Er, you listen to salespeople at Fry's??
I've only ever managed clusters of disks numbered in the few tens. Overall I find that hard disks are surprisingly reliable. I think most disks fall out of rotation because of a lack of capacity, not because they break. (I still remember how thrilled I was when they fit 20 GB of data in a 3.5" package... today I can fit 50 of those drives into a single 3.5" package!)
One lesson that I've learned is that manufacturer loyalty is pretty much meaningless. I had an early batch of Quantum 15G drives that were so stone-cold reliable I'm sure they would still be working today. However, Quantum Fireballs would reliably die after two years. I remember Maxtor producing utter crap in the past but I have a set of their 60GB drives still spinning. Seagate used to be fairly mediocre and now they're top notch across the board. When deciding what drive to buy, go to Storage Review and read about the individual models; brand is meaningless.
I also find that motherboard failures (i.e. CPU or memory socket corrosion, weak power supply, etc) tends to destroy the drive as well. I read the Google paper back in Feb and I don't remember them taking this into account... It would be nice to know what portion of failures were drive-only, and what portion was chaotic damage that just happened to include the drive as well.
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