When Will We Use Secure Storage Devices?

Date Published: April, 01, 2015

Technology to make the data stored on HDDs and SSDs secure is available in most of these products. The Trusted Computing Group Opal standard for Self-Encrypting Drives (SEDs) has been implemented in the controllers in almost all HDDs and all SSDs. But despite the near-universal implementation of security tools for data at rest, very few applications and users are using this technology to secure their data. A recent report explores the various factors that have slowed market adoption as well as those that favor continued growth and makes market projections for this industry. Tom Coughlin is President of Coughlin Associates, and is one of the authors of this report.

Following are factors that have delayed growth of SED security applications as well as those that should help drive future implementation.

Factors behind the slow market adoption of the technology in its early history:

  • Slow corporate IT spending due to uncertainty and tight IT budgets in the last few years,
  • Lack of knowledge about the difference between HW based encrypted SEDs and SW encrypted solutions,
  • Lack of training of OEMs and integrators on the use and advantages of SEDs limits their growth,
  • Legal issues limiting the use of encrypted drives in some countries,
  • A limited initial market mainly driven by government mandates,
  • Until recently, a lack of common standards and a continuing lack of product certification,
  • Lack of secure auditing facilities and,
  • Concerns about data availability, largely due to key management issues and operating system support

Factors that favor the continued growth of SEDs:

  • Cost parity of SEDs to non-self-encrypting storage devices will make it easier to get these products adopted universally,
  • With SEDs there is no discernable encryption time like there is with SW encryption,
  • SEDs don’t have the performance overhead that SW encryption running on the host has, leading to better overall system performance,
  • SEDs may have a somewhat longer useful life than drives used in a software encrypted system, due to increased reads and writes with SW encryption,
  • Because the encryption key is stored on the storage device, it cannot be accessed through host hacking, like SW encryption can,
  • SEDs are less complex to implement in storage array encryption solutions,
  • Government mandates and regulations are increasing the requirements for privacy and favor the use of SEDs, particularly those with FIPS 140 certification,
  • Secure erase reduces re-provisioning and end of life costs, and is the only effective way to make data on a SSD inaccessible

Some projections from this 38 page report are:

  • By 2017 we project that 100% of all HDDs shipped will be SED capable, driven by implementation of this capability into commercial HDD controllers
  • By 2018 about 11% of all HDDs shipping units will shift to SED enabled or promoted products, driven by security adoption demand.
  • By 2018 the high, median and low estimates for SED enabled adoption for HDDs are 85 M, 70 M and 54 M units.
  • By 2014 almost all SSDs were SED capable and by 2015 they all have this capability.
  • Although actual SSD SED feature implementation in 2018 is 100% in about 236 M SSDs, the projected actual SSDs from that year intended for security and data protection purposes is estimated at less than 24 M units.

The 2015 Self-Encrypting Drive Market and Technology Report is the source of this material. You can find out more about this report in the brochure at http://www.tomcoughlin.com/techpapers.htm. The tools for more secure storage of information at rest are available on the most popular storage devices. We need to improve software, increase awareness and get a greater realization of why privacy is important for effective commerce to increase the use of use these tools to help protect users content and privacy.

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