Brace Yourself: The Great Hard Drive Shortage of 2011 is Coming

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News Posted: Mon, Oct 24 2011 9:14 PM
Both analysts and Apple are warning that the price of hard drives, which has already been creeping upwards the past few weeks, could jump significantly in Q4 due to catastrophic floods taking place in Thailand. During Apple's conference call this week, CEO Tim Cook said: ""Like many others, we source many components from Thailand and have multiple factories that supply these components. There are several factories that are currently not operable, and the recovery timeline for these factories is not known at this point... We would say that our primary exposure is on the Mac...I'm virtually certain there will be an overall industry shortage of disk drives as a result of the disaster."

Industry analysts have chimed in to agree with Apple, while Western Digital has been forced to close its plants. Thailand is the second-largest manufacturer of hard drives, and even companies like Samsung, which haven't had to shut down production facilities, are facing part shortages. The HDD drive motor manufacturer Nidec, which supplies between 70-80 percent of the market with motors is expected to limit production due to flooding. Other companies potentially facing shortages include Hitachi, Seagate, and Toshiba.

Companies like Western Digital have indicated that its customers have about two weeks of inventory on hand and distributors tend to carry ~4 weeks of supplies. The Thailand flood waters, however, aren't expected to recede any time soon. The prime minister has warned that it could take up to six weeks for waters to recede. The damage to roads and logistical supply lines could take quite a bit longer to sort out.



The floods are seen as threatening sales at a time when gloomy economic outlooks already have manufacturers bracing for a slow holiday season. "From the Asia context, of course the impact will be on the Taiwan PC manufacturers, companies like Acer and Asustek Computer," said Satish Lele, vice president, consulting, Asia Pacific at Frost & Sullivan in Singapore. "From that context, the issue will start hitting these companies sometimes toward end of November and December, which for them are also key months because of the holiday season."

Intel is one of the few optimistic voices in the storm, noting that the PC industry came through the Japan quake earlier this year with relative aplomb. "The PC supply chain has proven to be very resilient, as most recently demonstrated in the response to the earthquake in Japan," Intel spokesman Jon Carvill said.

Given the uncertainty, we'd recommend anyone planning an HDD upgrade pick one up sooner rather than later. Combined with China's rare earth supply cuts, the price of hard drives could jump significantly in the next three months.
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omegadraco replied on Tue, Oct 25 2011 12:28 PM

It is sad that we are probably going to see people selling HDD's on Ebay at astronomical prices if as shortage does indeed happen.

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rrplay replied on Tue, Oct 25 2011 1:05 PM

yep been following a bit of this lately and man a pic like that sure tells the story.Seem like some of the shortage may be due to not being able to ship outside the area as well.Going to have to evaluate some of the current prices and make a move pretty soon or miss any deals that may be still available.

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This should drive the adoption of SSD at a quicker pace.

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rrplay replied on Wed, Oct 26 2011 7:30 AM

ThunderBird:

This should drive the adoption of SSD at a quicker pace.

Not all that sure about that T-Bird  the ol >>supply >> demand===$$$ still rules the biz

 

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wlmeng11 replied on Thu, Oct 27 2011 5:37 PM

Hard drive prices on most websites have doubled in price already. Hopefully they'll drop soon once focus is concentrated on other factories. I already have all the hard drives I need, but my friend is planning on a Christmas custom PC.

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bighosted replied on Fri, Oct 28 2011 3:40 PM

This is a big deal.

We buy dozens of bulk packs a week and now we cannot even buy two drives.

I think we may see a lot of projects put on hold through the winter and we will have to carefully ration our spares to keep stuff up and running.

Worse for major IT shops. The major distributors are showing completely out on their web sites of many OEM warranty drives as well. I wonder how many vendors like EMC or Toshiba will be able to supply replacement drives for their warrantied SAN systems?

People need to start contigency planning now.

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AKwyn replied on Fri, Oct 28 2011 4:38 PM

I already have a HDD already so I don't have to worry about shopping for the best deals on the now doubled HDD's but this poses a very big issue, not for those buying HDD's but for computers itself.

It's not a big deal for most consumer electronics seeing as how the whole world is transitioning to solid state media but for those that use HDD's, they're going to be in big trouble. Just look at all of the computer manufactuers, they're the major buyer of HDD's and they're the ones who put HDD's in all of their computers; and this hike is going to make it harder for the average person to own a computer, I mean the prices will rise to what they were in the early 2000's, and the computers wern't even that powerful back then. It's going to rise all because of the floods in Thailand and I think that's very unfair to the customers. They can buy a tablet and hook up a keyboard to it but it just ain't the same.

