Are 30 years of disk price declines over?

Backblaze, the online backup provider, reports on their experience with drive prices since the floods in Thailand in late 2011. Only this month have they seen prices return to 2011 levels. The question now: will they resume their downward movement?

In a blog post released today Backblaze comments:

In September 2011, our cost per gigabyte was $0.044. That low water mark would not be achieved again until September 2013. In that two-year period, our cost ran as high as $0.064 per gigabyte. While $0.02 per gigabyte doesn’t seem like a lot, Backblaze added about 50 Petabytes of storage during that period. When you do the math, a $0.02 increase per gigabyte would translate to a $1M increase in storage costs, but that’s not the whole story…

Floods in Thailand knocked out about 25% of the industry's production capacity - largely from WD - and set off a mad scramble for drives. That forced prices up by almost 50% - if you could get drives at all - and led Backblaze on a merry hunt for more drives.

Here's how the pricing played out:

Courtesy Blackblaze


Just 5 years ago drives cost over 10¢/GB. In the early 80s large drives cost over $25,000/GB and small drives - early Seagates - were much more.

The Storage Bits take
Backblaze's bulk buys give them a broad statistical base. But by shopping for deals I've bought a couple of drives for 3¢/GB.

To Backblaze's larger question - are we at the end of the 30 year decline in disk prices - no, we're not. Instead we're seeing new storage devices enter market niches that will preclude easy comparisons of the kind made by Matthew Komorowski.

Hybrid drives - combining SSD and disk technology - will fall off the price curve. But they also fall off the flat IOPS - and declining IOPS/GB - curves as well. They'll dominate the performance end of what remains of the PC market after smartphone and tablets get through walloping it.

But we're not through with the standard disk drive yet. They may not be sold in as many PCs, but they are very popular with cloud providers, who buy millions.

That volume will keep prices declining, though at a slower pace than in the past. Drive vendors have some large investments to make in patterned media and heat-assisted magnetic recording, so I don't begrudge them taking a breather on relentlessly lower prices. 

Comments welcome, of course. If prices were 1¢/GB, how would that change your use of storage?