment, but in the opposite direction as the above posters; we've already seen with processing power that eventually you hit the physical limitations of miniaturization and have to look to find whole new ways of processing.

Storage isn't the same as processing. If you want a faster chip, you need some serious engineering. Want more storage? Just add more storage. It doesn't have the same physical limitations, aside from the size of the device, and storage is much less of an issue in the mobile space these days anyway (cloud)

SnowWookie:
Well, the question is whether spinning platters can continue to fall in price at the same rate. It's all good to say that in 5 years you can get a 1TB SSD for $100, but if your storage needs are 10TB and you can get a 20TB platter for the same money, an SSD is still a hard sell.

I think platter drives have more or less levelled out for price, whenever I need another one I always seem to pay about 40-50 for a decent quality 1TB unit and it seems to have been that way forever.

Obviously the really big capacities are appearing and going down but they seem pretty settled.

"and put our precious little skull-dwelling jelly-monster to work."

SHHHH!!!!!!! Don't wake the beast, man, don't WAKE IT!!!! :D

I like your assumptions. Two things; 1: sudden jumps ARE inevitable, and 2; it takes like 2 to 5 years for a breakthrough to get into consumer PC's.

Unfortunately, my rate of buying steam games increases at the same rate as average hard drive size, so I'll never be able to have all my games installed at once.

CrystalShadow:
SSD's aren't really new technology. More... Repurposing and repackaging of existing things.

Fundamentally they are pretty much the same technology as memory cards. SD Cards, even the memory cards from old consoles, all work along similar principles to an SSD...

That's not strictly true. Newer SSD's actually use quite a lot of new technology to make them work, that is vastly different from older solid state storage-solutions (including SD Cards).

SSD's certainly aren't a new concept, but as far as technology goes, there's a lot of new technology in play that isn't just repurposed or upgraded from older styles of solid state technology.

Athinira:

CrystalShadow:
SSD's aren't really new technology. More... Repurposing and repackaging of existing things.

Fundamentally they are pretty much the same technology as memory cards. SD Cards, even the memory cards from old consoles, all work along similar principles to an SSD...

That's not strictly true. Newer SSD's actually use quite a lot of new technology to make them work, that is vastly different from older solid state storage-solutions (including SD Cards).

SSD's certainly aren't a new concept, but as far as technology goes, there's a lot of new technology in play that isn't just repurposed or upgraded from older styles of solid state technology.

That's splitting hairs, surely.

A modern hard drive also isn't strictly speaking using the same technology and methods used 30 years ago. That doesn't make it some radically new technology though.

SSD's, like older devices of a similar nature are a variant of semiconducter memory cell. The technologies used in these in all areas change rapidly, but fundamentally they still all resemble one another.

Just as the technology that makes a 4 terabyte magnetic hard drive possible is different from what made a 20 megabyte one possible, but not different enough to be considered a 'new' technology.

JCAll:
Unfortunately, my rate of buying steam games increases at the same rate as average hard drive size, so I'll never be able to have all my games installed at once.

That is Parkinson's Law at work for you.

Kenjitsuka:

2; it takes like 2 to 5 years for a breakthrough to get into consumer PC's.

Perfect example of this is HAMR, the next big thing in HDDs, technology works now but will be several years before its in consumer grade devices.

Avaholic03:

Rhykker:
ASSUMPTION 3: OUR STORAGE NEEDS WILL CONTINUE TO INCREASE OVER TIME.

That's probably the worst of your assumptions.

FOR MOVIES:

No way, the people who buy large storage devices currently will buy even bigger ones, you'd be surprised at how many people would rather buy a bluray disc, rip it, then reluctantly compress it to a happy medium of size/quality. My current collection of ripped movies would be over 5 TB if I upgraded to bluray fully (at around 15gig a file, and that's with a large amount of compress).

Avaholic03:

Rhykker:
ASSUMPTION 3: OUR STORAGE NEEDS WILL CONTINUE TO INCREASE OVER TIME.

That's probably the worst of your assumptions.

FOR MOVIES:

No way, the people who buy large storage devices currently will buy even bigger ones, you'd be surprised at how many people would rather buy a bluray disc, rip it, then reluctantly compress it to a happy medium of size/quality. My current collection of ripped movies would be over 5 TB if I upgraded to bluray fully (at around 15gig a file, and that's with a large amount of compress).

 

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