The biggest storage trends of 2018

The storage industry is evolving faster than ever before in the 40 years I've been following it. While I tend to focus on the cutting edge, this is a good time to look back on the two biggest trends of the year.

There are many trends and currents in the storage market, so it's not easy to choose two. But these stood out in the past year.

Flash and DRAM price drop

Given the dominance of flash storage for phones, notebooks, and, increasingly, desktops, the drop in solid state storage prices is the biggest story of the year. While flash is the bigger piece of the storage landscape, there was an equally large drop in DRAM prices as well. 

On January 2nd, 2018, a 64Gb MLC flash chip was $4.05. This week, that same chip is only $2.73, a drop of a hair under a third. 

Likewise, an 8Gb DDR4 DRAM chip was $9.59. On Dec 23rd, 2018, that same chip is $6.38, a drop of just over a third. Wow! 

The basic driver of these price drops is the supply side of the equation: semiconductor plants are multi-billion dollar investments, and, once in production, vendors have no choice but to run them at full capacity until the bonds are paid off. Some big plants came online in late 17 and this year, thus the severe drops. If the "easily won" trade war takes off though, all bets are off. Vendors may mothball older plants, so prices could spike in 2019. Now is a good time to buy!

NVMe adoption

The NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory express) standard has been a staple of industry shows for several years. NVMe offers higher bandwidth and, more importantly, much lower latency than current SATA and SAS interfaces. 

But 2018 was the year that NVMe entered the mainstream, according to G2M research. They found that NVMe sales doubled in 2018, to some $25B. But that's not all: G2M expects NVMe adoption to accelerate in 2019. More on that in my predictions for 2019.

The Storage Bits take

I chose these two stories because they have the greatest impact on how we use storage, and how much it costs. For example, the drop in SSD prices will affect how cloud providers configure servers, which, in turn, will have a significant impact on the disk business. 

NVMe has been gestating since 2007, and is only now making major inroads beyond early adopters such as Apple. It takes a long time to become an overnight success! 

 My next post will cover some predictions for 2019. One hint: NVMe is going to get a lot better.

<strong>Courteous comments welcome, of course.</strong>