Flooded Thailand, Greener Data Centers - By Doug Mohney
While disasters aren't usually something to cheer about, the flooding in Thailand is likely to lead to some incremental improvements in data center efficiency. And it all spins around the price of hard disk drives.
If you haven't been shopping for storage recently, the typical price of hard drives have jumped between 1.5 to 2.5 times over the past two to three weeks, according to one CNET blog post. Massive flooding in Thailand has affected a wide range of electronics goods, trigging what is anticipated to be at least a six month "supply chain disruption" in hard drives. Both Western Digital and Toshiba factories have been affected.
Turns out more than 25 percent of the world's hard disk drive assemblies are located in Thailand's flooded areas, according to a piece by XBit Labs, triggering what is expected to be a contraction of units shipped -- but not total storage, mind you -- by about nearly thirty percent in the fourth quarter according to a November 2011 IHS iSuppli Research report.
And if that straight-line reduction wasn't enough, flooding reports have set manufacturers in a panic. Dell has already started hiking on its enterprise storage solutions by up to 35 percent, according to The Register -- due in part to just-in-time assembly.
Seagate is predicting it will take until the end of 2012 to get back to pre-flood levels. Meanwhile, buyers are starting to wave around hundreds of millions of dollars to secure drives. Of course, Seagate has its bottom line at heart when it comes to a hard drive shortage and is now kindly offering a mere 20 percent price hike to customers committing to one to three year contracts, per Business Week.
So you've got a combination of a real shortage of spindles -- nobody's crunched the numbers on the reduction of terabytes, because I suspect that's a conversation drive manufacturers don't want to have -- plus a good old-fashioned multiplier of fear, uncertainty, and doubt driving a short-term frenzy of "Ahhhh I can't get drives!!!!!"
(Yes, I will confess I have been tempted to stockpile a couple of TB drives for my household out of irrational fear)
After the fear goes away, as pricing goes up, people get smarter with their buying decisions. Short-term, companies will take a harder look at their storage strategies. Storage optimization and products to optimize disk storage usage are in vogue. De-duplication will be the watch word as IT managers try to avoid buying new servers by more efficiently using what they have. It might not be a thirty percent reduction in on-line storage, but every bit and byte will be optimized.
Solid-stage drives (SSD), once a niche product for optimization and portable devices, are suddenly in vogue. A new report from Forrester Research is (timely) advocating a direct move in the data center to an all-SSD infrastructure for efficiency and lower latency. Meanwhile, the rollout of ultrabooks is already starting to erode the footprint of hard drives in the consumer industry. There may be temptation in laptop land to accelerate the use of SSDs for local devices -- consequently dropping power usage -- while further advocating "the cloud" for centralized/secured storage.
The net impact here will be some reductions in data center storage purchases and energy consumption. And right now I'm willing to place a couple of bets on the hard disk drive glut in the fourth quarter of 2012 and first quarter of 2013.