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HDD Shortages Spurring Storage Efficiencies

While there is a worldwide hard-disk drive (HDD) shortage due to recent flooding in Thailand that is affecting pricing, industry observers say the impact won’t be felt over the long term and that organizations are looking at how to increase efficiencies anyway, due to user demand to store more data.

“There is a shortage and it is forcing prices up, although honestly it’s not as bad as it potentially could be,” says John Webster, senior partner at research firm Evaluator Group. While he says the shortage is putting upward pressure on the price of disk drives, it is a temporary situation that won’t last more than a few months or at most, to the end of the year. “My understanding is capacity is coming back online,” he says.

“The uptick in SSD adoption WILL and IS happening for a host of other good reasons, but little of it is driven by the Thailand situation,” concurred Mark Peters, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. “Perhaps a few users will decide to increase their focus on efficiency and use SSD to help in that pursuit, but most people will not change their approach so reactively.”

While he agrees that prices are being driven up, Peters says the cost of the HDDs is only a portion of the overall disk system price, which in turn, is only a portion of the storage TCO. “So, while it’ll no doubt cause some challenges at the margin, I don’t think/hear of it being a game-changer for most people.”

However, the shortage is having some ripple effects in the market beside increased HDD prices, says Webster. “It is stimulating the user community also to look at … trying to pull some more efficiency out of their existing storage environment, or if they’re going to make more purchases, look at how those systems use more efficiencies.” For example, he says most organizations run storage arrays at somewhere between a 30 and 50% capacity, but that there are features built into the more modern storage arrays that allow for running between 60 and 80% capacity while still preserving performance.

Some of those features include the ability to do thin provisioning, a virtualized storage controller and an automated storage tiering type of approach, says Webster. “It’s becoming popular to use solid state disks for very active data sets and migrate the less active ones off to a higher capacity, lower perform disk where you can run those at 60 to 80% of capacity without losing performance.”

Like Webster, Peters also says there are other measures IT can take “to squeeze a little more out of their existing resources – delay new apps, ensure you’re using all your efficiency tools (like thin provisioning and tiering), allow HDDs to run a little fuller [and] delete some old data to create space.”

That’s a management strategy Webster also suggests: that IT consider active archiving of data. “A lot of data that sits on an array becomes dormant after about 90 days, and you can move it off to an archive and if you need to get it back, the idea of active archive is you can get it back.” An active archive doesn’t become a “data dumpster” where IT knows the data lives, but finds it difficult to get back in a reasonable period of time, he says.

Even before the HDD shortage surfaced, the vendor community was talking with users about storage efficiencies and ways of achieving that as far back as a year ago, Webster notes. “So this is not really a new phenomenon and one that has been stimulated by a disk shortage. It’s really being driven more by the fact that capacity utilization--or let’s say growth in the amount of data that IT organizations are storing--is accelerating,” he says. That factor is making IT administrators realize they need to take proactive measures before it becomes increasingly more difficult to maintain service levels to the user community.

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