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WD claims strong demand for HDDs, flash with cloud customers

Western Digital reported revenue of $4.7 billion in the first full quarter after its SanDisk acquisition closed, claiming demand was strong for hard drives and flash-based products with cloud and mobile customers.

CEO Steve Milligan said WD made significant progress in the quarter on its top two priorities: integrating its SanDisk and HGST acquisitions and transitioning to second-generation 3D NAND flash. He said WD remains on track to begin a significant ramp up to 64-layer 3D NAND in the first half of 2017.

WD said a net quarterly loss of $366 million included charges related to its recent acquisitions and its re-pricing and repayment of outstanding debt. WD reported net income of $283 million in the same quarter last year. WD generated $3.4 billion in quarterly revenue a year ago, for the period ending on Sept. 30, while SanDisk reported revenue of $1.45 billion for its third quarter, ending on Sept. 27.

This year, WD originally projected revenue in the range of $4.4 billion to $4.5 billion for the quarter ending on Sept. 30. But on Sept. 7, the company ratcheted up its prediction to $4.45 billion to $4.55 billion and exceeded those numbers, with $1.4 billion of the $4.7 billion total coming from data center products.

Milligan attributed the overachievement to higher than expected demand and “a bit better” pricing.

Capacity shipped on nearline hard disk drives (HDDs) grew nearly 50% for the quarter on a year-to-year comparison basis. Michael Cordano, WD’s president and chief operating officer, said cloud customers drove the increase in nearline HDDs. Cordano also said that WD’s 10 TB helium drives are gaining adoption among OEM and cloud customers. WD claims it has shipped more than 10 million HelioSeal drives since their 2013 launch.

Milligan said the capacity growth rate for flash exceeds disk, largely related to hyper-scale deployments. Still, Cordano said “Going forward, we don’t see a convergence to an all-flash world anytime soon, frankly, anytime in our planning horizon.” Milligan said the price differential between a solid-state drive (SSD) and an HDD can run between 5x and 10x, depending on performance requirements and other factors.

WD predicted that quarterly revenue would be flat this quarter compared to last quarter.

On Oct. 19, rival Seagate Technology reported revenue of $2.8 billion last quarter. That was up from the prior quarter’s $2.7 billion but down from  $2.9 billion a year ago. Seagate noted record growth in exabytes shipped of HDDs for the quarter ending on Sept. 30, 2016. The 66.7 billion in exabytes shipped marked an eight percent increase over the prior quarter.