Seagate Technology announced its third quarter 2017 financial results. Though in recent quarters Seagate has been on the rise, this earnings report was a bit flat if not down some from the previous results. Seagate’s stock has shown a fairly strong performance over the quarter with a high of 50.51 before a sharp sell off after this quarter’s results were released.
Looking at the numbers, Seagate is reporting revenue of $2.7 billion, down from $2.9 billion last quarter, however, up slightly (3%) from the previous year’s $2.6 billion. Seagate is reporting a net income of $194 million GAAP, down nearly $100 million form last quarter. Non-GAAP net income is reported as $329 million also down nearly $100 million from last quarter. Looking at diluted earnings per share (EPS): GAAP diluted EPS was of $0.65/share and non-GAAP was $1.10/share. The company’s gross margin for this quarter was 30.5% GAAP and 31.4% non-GAAP, compared to 30.8% and 31.8%, respectively, from the previous quarter. Cash flow from operations was $426 million, down from $656 million last quarter. Seagate is also announcing a cash dividend of $0.63 per share.
Not only were the financial numbers down a bit this quarter, Seagate also shipped less (total capacity) this quarter than in the previous two, 65.5 Exabytes (averaging 1.8TB per drive) this quarter compared to 68.2EB the previous and 66.7EB the quarter before. Though it is a bit of a slump it is an improvement over the same time last year.
Though its numbers are down a bit, along with its stock price at the moment, Seagate is still poised to do well in the coming years. Data is growing almost too fast to keep up with, and the company announcing it is shipping 12TB HDDs in the last three months putting it in a good place to help others keep up with this growth. While it is true that several vendors are looking more and more into flash (somewhere Seagate is gaining ground, for example Seagate is supply Nexenta with SSDs for an upcoming review we’ll have), HDDs will still be the dominate technology for storing this data over the next few years.
Backblaze has released its latest HDD reliability results, withthe results are for the first quarter of 2017. This time Backblaze is looking at over 80,000 HDDs, increasing it from the previous 70,000. And a new addition to the testing is enterprise HDDs, (we covered the importance of the different drive types here).
The setup/testing environment is still the same as we mentioned last time: Since 2007 Backblaze has been offering an online backup service. For the backup service Backblaze uses storage pods that holds at least 45 HDDs (the newer pods hold 60 HDDs). They put 20 storage pods together to make a storage vault that can hold up to 1,200 HDDs. Backblaze uses hard drives from primarily four main vendors: Seagate, WD, HGST, and Toshiba. The reason for choosing these companies comes from being able to buy the quantity needed for the price that enables Backblaze to offer customers the best deal. Backblaze also states that the reason most of the drives they use are Seagate and HGST is due to the availability of purchasing the quantity needed at the right price.
As with the last time we looked at it, the annualized failure rate (annualized failure rate is computed by ((Failures)/(Drive Days/365)) * 100) has crept up slightly again, this time to 2.07%, or just over 1,700 drive failures out of over 82,000. Again Seagate has the highest annualized failure rate of a single drive, ST4000DX000, though it was 7.51% this go round versus the nearly 20% we saw in the same model number last time we looked at the results. The drive with the least amount of annualized failure was the HGST HMS5C4040ALE640 with just 0.64%. Failure in this study is defined as 1) The drive will not spin up or connect to the OS. 2) The drive will not sync, or stay synced, in a RAID Array. 3) The Smart Stats used show values above Backblaze’s thresholds.
Backblaze has introduced enterprise drives into the study in the way of 2,459 Seagate 8 TB drives, model: ST8000NM055. As stated above, the drives purchased need to fall within Backblaze’s budget. As Seagate introduced new models of their enterprise drives, the older ones dropped in price and Backblaze seized this opportunity. Of the enterprise drives only two failed but due to the lower number to begin with they do have a higher failure rate percentage (2.38% compared to the non-enterprise 8TB drives with 1.6%). Backblaze also found that the enterprise drives load data faster though they use more power (there is an option to save power on the Seagate drives, PowerChoice, that even while on, the drive stored 40% more data then their client counterparts).
The entire study is available at Backblaze’s site for more insights on which drives performed well as well as the amount of time the drives ran in their data centers.
