Will vertical application specialization trickle down to the hard drive level?
When you consider hard drives today, with the exception of a select few, they are pretty vanilla and based largely on “system type” over “application” . Today, we have:
- Enterprise drives for systems like servers and storage arrays typically defined by features like reliability (MTBF) and data integrity (ECC), and performance (I/Os).
- Desktop drives for, well, not only desktops anymore, but for external storage, personal NAS boxes and RAIDs, typically separated by capacity, performance, and dare I say price? In some cases, people try to get away with using desktop drives for enterprise systems, that can prove costly in the long run.
- Laptop drives are like desktop drives, just smaller and evolving to include solid state hybrid technology
“Consumer Electronics” drives are probably the closest we have to application specific storage. CE drives for personal digital video recording and video surveillance are the most popular today and are more defined by the firmware that dictates the drives’ responsibilities, than the features themselves. The question being, will this become the norm for the likes of enterprise, desktop, and notebook drives?
The reason I ask is a recent post by Jason Hiner on Tech Republic titled “Utopian convergence of PC and mobile: How far away is it?” poses the question on convergence of personal computing devices. Today, consumers carry multiple devices including a smartphone(s), a tablet, laptop, etc. At some point we will see convergence of devices, perhaps to just a smartphone, or just a tablet. So, what happens to desktops and notebooks? Jason contends that “there will still be exceptions. Video editing, multimedia production, CAD, and software development, for example, will all still be done on full desktop computers. But, these will increasingly become highly specialized systems, almost like today’s workgroup servers.”
So, could we imagine a hard drive specialized for video editing? For CAD? For virtually anything done on a laptop or desktop PC? The base mechanics of the drive would be the same. It’s the firmware that would have to be customized to the application, much like it is for surveillance hard drives.
In the case for enterprise, perhaps customization isn’t as needed, but with the advent of the cloud and the ability to run applications from the cloud, could we envision enterprise drives designed specifically for cloud based financial transactions, video delivery, digital health records, etc. I don’t see this happening anytime soon since cloud data centers have to address the needs of multiple applications, so a vanilla approach is more cost effective and manageable.
But in the case of personal computing, perhaps niche market demands may dictate a movement from simply vanilla to 31 flavors. VARs and solution providers have already begun moving the direction of specialized hardware, software, and services based on vertical applications. Does it make sense for storage vendors to do the same?
If this is the case, storage vendors better beef up their specific application expertise and learn how to specialize.
What do you prefer…one size fits all, or storage specifically designed for what you do?