The great 2012 disk shortage

The great 2012 disk shortage

Summary: A Hitachi VP claims disk supplies won't be back to normal until the end of this year. Should we care?

TOPICS: Hardware

A VP at Hitachi's disk unit - soon to be part of Western Digital - says that disk supplies won't return to normal until the end of 2012. He expects disk inventories to approach zero by the end of March.

The problem is that supplies of disk components are still short, and the smaller companies that make them aren't recovering quickly.

The Storage Bits take No doubt this is largely true and not just competitive posturing designed to drive up margins for the next quarter or two. But in an environment where these smaller companies can sell everything they can make - for decent margins - it is hard to believe that suppliers won't bounce back before July.

We may not reach the normal state of drive oversupply until the end of the year, but I'd be very surprised if monthly volumes are not close to normal in June. Refilling the channel will take a couple of months, and OEMs may want to over-invest in disk inventory just to be safe - more rains in November?

Price declines will be slower than the production ramp would suggest, because vendors at all levels will be getting higher margins. So if you don't need that drive, hold off for a few months.

The wild cards in the supply/demand equation are:

  • Ultrabook uptake. I'm not convinced that Ultrabooks will be successful - Wintel buyers mostly want cheap, not good, or they'd buy an MBA - but their use of SSDs and flat overall PC volumes will curb overall disk demand.
  • SSD vendor aggression. SSD vendors may be tempted to take advantage of higher disk prices by cutting margins to drive share. It is much easier to build SSDs than disks right now.

Despite the 50% rise in disk prices over the last few months, disks remain a terrific bargain. There is no cheaper storage you can buy.

The industry's risk is that more people will realize that they don't need a 1TB notebook drive, make the move to a much smaller SSD, and never come back.

Comments welcome, of course. Readers, why do you think more people don't know how much storage they need and buy accordingly?

Topic: Hardware

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  • RE: The great 2012 disk shortage

    This will be a problem for a lot of small business. Dell has no hard drives to sell to their existing customers and they will not sell hard drive carriers without the hard drives. I have a Dell T410 server with no way of getting any more storage installed because of Dell policy to not sell the empty hard drive carriers for me to drop in my own drive from my own supplyer. This has been the case for the last 3 months.

    • RE: The great 2012 disk shortage


      These are pretty easy to find online 3rd party if you want to go that route. I buy them for R710s frequently. They are the same ones for the T410 I believe and seem high quality if not the exact same ones that come from Dell.
    • RE: The great 2012 disk shortage

      Also try computer shows.
      They have a lot of hard to find stuff.
  • Almost 200% Rise in Prices Since May 2011

    I know the devil is in the details and this is just ONE example. We had the opportunity in May 2011 to purchase OEM Seagate Barracuda 1TB drives with 32MB cache and SATA3 6gb interface for $50.00 from a popular online vendor. These drives are around $135 today. I calculate that example to be 270% of the original price, or a rise of 170% above the price in May 2011. I am avoiding drive purchases as long as possible, though I used to always buy one or two when I saw a great deal like that $50.00 one.
  • RE: The great 2012 disk shortage

    Man, i care. I've got a PC with a bad hard drive and I hate it that righth now a 500 GB drive is going for what a 1TB drive was going for six months ago.
    • RE: The great 2012 disk shortage

      Not that bad if my experience holds true but it does take some situational awareness (in other words keep you eyes open). I bought an Iomega 2tB USB external from Tiger Direct for $110 two weeks ago and another a few weeks before that. Perfectly fine drives inside the case if I wanted to use them bare inside a PC. But I wouldn't bother since they seem to send me an offer a couple of times a week for cheaper bare drives in the 500gB to 1.5tB range. Sometimes (often) the offers are only good for a single drive at the discounted price but most people maintaining their PCs only need one at a time anyway.
  • RE: The great 2012 disk shortage

    If price keeps going up, you'd better buy a cheap laptop and tear out the drive, it'll be cheaper than buying the drive alone :-)
  • RE: The great 2012 disk shortage

    The local pawnshops here in Ft. Worth tend to be over-stocked w/desktops and laptops, many fairly recent. And they test in your presence before you buy. If I needed a HD, I would chk. out a few, and I could probably use some other PCI cards, ram, power supply and such before long.
  • Availability

    Western Digital drives are still more expensive than Seagate due to Seagate's main factories not being flooded out. The problem with this stuff is the warranty terms. The hard drive manufacturers are constantly changing the terms of their warranties on drives, so you can't always tell how much you have left (or how reliable it is). On bare drives, Seagate drives are dropping to a year for Barracuda, and 3 years for Barracuda XT (their hybrid drives). WD is 2 years on Blue and Green, but Black drives still have 5 years. However, when Blue and Green drives were being aggressively price-dropped pre-flood, Black drive prices stagnated in the ionosphere, and the prices are now even more sky-high.

