Market Watch

Solid State Drives Not Expected to Replace Hard Disks Anytime Soon


SSD penetration into key markets increases in 2010, but only marginally

Despite their increasing adoption by in?uential segments and recent incorporation into some Apple Macintosh computers, Solid State Drives (SSD) in the immediate future are not likely to displace the longstanding dominance of Hard Disk Drives (HDD) in key storage sectors, according to the market research ?rm iSuppli Corp.

For 2010, SSDs will see increased penetration in the enterprise server, desktop and notebook segments— three traditional storage areas also served by the rival HDD technology. Penetration rates will roughly triple this year in both the enterprise server and desktop segments—increasing to 1.7 percent from 0.6 percent in the former, and to 1.2 percent from 0.4 percent in the latter. Among notebooks, where SSD penetration remains highest, penetration will climb 0.6 points to 2.3 percent—translating into about 7.24 million SSD units going into a total base of 339.4 million notebook computers, iSuppli data indicate. 

SSDs will continue to make inroads into these three target markets from 2009 to 2014—each segment proceeding at its own rate, but all showing an unmistakable pattern of growth.

 Solid State Drive Penetration Rate

Yet, SSDs pose no threat at all to the dominion of HDD. While SSD shipments will reach 7.2 million units in 2010, HDD shipments will total a mammoth 662 million.

SSD Impact on the PC and Server Markets
A type of storage device that has no moving parts but features only electromagnetic solid state memory, SSDs are considered to provide better performance than HDDs with their spinning, movable heads. Nonetheless, SSD pricing remains at a premium, liming adoption of the technology in the PC area to the low single digits.

For instance, the 40GB X25-V SSD boot drive from Intel Corp. carries an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) price of approximately $100—almost twice the $56 for an OEM-produced 500GB notebook hard drive.

In another illustration of the price delta between the two storage technologies, the OEM cost of a 256GB notebook SSD in October was $395. In comparison, a 320GB notebook hard disk drive during the same month could be obtained at an OEM price of $47.

Of late, the impact of SSD has been felt more on the PC market, as exemplified by their use in the new MacBook Air computer from Apple Inc. Instead of relying on HDDs, the MacBook Air—like the MacBook Pro before it—employs SSDs with NAND flash memory.

Given their competitive price points, attractive form factors and faster NAND-enabled performance, the new SSD-driven Apple products could represent a formidable challenge to traditional computers, iSuppli believes. And much like the iPhone effect on smart phones, Apple could propel a significant increase in SSD adoption with the company’s continuing patronage of the technology.  

In contrast to its high profile in the PC market, SSD has a lower impact in the server market—an area dominated by SAS and SATA HDD. A few financial, retail and social media segments might require fast access with better performance typical of what SSD cache can provide, but SSD penetration even in those segments will remain at less than 20 percent in the next five years, iSuppli data storage research shows. For the most part, SAS HDD has been found capable of satisfying the requirements of most market segments, due to its low price and perfectly acceptable performance.

All told, iSuppli does not expect SSD to threaten HDD dominance in the overall PC, server and storage markets within the next five years. Instead, the technology will likely coexist with HDD in all the service markets, with HDD actually benefitting from SSD implementation. 

Read More > Will Solid State Drives Displace Hard Disk Drives in the Near Future?