Storage administrators face a bigger challenge than ever in trying to contend with a supply chain that has been racked by the COVID-19 pandemic, increased costs, global shipping problems, labor and chip shortages, and shifting customer buying patterns. To make matters worse, two Japanese manufacturing plants recently discovered that they used contaminated materials to build NAND flash, resulting in the loss of more than 6.5 exabytes of memory.
It’s unclear when these issues will end. As a result, storage admins must look for new strategies to address today’s supply chain woes.
The biggest supply chain challenges facing storage admins
Many of the supply chain problems for IT are the result of a semiconductor chip shortage that has affected storage systems both directly and indirectly. For example, the semiconductors for flash drive controllers are harder to come by and take longer to get. The same goes for the NAND chips themselves, as well as other memory types.
The chip shortage has also affected IT equipment that supports the storage systems. This equipment includes storage and backup servers, plus network equipment, such as Ethernet switches. There have also been shortages in resistors, capacitors and power management integrated circuits, which manage power on electronic devices, such as SSDs and high-performing servers.
The many causes of the chip shortage include problems with substrate manufacturing and an overreliance on the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which builds more than 50% of the world’s chips. When Taiwan experienced one of its worst droughts in over 50 years, TSMC lacked the water it needed to maintain full production.
But the global COVID-19 pandemic brought the supply chain to its lowest point. With workers either sick or in lockdown, factories reduced production or closed altogether. Upstream stoppages and lack of materials disrupted factories that could continue to operate. This coincided with a large increase in demand for data center and home office equipment as organizations and service providers tried to accommodate a large workforce that had suddenly gone remote. Lead times for getting equipment grew longer, with some items almost impossible to find.
Supply chain issues were further exacerbated by labor shortages, extreme weather events, overbuying and stockpiling, as well as the general tendency to prioritize hyperscalers and other high-margin customers over other organizations. Some of these issues also contributed to global shipping problems that caused additional supply chain disruptions and even longer lead times.
Earlier this year, the picture for data storage grew even bleaker. Two Western Digital and Kioxia factories in Japan had to scrap more than 6.5 million terabytes of 3D NAND flash modules because one of the materials used in the manufacturing process had been contaminated.
What does it all mean for storage admins?
As a result, cost is one of the biggest challenges — both Opex and Capex.
The price of storage itself is on the rise, especially for SSDs, which rely on semiconductor materials. Prices are increasing at every stage of the manufacturing and delivery process. At the same time, the demand for these products has not abated, contributing even further to the higher prices.
But IT teams have more to contend with than just hardware costs. They must also spend more time on supply chain management (SCM) …….