Flash Storage Prices Keep Falling: What it Means For the Future

Picture of Rick DelgadoRick Delgado feels blessed to have had a successful career in the tech industry and has recently taken a step back to pursue his passion of writing. He's started doing freelance writing where he occasionally works with tech companies like Dell Computers. He enjoys writing about new technologies and how it can help us and our planet.

Could the end be near in the debate between solid-state drives (SSD) and hard disk drives (HDD)? For years, both sides of the argument have discussed the benefits and drawbacks of each. HDD had the clear advantage in the marketplace for a long time, but a sure and steady movement in the direction of flash storage threatened their first place position. When it came to the typical HDD vs. SSD debate, the usual trade-off came in the form of performance and pricing. Flash gave a company better performance but cost more. Hard disk drives could handle larger capacities for cheaper prices, but performance wasn’t all that great. Those typical points have been turned on their heads in a short period of time. The price of flash storage (SSD) can best be described as free falling, and that could mean a completely different landscape in the near future.

Plummeting flash storage prices

According to some experts, flash storage pricing has fallen a staggering 75 percent in just the past 18 months. While many predicted the price of flash to decline over time, few predicted the fall to be so dramatic. There are, of course, numerous reasons for the rapid drop. Perhaps the most important factor has been the development and adoption of 3D NAND technology. Put in simple terms, 3D NAND stacks layers of flash cells on top of each other. This increases flash’s storage density, allowing it to store more information in the same physical space. The development has solved one of the drawbacks of flash, which was limited storage capacity. Another reason for the price drop is based off of the increasing popularity of flash storage. With more and more laptops and other pieces of hardware using flash, manufacturing prices have decreased due to economies of scale.

A question of capacity

The combination of increased capacity and lower prices have turned SSD into an even more competitive alternative to hard disk drives. When one of the main selling points of HDD is its larger capacity, it’s easy to see why hard disk drives may fall in overall use. At the moment, most hard disk drives are stuck at around 10 TB in capacity. SSD has yet to reach that same level, but it is quickly catching up. Experts are predicting that solid-state drives will eventually match HDD, or at least come close to matching it, sometime in 2015. SSD will likely overtake HDD capacity in 2016, with some experts even estimating that 30 TB solid-state drives will be produced as soon as 2017. At the same time, the price of flash storage will continue to fall. Earlier this year, solid-state drives hit what some are calling a milestone when prices fell to $50 (approximately £32) for a 128GB drive and less than $100 (approximately £65 or less) for a 256GB drive. While these prices are for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), consumer pricing isn’t far behind. Basically, all trends point to SSD becoming cheaper and having a higher storage capacity than HDD.

HDD will be here for a while

That’s not to say that hard disk drives will quickly be phased out. Any transition in the business world, especially with regards to technology, usually takes some added pushing and prodding for it to gain a firm foothold. But it’s clear enterprises are already moving in the direction of flash storage. Roughly half of all organizations are already using flash or have plans in place to use it in the near future. Enterprise shipments of solid-state drives are expected to increase an impressive 75 percent every year, a pace which may even pick up steam once businesses realize some of flash’s drawbacks are no longer a problem.

What next for HDD?

With these developments occurring, even using hard disk drives for archiving purposes is starting to seem unnecessary. So does that mean HDD will one day go extinct? At this point, it’s hard to tell. Technological advances happen all the time, and there may be further work to be done on HDD, but for now, it’s clear that solid-state drives do the same thing as hard disk drives only better. Businesses will continue to gravitate toward flash storage as its advantages help it stand out above the alternatives. The future looks to be one dominated by flash, at least until the next technological evolution of storage becomes a reality and the cycle begins again.