And what about TiVo? They're entire business is aimed around selling DVR's with HDD's, and you thought the TiVo's were expensive back then now look at them now, doubled because of the Thailand floods... And this is going to impact TiVo's bottom line since the only way they can stay in business is if they sell those DVR's. (Well they do make other profits by licensing and advertising and subscriber fees but still.) And let's not forget what'd happen if one of those TiVo HD's fail on them, it's going to cost them a whole lot more to replace that hard drive, the bottom line is that this impacts everybody, new customers, existing customers all forced to pay more because of HDD shortages.

While some may praise this as further adoption of SSD's, I still don't think they're reliable enough to fully replace HDD's, and that reliability is what keeps customers coming back to HDD's. And it's a real shame this flood happened, a real shame.

 

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realneil replied on Sun, Oct 30 2011 1:10 PM

TaylorKarras:
While some may praise this as further adoption of SSD's, I still don't think they're reliable enough to fully replace HDD's, and that reliability is what keeps customers coming back to HDD's.

I can't believe that they don't have a way to get their boxes full of HDD's high enough off of the ground to keep them dry. They alight upon any reason to jack prices with glee. Creating shortages makes them a lot of money, and that's what they're doing right now.

It's what they're doing with Rare Earth metals too. Screwing with supply, just to jack prices beyond our control.

The cost per megabyte is what keeps people buying HDD's. Even at these inflated prices, (probably artificially inflated too) HDD's are a good deal for storing a lot of DATA in house, while keeping that DATA totally in your own control.

Reliability isn't much of an issue with SSD's anymore. I have three of them, and one of those is over a year old without any problems at all to speak of. One unalienable fact about SSD's is that they make your system go a lot faster than an HDD does. The difference is night and day too.

As for their shortage, I have 12 HDD's on the shelf that are 400GB or larger. I'm gonna be fine.

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AKwyn replied on Sun, Oct 30 2011 6:23 PM

realneil:
Reliability isn't much of an issue with SSD's anymore. I have three of them, and one of those is over a year old without any problems at all to speak of.

Yeah, but I had tons of HDD's last as long as 6-7 years old... I still feel like SSD's should last like the exact amount or longer then an HDD in order for me to start using it full time, remember; there's still the fear of the memory chips failing and if the chips fail then any data you have is gone forever. (Backing up your files daily is a good option but only if you have a large enough hard drive and only if you manage to set up the computer to backup daily.)

 

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realneil replied on Sun, Oct 30 2011 6:35 PM

TaylorKarras:
remember; there's still the fear of the memory chips failing and if the chips fail then any data you have is gone forever.

But the same is true when a HDD fails, unless you have the cash to have the data recovered.

And that's frightfully expensive. All in all, the best you can do is to rely on redundancy and back your data up to other media, be it another HDD or even burned to DVD's.

My MP3 collection is on three HDD's, (one in a fireproof box) and it's also burned to 12 DVD dual layer disks. I don't use any kind of cloud storage, I trust Me, Myself, and I to handle my DATA and no one else.

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MPosch replied on Tue, Nov 1 2011 4:28 AM

While one can buy ten HDDs for the price of a single SSD, people will keep using HDDs for storage. I know I will. SSDs are also plagued with issues, from Intel having firmware issues, OCZ having to recall whole series of SSDs and the Intel controller most often used in SSDs these days having its own share of problems. They're hardly a trouble-free technology since they're so immature. I also think that it'll take the replacement of Flash by PCM or so before SSDs become a truly feasible technology for every type of use. Still can't put SSDs in a video editing station, for example, unless you enjoy swapping them out every few months with fresh ones :)

As for the current HDD shortage, I hope that manufacturers will realize that building critical factories in what is essentially a big flood plain might not be such a good idea :)

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@realneil: Seriously dude really? The issue isn't getting the boxes higher. So let's say they did that (presumably they are at least that smart). Then what? How do they get supplies, raw materials, and workers in? How do they get product out? What about electricity? Generator gas? There's just a little more to it than getting the boxes higher.

As for SSDs: in my (broader than yours) experience, and in empirical scientific testing, they are not more reliable than hard disks. Just because you've had a tiny sample size that seem reliable, has no relationship to what the rest of the world experiences. I've had two die early and unexpectedly without warning (more than often at least hard disks give you ample warning). Just spontaneously bricked and inaccessible. Two others have died roughly within their rated lifecycles, which I personally found to be unacceptably early (but in those cases still worth the cost professionally in terms of time saved for the work at hand).

