updated 01:45 pm EDT, Sat April 14, 2012
Seagate CEO sees flash too young
Seagate chief Steve Luczo in an interview published late in the week remained skeptical of flash memory. In the sit-down with Forbes, he saw systems like the MacBook Air and Windows ultrabooks as still far too cost-prohibitive to make sense for most users. Befitting his company's heavy dependence on rotating storage, he saw many of those systems either needing a hybrid flash and rotating hard drive or else leaning heavily on cloud storage with a conventional disk.
"If a bunch of rich people in Atherton want to buy a PC for $1,000 that has 128 gigs, then, sure," he said. "I just don't think that is much of the world... if they have that machine, they have some other machine somewhere that's got 5 terabytes on it, because I can't do much with 128 gigs."
The same was true for tablets like the iPad, as the storage had simply been moved off to the content hosts rather than the tablet itself. Luczo added that, even if there were a wholesale switch to flash, the current manufacturing capacity would only address about a quarter of the world's needs. He reckoned that the industry would need four factories equivalent to the world's largest memory plant, Samsung's Fab 16, to catch up.
Regardless of drive type, he warned there could be a crunch in storage of all kinds. There wasn't enough investment in storage technology, Luczo said. Even with technologies like heat-assisted magnetic recording, which brought drive capacity growth back up to where it had been years ago, there was likely to be a shortage within the next two years. "There's just not enough capital being put to work," the executive said.
The comments on flash are primarily relevant in the short term, as flash drives rarely exceed 512GB and can still costs hundreds of dollars for a 256GB drive. Solid-state technology typically tends to double in capacity with each successive generation, making reasonable storage more affordable. Improvements in manufacturing have likewise made it more feasible to make more flash memory chips in a given yield and improve capacity without building more factories.