It's pretty terrible when a hard drive crashes and loses your data, but Google says that manufacturers should stop worrying about it so much in the future. That's because most spinning hard drives will soon be used for cloud storage — not personal storage in laptops or mobile devices — so a hard drive's reliability matters less than its price and storage capacity. "This shift has a range of interesting consequences including the counter-intuitive goal of having disks that are actually a little more likely to lose data, as we already have to have that data somewhere else anyway," Eric Brewer, Google's infrastructure VP, writes in a blog post.
"We hope this is the beginning of a new era of 'data center' disks."
Brewer writes that it's becoming more important to design hard drives that are meant to be used in large groups, rather than on their own. Reliability was important when the key use for a hard drive was storage in desktop and laptop computers. But most personal devices are shifting over to solid state drives now, which are typically faster and more reliable. They're much more expensive, though, which is why Google is still interested in optimizing traditional hard drives for use in its data centers.
Google is releasing a paper today with suggestions on how to improve future hard drives. Brewer says they range from "physical changes, such as taller drives and grouping of disks" to "shorter-term" firmware changes. "We hope this is the beginning of a new era of 'data center' disks," the paper's authors write.