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Mechanical storage is only efficient for bulk storage because NAND chips are still being price-fixed just like LCD panels and RAM chips before that. It's no accident it's the same manufacturers involved either. And just like those other products eventually saw a large international investigation culminating in "punishments" for global price-fixing, so will NAND. And when that happens, the fact hard drives have material costs that radically outstrip basic NAND chips (which are about as dead-simple as it gets) will very rapidly result in NAND storage offering tens or hundreds of times as much capacity for the same price. It's absurd the mechanical charade is being allowed to be perpetuated as long as it has been.

You can't make devices that deal with motors and rare earth magnets and spinning platters coated with ruthenium and other rare materials at insanely exacting tolerances, encapsulated in hermetically sealed Helium bubbles for cheaper than you can photolithographically lay out a bunch of NAND gates in cheap bulk semiconductors. There really isn't any word for it other than absurd. And the fact that NAND chips are in literally EVERYTHING means they are commoditized. Which means economies of scale make them cost almost nothing to manufacture. And yet... it still costs you 4x or more to get an SSD rather than several pounds of spinning metal? Nah, that's not how things work without help.

Why stop with microwaves? Why not make platters out of pure gold and the read/write heads out of synthetic diamond? Maybe integrate a cryogenic cooling system and store the data in a Bose-Einstein condensate? At this point it seems people will believe even that is cheaper than some NAND chips run off a line like printouts.




> You can't make devices that deal with motors and rare earth magnets and spinning platters coated with ruthenium and other rare materials at insanely exacting tolerances, encapsulated in hermetically sealed Helium bubbles for cheaper than you can photolithographically lay out a bunch of NAND gates in cheap bulk semiconductors.

Citation required??

Western Digital's gross margins are 40%, while Micron's gross margins are around 46%. This suggests that the margins of both NAND chips and Spinning Hard Drive rust are roughly equivalent at current market prices (at least, within a magnitude or so).

Large-scale manufacturing turns out to be efficient. At the moment, prices suggest that Hard Drives are indeed far more efficient to make.

If your hypothetical were true, then we'd expect Micron's gross margins to be larger. From my understanding, the high-tech NAND gates have a relatively low yield. Yields on bulk semiconductors are no where near as good as the yields of Hard Drives.


I admit to not knowing anything about how either drive type is made, but if what you are saying is true, then I wonder why other big players aren't just stepping up and making their own SSDs?

If Google can make their own processing unit just for running ML, why aren't they also making their own SSDs to drastically decrease storage costs and improve storage performance?


> I wonder why other big players aren't just stepping up and making their own SSDs

There are only a handful of fabs making the required NAND chips. Spinning up a new fab takes years and hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention some serious technological and manufacturing know how. So it's really not easy for someone to just up and enter the NAND market.

I don't exactly doubt that price fixing is happening, but my understanding of current high SSD and even RAM prices at the moment is that there is a serious demand that outstrips the current fabs abilities. Mobile devices are eating up a lot of the NAND output.


In addition, chip fabrication processes are notoriously fickle, especially at very high densities. I wouldn't be surprised if 10% of the NAND chips came out DOA from the production line.

In the case of GPUs they can turn a defective GPU into a lower tier GPU by disabling malfunctioning components, which means that it isn't a total loss. I doubt NAND chips can be salvaged in the same way. Since they are so simple, there's nothing to recover. It goes straight into the bin.


The difference is that NAND doesn't need to BE high density except in those mobile devices. For both consumer grade SSDs and enterprise SSDs, NAND already has such a huge storage density advantage that if they actually used up the space available inside a 2.5" or 3.5" case and weren't concentrating on transfer speed as much, yields wouldn't be much of a problem.

NAND does actually have a degree of flaws it can tolerate as they are made today in consumer SSDs. I am not certain, but SLC Enterprise SSDs made for database servers and the like might get the best yield chips I'd guess. On consumer grade devices, there is an amount of 'slack' space that the chips actually can accomodate that is used for relocating data from damaged areas, wear levelling, some bookkeeping, etc. So if you buy a 1TB SSD, there might be enough actual storage on the chips to hold 1.1TB if all of it was made available. I'd not be surprised if particularly bad runs come out and get binned as 512GB devices because large portions of the chips are unreliable.


This is not especially dissimilar from how CPUs were made and marketed for years - CPUs that wouldn't clock at 1.6GHz would get sold as 1.4GHz, for example

Kinda like how ladders are rated: they say 300Lbs .. it'll probably take more than double that - but if it breaks when you overload it, the manufacturer can point to the rating and say, "you exceeded its spec"




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