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Seagate CEO talks Thailand recovery, why flash won't supplant magnetic hard drives

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Seagate CEO Steve Luczo explains why flash won't supplant magnetic media, speaks to the Thailand floods, and quite a bit more.

Seagate Hard Drive
Seagate Hard Drive

We like to dream about the day when solid state storage will completely replace the comparatively sluggish magnetic hard drives we've been using for years, but according to Seagate CEO Steve Luczo, that idea isn't grounded in reality. Forbes sat down with the Seagate executive this week for a lengthy chat about the state of the magnetic hard drive industry, and while he admits that hard drives suffered a setback due to the Thailand floods, the sheer rate at which demand for storage is growing — over 40 percent a year — means that even magnetic media is going to have a hard time catching up even after it reaches pre-flood production levels this fall. Even with advances like Seagate's heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology, Luczo sees a shortage in physical media within the next two years if demand keeps trending up.

The executive more or less laughs off the idea of flash memory doing the job that hard drives are doing today, saying that if all the flash memory plants in the world were dedicated to just replace the existing 400 exabytes of magnetic media the industry shipped last year, they'd only manage to produce about one quarter of the results (and at much higher cost). Luczo doesn't pretend that flash memory isn't important for consumer devices, but he insists that smaller flash capacities are merely shifting the burden of storage somewhere else: whether you're relying on an external hard drive, network attached storage, a cloud server or even just the internet in aggregate, that data has to be stored somewhere and that means there's a hard drive customer waiting to be served. In his own words:

Our industry shipped 100 exabytes of data five years ago, 400 exabytes in 2011, and we’ll probably ship a zettabyte sometime between 2015 and 2016. A zettabyte is equal to all the data that’s been digitized from 1957 through 2010. Everything, however you want to think of it, cards, tapes, PCs, mainframes, client/server, minicomputers – one zettabyte. And we’re going to ship that in one year. So whatever the architecture is, pads, phones, notebooks, ultrabooks, real notebooks, PCs, servers, clouds, one year, a zettabyte – that’s all going to be on rotating mass storage.

There's plenty more in the full seven-page interview. Find it at our source link below.