Hard drive shortages could affect the Internet itself

We've been reporting for the past few weeks that the massive flooding that the people of Thailand are experiencing is also interfering with the production of PC hard drives. Many companies have shut down their hard drive production facilities and it doesn't look like they will be back up and running for some time. As a result, shortages of hard drives are becoming commonplace and prices of the ones that are available have skyrocketed in the last few weeks.

Now a new report in the New York Times speculates that the shortages could pose a severe threat to the entire infrastructure of the Internet itself. Companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon and others depend on large data centers to handle cloud computing services and other tasks. Those data centers depend on hard drives to run their servers and store the massive amounts of data uploaded by users every day.  Demand for cloud computing services continues to grow but the recent hard drive shortages could prevent some companies from scaling their services as required.

John Monroe, a research vice president at the research firm Gartner, claims that if a company like Facebook cannot get enough hard drives for its data centers, it could affect their user base as a whole. He states, "You really can’t grow and expand the Internet without the expansion of storage hard drives. There are an awful a lot of ramifying impacts that are being incompletely considered here."

At the moment, current estimates are that for the next two quarters, 50 million less PC hard drives units will be shipped worldwide, although Monroe claims that all hard drive inventories could be "sucked dry" by the first quarter of 2012.  If true, it could pose some very serious problems for the tech industry, and for the world's economy in general.

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