I have four other SSDs still in mission-critical service - one pair mirrored, the other pair as striped file server read cache. So, while my SSD sample size is still too small for meaningful conclusions, let's compare my record with yours: Two suddenly bricked way too early, two suddenly bricked on par (but still - wow that seemed quick!), and four still in service, but still under their published life cycle. 25% premature failure. 25% on-cue and acceptable failure but still early by HDD standards. 50% still in their rated life and working. My sample size is bigger than yours it would seem, far worse, and although worse - more in line with industry expectation.

I use ZFS-based redundant arrays, on-line but off-site redundant backup, and professional cloud-based continuous backup services - so these losses haven't cost me any data. Just time and inconvenience.

Meanwhile on the HDD front: Much, much larger sample size and enough to draw meaningful conclusions from. In any given time I have 5 - 10 HDDs in the warranty queue, and about as many that die out of warranty per year. (I use alot of storage...my main file server is 20 tb ZFS stripe of triple mirrors, running on eight cores and 16gb, and I use lots of other storage.) So I am definitely no stranger to HDD failure. And I keep stats on my failures, by now, over 20 years, a huge sample size.

My HDD MTBF is only slightly worse than other published real-world industry observations. Which still works out to a buttload of dead hard drives every year, but one or two orders of magnitude more reliable, on average, than SSD.

(Each of my many three mirrors runs one "enterprise", one high-end consumer 7200 rpm, and one low-end consumer 5400 rpm drive. Performance is not an issue, as each mirror is part of a massive stripe, so the bottleneck is the bus anyway; besides, writes are committed to SSD first anyway, and reads [per mirror] are done at minimum at the speed of the fastest disk. [My arrays are tolerant of the long delays involved when a consumer drive fails, unlike many hardware-based RAID solutions that require "enterprise"-class drives or else the whole volume may fail.] So far a very consistent and reliable trend has emerged: the consumer 7200 RPM drives die first, followed very shortly after by the "enterprise" drives [which not a single one of dozens have made it to their rated lifespans or beyond their warranty date in spite of healthy operating environments, cool temps, and good SMART stats that are in my control, i.e. temp].)

If anyone is interested in my results - 5400 RPM drives, on average (but with plenty of exceptions), live way beyond their rated lifespan and warranty period. In fact, if any given 5400 drive lives longer than a comparable 7200 drive, then odds are it just won't EVER die - that is, no before becoming hopelessly obsolete. Even in use with five nines, and being accessed most of the time. In fact as a result of my own years-long data gathering, as I replace drives, I'm now only replacing them with 5400 RPM consumer drives, sometimes even proactively replacing still-working enterprise and high-end consumer 7200 drives with them. While it is still way too common to get bad 5400 rpm drives that are DOA or die soon, they are without question the most reliable "on-line" storage solution. Especially when mirrored and striped (e.g. RAID 1+0). And especially when buffered with "disposable" SSD for reads and writes, which take care of any latency issues, basically yielding some combination of the best of both worlds. (But not for the faint of heart.)

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jimcollier:
in my (broader than yours) experience,

Yeah, I have just a few SSD's, too bad if you think that's not good enough for me to comment about. It's just my experiences with these drives, and that's all that I have. I'll voice my opinions as I see fit.

I'm not saying that your wrong about all of your bombastic rhetorical slathering,..........but to me, sitting here at home with 5 systems, your enterprise tribulations are just moot.

I don't give a sh*t.

As to the supply problems that they're having, I think that they have stock in reserve and that they could just use it. Their floods are probably over now. But I believe that they'll milk the situation for as long as the market tolerates it. It's what they do.

 

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rrplay replied on Tue, Nov 8 2011 8:36 PM

Well some of the plants were definitely flooded and under water.Seems to me in a way it;s like the oil companion controlling price or whatever yada -  yada

speaking of some yada yada ..oh hum, who cares?, so what?, oh well,  & blah ..

on the bright side there is this bit of news:

HDD supply gap to narrow as Nidec resumes some production

Japan-based hard disc drive (HDD) motor supplier Nidec, which contributes close to 75% of the global HDD motor shipments, has announced its Ayutthaya plants in Thailand have already resumed production and sources from the HDD industry believe it should help narrow down the HDD supply gap in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Since Nidec is also increasing its production capacities at plants in Philippine and China to help cover the impact from the floods, the company expects its motor capacity will be able to reach 100 million units in the fourth quarter.

Nidec currently has 10 production bases in Thailand with eight of them have been damaged by the floods. As water started to recede, Nidec announced its Rangsit plants, which stopped operation on October 13, already resumed production on October 25, while Ayutthaya plants also started operating normally on November 4.....

A bit more info and maybe won't be as bad whether one decides to use 5400, 7200, enterprise class,high cache low c$$$, Constellation drives or whatever SSDs etc .........

ooops where's my manners >>>   Welcome to HH jimcollier

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