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HDD Shipments Tank as Industry Changes

(Image credit: Daniel Krason/Shutterstock)

The Q1 results are in for the hard disk drive (HDD) market, and things aren't looking good. Last year, the industry already saw a big drop in demand, which sadly is a trend that the COVID-19 outbreak has made worse. Year-on-year results show a 13% drop in units shipped, with quarter-to-quarter results seeing as drastic as a 14% drop. 

The analysis, reported by Storage Newsletter, comes from Trendfocus. Whereas last year the HDD market shipped a total of 77 million units in Q1, that number dropped to 67 million this year. 

Much of the quarterly results boil down to seasonal declines, but COVID-19-caused production issues take some blame in the 2.5-inch mobile and 3.5-inch desktop consumer categories. Meanwhile, the nearline enterprise space saw a record level of shipments at 15.7 million units, and the performance enterprise space dropped 12% quarter-over-quarter, partially due to COVID-19. 

Trendfocus also placed blame on upcoming gaming consoles. Typically around this time console makers would be stocking up on hard drives for their production runs, but the Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 are both set to house solid-state storage devices instead of hard drives.

Global Q1 HDD Shipments* 

VendorHDDs (millions)Estimated Q/Q GrowthEstimated Y/Y GrowthMarket Share
Seagate27.9-28.7-14.8% / -12.4% -10.8% / -8.3% 42.0% – 42.1%
Toshiba14-14.2-14.1% / -12.8%-24.2% / -23.1% 21.1% – 20.9%
WDC24.6-25.2-16.2% / -14.1% -11.7% / -9.5% 37.0% – 37.0%
Total66.5-68.1 -15.2 / -13.1% -14.3% / -12.2% 100% – 100%

*These are preliminary results that may change when Trendfocus publishes its quarterly update. 

A few weeks ago there was news of an upcoming storage shortage in the HDD market as Malaysia and the Philippines got hit by the pandemic. Based on these results, however, we expect HDD prices to drop further as demand continues to plummet. 

One has to wonder if the HDD market will ever fully recover. It only just got close to recovering from the Thailand floods in 2011, but now that SSDs are all the rage, a massive resurrection seems less likely. 

Hard drives won't be going away entirely anytime soon or ever, for that matter. They're still a great way of storing large amounts of data reliably and cost-effectively. But there will likely come a day down the road when the general consumer has long forgotten about magnetic storage mediums. 

  • cryoburner
    Last year, the industry already saw a big drop in demand, which sadly is a trend that the COVID-19 outbreak has made worse.
    People are not going to stop storing data just because they are stuck at home. If anything, that might increase their data storage needs. Any storage potentially not sold now may simply be shifted to future quarters.

    In any case, this is likely more down to the reduction in SSD prices. While they've climbed a bit over the last few months, they have still been lower than they were the previous year. More systems are doing away with mechanical drives, so it makes sense that sales would be down, and that's probably going to be a continuing trend, at least on the consumer side of the market.
    Reply
  • IceQueen0607
    I wonder if the massive increase in price has anything to do with it?
    March bought a ST12000VN0008 for A$503. That same drive is now A$713-A$800

    SSD prices increased too but only by 10%
    Reply
  • Nemesia
    Where I live every part of the PC I built a month ago increased.

    3900X was at 540. It's now 649.
    Dark Rock Pro 4 is 10 more bux.
    X570 Aorus Elite was 260. Now 289.
    2x16GB Trident Z Neo 3600 CL16 was 180. Now 229.
    GPU already had that.
    970 Evo 500GB was 150. Now 169.
    860 Evo 500GB was in a sale at 110. Now 144.
    P600S case was 189. Now 219.
    PSU same price.

    ~ 280 more.
    Reply
  • Olle P
    If I read the table correctly the second column (after manufacturer) is the number of drives sold.
    Given that the average amount of storage available per drive is steadily increasing I think it's safe to assume that the amount of storage sold has gone up.

    So there are two more sets of data that should be added to the table to paint the whole picture:
    Total amount of storage space sold, with changes from expectations and over time.
    Total income from the drives sold, with changes from expectations and over time.
    Selling a bit fewer drives at better profit doesn't spell that business is bad.
    Reply
  • Mr5oh
    "HD drives are dieing..." This keeps getting thrown around, but with games getting larger and larger, and bandwidth limits and data caps still very much alive in many places (not to mention places without high speed internet), they aren't going anywhere (not for quite a while).
    Reply
  • Nemesia
    Mr5oh said:
    "HD drives are dieing..." This keeps getting thrown around, but with games getting larger and larger, and bandwidth limits and data caps still very much alive in many places (not to mention places without high speed internet), they aren't going anywhere (not for quite a while).

    How about when SSD are the same price? Do you think people will still use HDD?
    Reply
  • bit_user
    cryoburner said:
    People are not going to stop storing data just because they are stuck at home. If anything, that might increase their data storage needs.
    That was worded strangely, but it seems their point was that COVID-19-related production issues compounded the industry's previous woes:

    COVID-19-caused production issues take some blame in the 2.5-inch mobile and 3.5-inch desktop consumer categories.

    Indeed, the strength of the nearline enterprise segment probably reflects demand for cloud storage.

    cryoburner said:
    In any case, this is likely more down to the reduction in SSD prices.
    People pay market research firms for their reports, partly because they're based on non-public data, such as numbers of unfilled orders. So, if the report cites COVID-19-related production problems, then it's reasonable to assume that's based on more than the sort of idle speculation in which we indulge.

    cryoburner said:
    More systems are doing away with mechanical drives, so it makes sense that sales would be down, and that's probably going to be a continuing trend, at least on the consumer side of the market.
    Yes, I assume everyone in the storage industry knows that. The latest development seems to be SSDs creeping their way into the NAS sector.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    IceQueen0607 said:
    I wonder if the massive increase in price has anything to do with it?
    March bought a ST12000VN0008 for A$503. That same drive is now A$713-A$800

    SSD prices increased too but only by 10%
    That could be simply reflecting supply shortages of HDDs or their components. However, SSDs have probably been benefiting from a glut of NAND, which probably added some cushion to soak up any recent supply issues.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Olle P said:
    So there are two more sets of data that should be added to the table to paint the whole picture:
    Market research firms only give away some of their data & analysis. To get the rest, you have to pay $$$$.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Nemesia said:
    How about when SSD are the same price? Do you think people will still use HDD?
    In terms of GB/$, I don't think it'll happen in the foreseeable future.

    However, all that's needed is for SSDs of sufficient size to reach near-parity. For gamers, is 4 TB enough? For now, I mean?

    HDDs have a price floor, because the base costs of building a drive are fairly constant. So, at the lower capacities, SSDs actually have a price advantage. The main question is just whether that cross-over point increases faster than the storage demands of games.
    Reply