The CEO of Seagate has confirmed plans to release new nearline harddrives with 12 TB capacity in the coming months, and HDDs with 16 TB capacity over the course of the next several quarters. The latter are believed to be based on HAMR technology and the comment by the CEO essentially means that the company is on track with its next generation of heat assisted magnetic recording technology.
12 TB HDDs Incoming
Seagate’s CFO confirmed plans to release nearline HDDs with 12 TB capacity in early November, 2016. Last week Steve Luczo, CEO of Seagate, said that such drives had been evaluated by the company’s customers for about two quarters now and the feedback about the drives had been positive. He did not elaborate on the exact launch timeframe for the product, but given the fact that the drive is nearly ready, it is logical to assume that the 12 TB HDD should be announced formally in the coming weeks or months.
The hard drive maker has not revealed many details about its 12a TB Nearline HDD so far, but previously Seagate disclosed that this drive is filled with helium and is based on PMR technology, whereas last week the company implied that it uses eight platters. Keeping in mind that Showa Denko recently launched 1.5 TB platters for 3.5” drives, it is likely that Seagate uses eight of such platters for its 12 TB HDDs. In fact, Western Digital’s HGST Ultrastar He12 HDD with 12 TB capacity introduced last December comes with eight PMR disks as well.
“As you know, going from 8 to 10 to 12 to 16 [TB], you are going from six to eight disks, at least, on the nearline products,” said Steve Luczo, CEO of Seagate, during a conference call with investors and financial analysts.
16 GB HAMR HDDs in 12 to 18 Months
The 12 GB drive will be Seagate’s top-of-the-range model for enterprise and other demanding applications for quite a while and will become the company’s highest-capacity PMR-based drive. But, for the second time last week, the company mentioned 16 TB HDDs due in the next 12 to 18 months. Moreover, since such drives will be based on HAMR technology (Seagate discussed the feasibility of HAMR-based HDDs at 16 TB last year), they will cause a certain level of disruption on the market.
“During the next 12 to 18 months, we expect the nearline market to be diversified in capacity points for different application workloads, with use cases from 2 to 4 TB products for certain applications up to 16 TB for other use cases,” said Mr. Luczo.
Hard drives featuring heat-assisted magnetic recording technology will cost more to build compared to traditional HDDs because of the increased number of components and use of new materials. As a result, such drives will also be more expensive to actual customers. At present, we do not know specifics, but what Seagate says is that in the future the market of nearline HDDs will get more diverse and its lineup will get wider. In the past, the product stack used to remained similar, and as larger drives were introduced every year, previous-gen products were moved down the stack and low-capacity models discontinued. This may not be the case in the future and customers who need maximum capacity (i.e., who would like to store 3840 TB of data per rack and require 16 TB drives) in 2018 will probably have to pay more than they pay for leading edge HDDs today.
It is noteworthy that Seagate also mentioned 14 TB and 20 TB HDDs in the conference call, but without specifics, it does not sound like a good business to make assumptions about them. So far, the company has not explicitly announced any plans to release SMR-based 14 TB HDDs for specific workloads to compete against Western Digital’s Ultrastar He14.
Higher-Capacity Consumer Drives In Demand
Moving on with the comments made by the head of Seagate, we noticed that Mr. Luczo also mentioned higher-capacity HDDs for consumer applications. In particular, when talking about increasing amount of disks and heads per drive, CEO of Seagate indicated that the numbers are also increasing for consumer HDDs as well.
“We do think there [are] opportunities for more heads and disks on desktop and notebook, as people need higher capacity as well,” said Steve Luczo.
Keeping in mind that Seagate currently offers BarraCuda Pro desktop HDDs with 6 TB, 8 TB and 10 TB drives for consumers, and these drives use enterprise-class platforms (albeit with multiple changes). The remark by the CEO is an indication that the company will keep doing so in the future. Meanwhile it is interesting to note that the head of Seagate also mentioned mobile drives with increased number of platters and heads, hinting on increasing demand for higher-end 2.5” HDDs with more than one platter. At present, Seagate offers 5TB drives in a 2.5-inch form factor, although these come in at 15mm and typically tend not to fit in most mobile environments.