hard drive

Time for a new Bigfoot?

Technology comes on leaps and bounds but some themes recur, albeit amplified, over time. For example, in the world of computer storage, modern SSD (Solid State Drives) seem to be all the rage as they are fast and reliable albeit limited in capacity and relatively expensive; yet still very good value.

Actually, chip based drives have been around for quite a long time. From my own memory I recall units being available for Early PC and even Acorn BBC series computers back in the day and they had their applications then as they do now (though improvements are leading to predictable pervasiveness).

Traditional magnetic skinny disk Hard drives may be out of favour but they are still selling strongly and have the benefit of higher capacity and lower price compared to an SSD.

Intel has recently forecast that it sees 10TB SSD drives being at a consumer level by 2017, which, with stacked layer silicon, is quite possible and predictable to achieve once the FABs have their capacity in place for the ramp up.

How will hard drive manufacturers respond to this oncoming threat? We have been pondering what we would do if we were in their boots and we think that it is time to herald the return of the Bigfoot drive or its modern successor. In the 1990s, Quantum had success by introducing a drive which bucked the trend of the 3.5" form factor that was and is prevalent for hard drives, and introduced one that was based on the 5.25" width. This is the same width as CD / DVD drive bays in modern computers and many chassis still have ample 5.25" bays. At the time, Quantum's drive offered 2.5Gbytes of capacity when competitor hard drives of the same price were giving approximately 1GB (both of these used to be regarded as big amounts of storage at the time). This high capacity came at the expense of access speed, but not to any extent that stopped them enjoying high sales volumes and it was a well regarded drive.

We think that the same could be done today, and this would find a ready market for bulk storage in the cloud and on the desktop. The reason this works is that the drive surface area is so much larger despite the seemingly small number of extra inches. This is in the same vein that the 12" album allows for about 22 minutes of play on each side vs a 7" single that only runs for 3-4 minutes. The vinyl record is back in fashion, we think the Bigfoot could return too.

Our prediction is that an entry level drive could offer 10 Tb of storage in 2016 and higher capacity editions could easily bump 40Tb. This would find a ready market for example alongside SSD storage for amateur and professional photographers, videographers etc. who might work on live edits on SSD storage and then archive off to the big magnetic disks to preserve their original footage and portfolio. As the world embraces HD and increasingly 4K, with 8K on the horizon, bulk storage has never been in as much demand.

Will any manufacturers make good on our call here? Time will tell, but we are sure that the first to launch such a drive will have a big steal on the market and show that magnetic is not dead yet.

Top image kindly from https://www.flickr.com/photos/bensonkua/3258958203