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Spin that disk drive forecast, Gartner: Watch those desktop units dive

Biz drive shipments pull average up to 'slow'

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Gartner is forecasting that total hard disk drive shipments will grow at a leisurely 2.9 per cent CAGR from 2013 (552 million units) to 2018 (635.1 million units). But bear in mind that's an average: desktop drives unit shipments will be shrinking at a -7 per cent CAGR over the period while high-capacity business drives grow at a 25.1 per cent CAGR.

The firm identifies three disk drive categories and two sub-categories in each of these:

  • 2.5-inch non-enterprise
    • Mobile 4.2 per cent CAGR
    • Consumer Electronics 4.4 per cent CAGR
  • 3.5-inch non-enterprise
    • Desktop -7 per cent CAGR
    • Consumer Electronics 2.4 per cent CAGR
  • Enterprise
    • Business-critical (high capacity) - 25.1 per cent CAGR
    • Mission-critical (Performance-optimised) - minus 4.9 per cent CAGR

We see here the anticipated effect of declining PC sales and the uptake of SSDs instead of fast disk drives to store fast-access data.

Over the same period, disk drive capacity shipped increases in all categories – 32.3 per cent CAGR overall – with business high-capacity drives increasing more than twice that:

  • 2.5-inch non-enterprise - 19.6 per cent CAGR
  • 3.5-inch non-enterprise - 18.2 per cent CAGR
  • Enterprise
    • Business-critical (high capacity) - 66.7 per cent CAGR
    • Mission-critical (Performance-optimised) - 10.1 per cent CAGR

Total disk drive revenues will exhibit a 6.2 per cent CAGR from 2013 to 2018 with the category pattern looking like this:

  • 2.5-inch non-enterprise - 5.5 per cent CAGR
  • 3.5-inch non-enterprise - minus 1.8 per cent CAGR
  • Enterprise
    • Business-critical (high capacity) - 25.4 per cent CAGR
    • Mission-critical (Performance-optimised) - minus 5.1 per cent CAGR

Following the money means looking at high-capacity drives in business and 2.5-inch mobile drives.

Gartner then looks at the average price per disk drive and how it is going to change over the period:

  • 2.5-inch non-enterprise - 1.2 per cent CAGR
  • 3.5-inch non-enterprise - 3.1 per cent CAGR
  • Enterprise
    • Business-critical (high capacity) - 0.2 per cent CAGR
    • Mission-critical (Performance-optimised) - minus 17.1 per cent CAGR

There’s a whopping drop in the unit price for performance-optimised mission-critical drives in the enterprise as SSD competition puts on the pressure.

A look at the $/TB cost trend shows just what a demanding industry the disk drive business is, as all categories show drops, making for an overall 19.7 per cent negative 2013-2018 CAGR:

  • 2.5-inch non-enterprise - minus 8.1 per cent CAGR
  • 3.5-inch non-enterprise - minus 20.9 per cent CAGR
  • Enterprise
    • Business-critical (high capacity) - minus 5.9 per cent CAGR
    • Mission-critical (Performance-optimised) - minus 18.1 per cent CAGR

Aaron Rakers, MD of Stifel Nicolaus, notes:

Gartner estimates business-critical average capacity per drive expanding from approximately 2.1TBs in 2013 to 2.69TBs in 2014 and then expanding to 8.95TB per drive by 2018 – we believe reflective of an expectation of a transition to HAMR technology in 2016…

Gartner’s updated forecast calls for SSD penetration in notebooks to expand from approximately 20 per cent in 2013 to 38 per cent by 2018. Hybrid HDD shipments are estimated to grow from only 3.4 million units in 2013 to 126.9 million by 2018, expanding to account for 37 per cent of total 2.5-inch mobile HDDs shipped by 2018 versus 1.2 per cent in 2013.

That hybrid drive growth is impressive. But, as Rakers says, all these figures are estimates, and other estimates differ. ®

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