Fourth 2022 quarter hard disk ships slip

TrendFocus’ preliminary disk drive shipment data for the closing 2022 quarter shows a 40 percent-plus annual unit drop with a 25 to 33 percent capacity decline as well. Like the quarter before it, disk buyers ain’t buying as much as they did a year ago.

The numbers show that nearline disk drives – the mainstay of the industry – declined 42 percent year-on-year to between 10 million and 11 million units shipped, down 42 percent Y/Y and down 25 percent quarter-on-quarter. The decline we saw in Q3’s TrendForce numbers has deepened in Q4.

Wells Fargo analyst Aaron Rakers told his subscribers: “This would reflect the lowest quarterly nearline HDD shipment level seen since 2017.

“We think the average TB/drive could have declined in 4Q22 and as such we are estimating total nearline HDD capacity ship in the ~165-170EB range, reflecting a decline in the high-20 percent / low-30 percent Y/Y range and down in the mid-20 percent Q/Q range (vs. -13 percent Y/Y and Q/Q in 3Q22).” 

As the big nearline disk buyers are enterprises, MSPs and hyperscalers, that indicates they are not storing so much unstructured data as before. Which in turn prompts the question “why?” It could indicate that their businesses aren’t generating so much data because the business results are downward-bound; indicative of recessionary pressures.

A chart prepared by Rakers, using TrendForce numbers, shows the Q4 nearline disk capacity fall and change rate:

As nearline capacity shipped is declining, now would not seem to be the time to bring out even higher-capacity drives, as that would cause drive unit shipment numbers to fall further still. On that basis Seagate will be in no rush to bring out HAMR technology drives with 22TB-plus capacities.

The TrendForce numbers for other disk drive categories are:

  • 3.5-inch Desktop and Consumer Electronics: ~12.5 million units shipped; down 40 percent Y/Y and down 4 percent Q/Q
  • 2.5-inch Mobile and CE: ~11.3 million units shipped; down 40 percent Y/Y but up 15 percent Q/Q
  • 2.5-inch Enterprise: ~ 1.6 million units shipped; down 54 percent from ~3.5 million a year ago and up a smidge from ~1.52 million last quarter.

Rakers estimates supplier ship market shares from the TrendForce numbers and here are his numbers and a chart:  

We can easily see that Toshiba’s share has been rising for three quarters while Western Digital’s has been falling in that period. Seagate, the share leader, halted its Q3 decline with a slight rise in Q4. The gap between Seagate and Western Digital is widening, while the separation between Western Digital and Toshiba is shrinking.

With nearline disk drive units and capacity shipped both falling in Q4 2022, then HDD suppliers pinning share gain hopes on shipping higher-capacity nearline drives are finding it tough going. We are thinking here of Western Digital with its industry-leafing 26TB SMR drives and 22TB Optinand conventionally recorded drives.