RealTime IT News

Storage Industry Upbeat - For Now

SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Executives from seven of the disk-drive industry's most prominent manufacturers looked into their crystal balls Wednesday at the DISKCON USA conference and offered up a mostly optimistic near-term forecast for the rejuvenated storage device market.

No longer solely dependant on the PC market for its drives, demand for mobile devices, DVRs and digital cameras has leading vendors like Seagate, Western Digital and Maxtor—along with Japanese competitors Hitachi GST and Fujitsu—enjoying the better end of the supply-and-demand cycle.

At least for now.

"Everyone's in a pretty up mood right now," John Monroe, an analyst at Gartner, said in an interview with InternetNews.com. "Everything looks great right now but my advice to vendors is beware the Ides of March because they may come in December."

Monroe predicts total disk-drive sales will check in between 127 million units and 130 million units in the third quarter and inch upwards to between 130 million units and 133 million units in the fourth quarter of this year.

"The challenge is come up with something that will continue this growth rate," he said. "One thing that could help prolong this trend is that Western Digital and Seagate, the two largest vendors, are building with a great deal of caution with this burgeoning demand."

Rich Rutledge, senior vice president of marketing at Western Digital, said storage vendors are benefiting from the explosion of mobile devices and declining prices for devices that require a significant amount of personal storage.

"We've been riding the computing platform for a long time," he said. "But the external drive market is past 30 million units now and continues to go up. The video set-top box market also had more than 30 million units of the 500 million units that will be shipped this year."

But designing the next generation of drives to meet and, in some cases, create demand for vendors in the future will largely depend on just how much writing and reading capacitycan be crammed onto increasingly smaller and more energy-efficient drives.

The vast majority of the disk-drive manufacturers are actively researching both pattern media and thermal-assist techniques to expand the capacity of their next-generation storage devices.

"We're aggressively pursuing both," said Mark Re, senior vice president of research at Seagate. "Which one it will ultimately be is still up in the air."