    I'm just hoping that Seagate Barracuda drives are going to be more reliable than they have been. Supposedly they've rearchitected the firmware on the new models (the ones that start with ST, but not ST3, and usually have an DL, DN, or DM), but only time will tell if they are worth the savings. What scares me is the new low warranty term. WD Black drives might be a safer bet, even if you are paying more for them. They don't have the same performance as Barracuda XT's though, so it's best to shop around.
    • Seagate? Not for me

      I purchased a 1TB Seagate Barracuda (7200.12) in March 2011. It lasted six months before errors started popping up. Re-formatting and re-installing Windows didn't help. Mint Linux told me the disk was failing and suggested I NOT install the OS on it. I replaced it with a 2TB WD Blue before the prices got crazy.

      I have purchased two Seagates over the past three years, a 7200.11 and the 7200.12, and each one has lasted less than one year. On the other hand, I'm still using an old (IDE interface) 20GB WD drive on a daily basis. I'll stick with WD, thank you.
      • I have one of those too

        Windows 7 Pro started complaining of imminent drive failure about 6 months ago after about 6 months in service.
        Since this was on an evaluation build and the project for which it was built tanked, I disabled further complaints from Windows just to see what would happen and how soon it would fail.
        Boot up kept balking as well until I disabled S.M.A.R.T. in the BIOS. The system has been running ever since, being used (for now) just to watch online video (Hulu, Netflix, etc), play music and video files both in Windows Media Center and Windows Media Player. I have also used it to re-encode some .wtv video files recorded on an HTPC. It's still working.

        My guess is there is a communication problem between HD firmware and BIOS which is being interpreted as a failure code. So far (over 6 months of daily use) the drive hasn't actually failed nor has data been corrupted, including all MS updates.

        I wouldn't do this on a mission critical system--I don't care if the HD fails. But the drive mechanism seems to be working as designed.
  • RE: The great 2012 disk shortage

    Ultrabook uptake. I???m not convinced that Ultrabooks will be successful - Wintel buyers mostly want cheap, not good, or they???d buy an MBA

    What crap, MBA??? biased much. Did you forget that the MBA qualifies as a Ultrabook.
    • He's a fool. What he meant to say


      is that Most MBA buyers will overpay for flashy, not good, ultrabooks. If they really wanted something good they would buy a superior Wintel system for half the price.
      William Farrel
    • RE: The great 2012 disk shortage

      Of course he's biased. How else could someone trash Ultrabooks that aren't even on the market yet? He will never use a Windows ultrabook, but will write at length on how they blow chunks compared to his beloved Mac.

      Really, I think Mr. Harris is trying to convince himself that he didn't spend too much money on his Mac. It's just better after all...right? Right?!?!
    • RE: The great 2012 disk shortage

      No, I didn't forget that the MacBook Air is an Ultrabook. But the MacBook Air uses a flash drive, not a disk, so it isn't a factor in the disk business.

      It is the Wintel Ultrabooks that are going the cheaper SSD cache+disk route. While I like that basic architecture it is the implementation that customers will react to - and that may be problematic.
      R Harris
  • RE: The great 2012 disk shortage

    How about these companies take their business more seriously and build drives in the U.S.A. and other countries instead of having all their factories in one place.
    • RE: The great 2012 disk shortage

      @FireThorn Well, I'm all for that, but you do risk seeing the prices of hard drives and other components go much higher than their current higher prices. I'm all for bringing and keeping manufacturing in N/A, but we as consumers will have to be ready to pay top dollar. I'm willing to do it to see my fellow neighbours have and/or keep their jobs instead of having them all farmed out to Asia so we can have cheaper and cheaper prices.