WD Starts on SSD trip, ends up buying Hitachi

Cool product mention quickly turns to dire news for Seagate

The news on Western Digital this week was about its CEO admitting during an earnings call that the company was working on hybrid drives that include both spinning disks and solid-state flash.

Combining the two could, potentially, add the speed of SSD to the stability, lower cost and extensive capacity of traditional disk drives.

WD already trails Seagate in hybrid drives. Seagate is already shipping a 2.5-inch version, and plans to have a hybrid option available on every drive it makes within three to five years.

Toshiba is also widely rumored to be developing a hybrid.

So no matter how good the WD hybrid drives may eventually be, in the grander scheme, they don't compare to WD's decision to spend $4.3 billion to buy rival top-five storage vendor Hitachi.

WD and Seagate are close rivals for the top spot on the consumer- to mid-sized business customer market. The addition of Hitachi's 18 percent market share, combined with WD's 32 percent should crush Seagate, which had been very competitive with WD, at a market share of 29 percent.

$4.3 billion is a lot of money, though, even in a market growing as fast as storage. Stock prices for all three companies rose on the news (oddly, in the case of Seagate).

Hybridity probably won't save Seagate. It has already had problems with both performance and quality that analysts warn could put a kibosh on the whole disk/flash mashup.

Even Seagate execs warn that hybrid drives, while cool, may be overkill for many applications.

Not the kind of thing that would make you feel better if your two closest competitors just decided to form an alliance with the intention of crushing you.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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