Q&A: Hitachi GST CEO says hard drive future hangs in cloud


If someone were to ask me: "Are you threatened by smartphones; are you threatened by tablets." My answer would be no. All of those drives have a greater need for data. All those things that drive a greater need for data are good for us fundamentally as an industry. Still, the preferred option for mass storage is rotating magnetic storage. All that data has to be somewhere. There's going to be a big fat drive out there somewhere storing all that stuff.

So the strategy is to be the disk drive supplier to cloud service providers? Milligan: Will everything eventually move to the cloud? A lot of it will, but a lot of it will not as well. What you'll find is there are a lot of bandwidth problems that will take years and years and years to resolve. And, there's a lot of privacy and security concerns with putting everything out there. So a lot of people want that remote access in the cloud, but they also want their personal cloud at home. So, I think they're going to co-exist.

And so how do the cloud and mobile markets fit together for you? Collins: That's where we get into things such as tiered data strategies we have. It's not just a plug-and-play world. It requires a much more collaborative, almost consultative approach, with our customers.

And, by the way, our customers are changing. It's not just the traditional big manufacturer selling a rack of storage to BofA. It's the social media and search companies that are designing their own unique systems that meet their own unique requirements. Storage of data is central to what they do, therefore how we fit into that ecosystem is changing and we've got to kind of meet that requirement as opposed to being the guy who's shoving their storage into a rack and then selling it and everyone looks the same.

Milligan: We've seen the Wintel architectures dominate for the last 10 to 12 years. Now you're seeing ARM processors, and Apple OS and Android OS and virtualization and hyper-scale cloud data centers. They're driving new workloads and architectures. Along with those come new opportunities. We're moving away from standardization and toward opportunistic technologies. For example, if you look at the data centers today, two fundamental building blocks in the data center going forward are three tiers: tier zero SSD, the small form factor performance drives and the big fat bulk storage drives.