Toshiba defends the use of hard disk drives (HDDs) and disproves four misconceptions about them: poor performance, short lifespan, high power consumption, and outdated technology. Although these units have been superseded in many devices, they still have relevance and should not be considered obsolete.
“The common prejudices against hard drives can be easily refuted and, in view of the rapid growth of data volumes, HDDs will be with us for a long time; no other storage medium offers such high capacities at such low costs, today and in the future,” explains Rainer W. Kaese, Senior Director of Business Development, Storage Products unit, Toshiba Electronics Europe.
4 myths about hard drives
- The first of these false beliefs is that mechanical hard drives do not offer state-of-the-art performance. Indeed, an enterprise-grade hard drive with a transfer speed of 250 MGbps and 400 IOPS cannot compete with an enterprise-grade solid-state drive (SSD) that transfers around 2,500 MGbps and achieves 100,000 IOPS. However, unlike computers, enterprise storage systems used by cloud providers and hyperscalers never use a single storage medium, and, in fact, storage arrays are typically equipped with several dozen. In such an installation, the hard drives handle more than 5 Gbps and more than 10,000 IOPS, enough for many of today’s applications. And, furthermore, since the cost per capacity of HDDs is significantly lower than that of SSDs, it is also more economical to equip storage systems with many HDDs instead of just a few SSDs.
Toshiba dismantles the four most common false beliefs about hard drives
- The second false belief that Toshiba dismantles is the one that affirms that hard disk drives have a shorter useful life. Although it is said that the mechanical elements of HDDs, with their moving parts, cause great wear and tear on these drives, it is not true that they fail faster or more frequently than SSDs. According to Toshiba, the mean time to failure (MTTF) of most enterprise-class HDD and SSD models is 2.5 million hours, equivalent to an annualized failure rate (AFR) of 0.35%. In a data center with 2,000 drives, this means, statistically speaking, that seven hard drives would need to be replaced per year. To avoid a higher ratio, companies must ensure that the environmental conditions specified by the manufacturers, such as temperature and vibrations, are met, and also use the indicated hard drives for their intended purpose.
- Another false belief about HDDs is that they consume a lot of electricity and their mechanics are often negatively valued in terms of energy efficiency, but the truth is that current helium-filled units are quite efficient. Since most of the power consumed by a hard drive is used to spin the spindles, its consumption is between 7 and 8 watts, regardless of capacity and workload. Thus, and as Toshiba notes, an SSD with a storage capacity similar to that of a hard drive will require the same power, if not more, to achieve the same performance. In the case of SSDs, power consumption will directly depend on capacity, while hard drives always have a specific base power consumption for shaft rotation. Therefore, SSDs perform well in terms of power efficiency at capacities below one terabyte, which is the case for most battery-powered laptops.
- As for the fourth false belief that HDDs are a technology of the past, Toshiba reminds that while hard drives may not have changed in terms of base technology since their inception, components, materials, and recording methods are constantly evolving. As a result, for some time the capacity of hard drives has increased by around 2 Terabytes per year, while their cost has not changed. As an example, in 2021 the first models that made use of the new Microwave Assisted Magnetic Recording (MAMR) method reached the market. With this technology, the microwaves in the write head control and focus the magnetic flux, so less power is needed to magnetize the bits, and as a result, the write heads can be smaller and write data with higher density. In the future, and according to experts, the progressive development of MAMR will allow the capacity of hard drives to increase to 50 Terabytes in a few years.