As SSDs become more popular and prices drop, hard drive manufacturers are adjusting their long-term manufacturing plans and preparing for a future in which fewer and fewer hard drives are built. For Western Digital, that means planning to shut down a factory it’s operated for decades.
Western Digital plans to shut down its factory near Kuala Lumpur, then sell the facility, Anandtech reports. Hard drive shipments have dropped significantly in recent years, after briefly spiking in the aftermath of the 2011 Thailand floods that heavily depressed drive production due to widespread water damage.
All three companies have been impacted by the declines, with total capacity falling to around 400 million drives in 2017, down from 550 million in 2014. The closure will leave WD with two drive manufacturing plants — Bang Pa-In (1.7m sq ft) and Prachinburi (730k sq ft). WD is a vertically integrated hard drive manufacturer, which means it owns the facilities that handle its own production from start to finish. A WD spokesperson told The Register:
In response to declining long-term demand for client HDDs, Western Digital has taken steps to rationalize its HDD manufacturing operations globally. The company will decommission its HDD manufacturing facility in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, by the end of calendar 2019. This transition will be executed in close collaboration with employees, customers, supply partners and other critical stakeholders.
The data technology industry is undergoing substantial change. This market transformation is driving increased adoption of SSDs and NAND flash in traditional HDD applications. The change has contributed to growth in SSD/NAND flash and declining long-term demand for client HDDs. Consequently, Western Digital plans to expand SSD manufacturing in Penang. The company is in the final stages of commissioning its second SSD facility in Penang, which will go into production in the coming months.
But just because the market for magnetic storage is changing doesn’t mean it’s ending. With helium-filled hard drives offering more platters and higher capacities and certain capabilities, like surveillance cameras, capable of eating as much HDD space as the market can throw at them, magnetic storage is going nowhere anytime soon — even if the markets it’ll be deployed into are changing in response to shifting NAND flash costs.