Below are key drivers of Western Digital's value that present opportunities for upside or downside to the current Trefis price estimate for Western Digital:
For additional details, select a driver above or select a division from the interactive Trefis split for Western digital at the top of the page.
Western Digital Corporation is a leading manufacturer and developer of storage products that help create, manage, experience and preserve digital content. The company is primarily into designing and manufacture of storage devices, flash storage, networking equipment, and home entertainment products under the WD (Western Digital), SanDisk, HGST (Hitachi Global Storage Technologies) and G-Technology brands. The company serves markets addressing storage opportunities for enterprise and cloud data centers, client, consumer electronics, backup, the internet and other emerging markets such as automotive and home and small office networking.
Western Digital's principal products are hard drives that use one or more rotating magnetic disks to store and allow access to data as well as solid state drives. Its hard drives are used in desktop and notebook computers, corporate and multiple types of data centers, home entertainment equipment, and stand-alone consumer storage devices. Solid-state drives and flash storage products are used by data centers, enterprise clients as well as smartphone manufacturers.
We estimate that the enterprise storage business of Western Digital, driven by a robust growth in the cloud computing industry due to the penetration of high-end storage solutions in data centers will become the most valuable division by the end of our forecast period.
The HDD market is fairly commoditized and customers are price sensitive, which has led to lower prices and margins. Comparatively, SSD sales help drive gross margins since they have higher prices and gross margins as compared to traditional spinning disc hard drives. Although the price gap between SSDs and HDDs has narrowed over the years, SSDs are still more expensive than HDDs.
The high growth of digital content is driving the need for higher storage capacity to store, aggregate, host, distribute, manage, backup and use digital content. The need to access rich data and content is being driven by a highly mobile and increasingly connected user base. The traditional enterprise and client compute markets will continue to demand high capacity storage solutions and will be best served by hard disk drives where manufacturers compete on the ability to deliver cost-effective, reliable and energy efficient mass storage devices. The increasing demand for HD content for media consumption and rich formats such as HD DVD and Blu-Ray drives the demand for high capacity disk drives solutions in the end-user market.
All leading laptop manufacturers are now offering laptops with a hybrid HDD-SSD primary memory and high-end high-performance laptops with complete SSD memory. Solid state drives are much more expensive per GB and this is the primary reason for the slow adoption of SSD as the primary memory component. As production capacity increases and technology changes leads to a drop in SSD prices, we can expect that solid state drives will become a standard for notebooks and netbooks. These drives are unlikely to find extensive use in desktops in the near future.
Tablets and smartphones generally use solid state memory chips or flash storage as their primary storage memory and we estimate that portable device sales will nearly cannibalize notebook and netbook sales by the end of our forecast period. HDD memory is relatively unresponsive, slow and bulky and will not find application in tablet computers. The increasing popularity of portable devices is the primary reason for growth in the SSD space.
We expect Western Digital's enterprise business to be driven by businesses deploying cloud computing environments in an effort to pool resources and cut costs. Remote storage is becoming a standard for most enterprises and has even gained traction with retail customers with services like Dropbox, Skydrive and Google Drive.
To achieve the high performance needed with cloud computing, we can expect the hybrid SSD-HDD enterprise storage drives to become popular in the future.
The storage industry as a whole is going through a phase of consolidation, as companies are unable to keep up with the constant need to improve manufacturing efficiency, the capital required for R&D and staying ahead of changing trends such as the shift to SSD. Seagate acquired Samsung Electronics's hard disk drive business in December of 2011, and Western Digital purchased Viviti Technologies Ltd. (formerly Hitachi Global Storage Technologies) in March of 2012. Subsequently, Western Digital acquired SSD manufacturer sTec, enterprise flash storage company Virident Systems and storage optimization software company Velobit in 2013. At the end of 2014, WD acquired flash array maker Skyera. Similarly, Seagate acquired hard disk drive processing equipment supplier Xyratex in late 2013 and the PCIe flash controller business LSI Sandforce from chip maker Avago Technologies in 2014. SanDisk Corporation acquired PCIe flash storage company Fusion-io in 2014. Eventually SanDisk was acquired by Western Digital and the acquisition was completed in mid-2016.
In 2017, the demand for NAND outpaced the supply as several cloud companies focused on building data centers, and this aided the overall pricing growth. However, the technology has now more or less matured and the manufacturing capacity has increased, resulting in pricing pressure. Western Digital saw mid-teens decline in pricing in Q1 FY19, and it can dip even further in the coming quarters.
We expect further consolidation as bigger players buy out small and niche players to obtain market share and more importantly gain access to research in the areas of high speed flash storage and solid state drive technology.
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