Hard-Drive Shortage Hits Enterprise Drive Shipments Hard

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"We expect there to be drive availability constraints throughout 2012, and we expect these constraints to apply more to nearline drives than to mission-critical drives," Tucci said. "There is potential for availability to improve for the second half of 2012, and given our strong relationship with the major drive vendors, we at EMC expect to be relatively better positioned."

Solution providers, including those that work with major storage vendors and those that build custom systems, said they are feeling a much larger impact from the shortage of enterprise drives than desktop drives.

Enterprise drives are very challenging to get, said Todd Swank, vice president of marketing at Nor-Tech, a Burnsville, Minn.-based custom system builder. "Everything we're hearing from our suppliers points to the shortage continuing through the rest of this year," Swank said.

Desktop hard drives are more readily available than enterprise drives, but are still higher in price than before the flood, Swank said.

"We expect drive shipments to get close to normal by Q3 or Q4," he said. "But we don't expect drive prices to get back to pre-flood levels unless some new technology comes in. There are only two major vendors now, so don't expect them to want prices to fall too soon."

The smaller, high-speed enterprise drives are especially hard to get, said Dhruv Gulati, executive vice president at Lilien Systems, a Larkspur, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime Hewlett-Packard partner.

"We're seeing longer lead times, from between two to six weeks," Gulati said. "Customers understand the delay. Once the Thailand floods were in the news, it was not hard to convince [customers] this is a real shortage."

One HP solution provider who did not want to be named said constraints on drive shipments are slowing down storage and server shipments.

"We're telling customers, 'Order sooner than later,' " the solution provider said. "Some things we can ship right way, while others take time. But no one is saying they can't ship at all."

The solution provider said discounts to customers have so far been maintained. "But when we go for pricing, we have to understand the possibility that we may not be able to be as aggressive as in the past. There are a lot of factors to consider, including the fact that the top customers might get their drives before everybody else. Someone buying 5,000 servers will probably get a higher priority than someone ordering 10 servers."

Joe Kadlec, vice president and senior partner at Consiliant Technologies, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider whose top vendor partner is Hitachi Data Systems, said that while hard-drive prices have gone up between 8 percent and 15 percent since the fall, there has been little impact on storage shipment sales.

HDS is still honoring old prices on existing quotes through mid-February, Kadlec said. "But in the end, disk prices are just a subset of the total price for a Hitachi VSP or AMS storage system," he said.

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