Backblaze shucked hard drives to ride out months of shortages

first_imgThis time last year a major crisis was happening in Thailand. Heavy rain during the monsoon season caused severe flooding, and by the time it was over in mid-January, over 800 deaths had been recorded and 13.6 million people were affected by the disaster.Outside of Thailand we heard all about it on the news, but we also felt it in our wallets. That’s because Thailand is the epicenter of hard drive production, and with manufacturing facilities offline for months, stock piles soon depleted and prices skyrocketed. A hard drive that once cost $100 shot up to between $300-$500, meaning lots of companies warning they would also need to increase product prices that used a hard drive.For online backup service Backblaze, it caused a massive headache due to their unlimited backups promise requiring a constant supply of new drives (roughly twenty new 3TB drives a day). How do you keep that supply going without spending more and putting service prices up? The answer is a combination of shucked drives, calling in favors from friends and family, and considering driving across the US in a rented truck on a quest for storage.Backblaze deploys Storage Pods to datacenters that consist of 45 drives offering 135 terabytes of data storage. The drives used are all internal drives as you’d expect. However, when the Thailand floods hit, the price of the required drives went up quickly, but for some reason external drive pricing stayed relatively static. Backblaze therefore focused on buying external drives and removing them from their casing manually. Removing a drive in this way is referred to as being “shucked,” and Backblaze got very good at it as well as ensuring the cases were all recycled.Backblaze staff hit every store they could find buying up external drives. They got banned from purchasing through some online stores, and then had to overcome a 2-drive purchase limit as stock really dried up in retail stores. With the same people going to the same stores they also got noticed and banned from buying at all in certain places.As desperation to keep the supply of hard drives coming set in, Backblaze called upon friends and family to do the buying for them (farming the drives), which led to a couple of new drives trickling in from those that were successful on a regular basis. A combination of reacting to the coming shortages early, staff willing to drive hundreds of miles to get a boot full of hard drives, and the kindness of friends slowly but surely worked. Backblaze managed to make it through the dry spell without raising prices.Unless you purchased a new hard drive or system over the last 12 months you probably didn’t notice much difference in the storage market. But for a company like Backblaze, hard drives are the lifeblood of their service, and managing to maintain a $5 service price should be commended.last_img