Pure Storage CEO On Why There Won’t Be Any Hard Disks Within Five Years
Joseph F. Kovar
‘Up until now, storage systems have been provided for individual use cases, and competitors have generally had four, five, six, or even more unique systems, different software environments, different maintenance environments, and different API’s for different use cases. Today, we can now provide flash storage for all storage needs. We don’t think there’ll be any hard disk sold in five years,’ says Pure Storage CEO Charles Giancarlo.
A Bold Hard Disk Prediction
Pure Storage has had quite a trip in the 14 years since it was formed with an eye on developing what was then a new up-and-coming technology, flash storage. Long-established storage vendors were already experimenting with using SSDs to add flash storage to their disk-based systems or develop all-flash storage, but Santa Clara, Calif.-based Pure Storage was determined to focus exclusively on flash technology.
That bet paid off. Pure Storage is now the storage industry’s second-largest independent vendor with annual revenue approaching $3 billion. It has never taken its eye off the all-flash side of the storage market, focusing instead on bringing flash to every part of the business, including at the entry-level data protection layer.
Therefore, it would seem proclaiming the imminent demise of hard disk-based storage might be a bit of a self-serving proclamation by Pure Storage CEO Charles Giancarlo.
But Giancarlo backs up his assertion by noting that hard drive sales are already falling, and that flash-based storage price per gigabyte is already lower than for spinning disk-based storage.
“Until now, flash was only price competitive at a system level for tiers zero and one. We’re now penetrating tier-two and bulk data,” he told CRN. “Today we’ve pierced the 20-cents-per-gigabyte level. By next year, we’ll pierce 15 cents per gigabyte. The year after that, we’ll pierce 10 cents per gigabyte.”
The result, Giancarlo said, is that NAND-based flash storage is now competitive price-wise with spinning disk-based storage.
“If we look at NAND versus HDD, you can see the downward trend of HDD over the last decade,” he said. “During that period of time, HDD went from being every on every type of computer from laptops to desktops to servers to now only on secondary and tertiary enterprise mass storage tiers and in hyperscalers.”
Giancarlo’s assertions are backed up by trends from the hard drive manufacturers themselves.
Seagate, for instance, in July reported that in its fiscal fourth quarter 2023 its hard drive shipments dropped 41 percent in terms of total capacity, and fell 18 percent in terms of average capacity per drive.
Rival Western Digital in July reported total fourth fiscal quarter 2023 hard drive shipments of 11.8 million units, down year-over-year from 16.5 million units. Western Digital also reported total hard drive-based capacity fell 18 percent while total flash capacity rose 15 percent year over year.
CRN once predicted tongue-in-cheek that the last hard drive sold would wind up in the Smithsonian Museum in the year 2050, give or take 20 years. But if Giancarlo is correct, that could happen much sooner.
For a look at how Giancarlo can predict the end of the hard drive in five years, click through the slideshow.