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Data Storage Upgrades

A Hybrid Approach For SSD Speed From Your 2TB HDD 194

Posted by timothy
from the bottleneck-feedback-loop dept.
Claave writes "bit-tech.net reports that SilverStone has announced a device that daisy-chains an SSD with a hard disk, with the aim of providing SSD speeds plus loads of storage space. The SilverStone HDDBoost is a hard disk caddy with an integrated storage controller, and is an easy upgrade for your PC. The device copies the 'front-end' of your hard disk to the SSD, and tells your OS to prefer the SSD when possible. SSD speeds for a 2TB storage device? Yep, sounds good to me!"
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A Hybrid Approach For SSD Speed From Your 2TB HDD

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  • Just a cache? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Erich (151) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:01PM (#31013374) Homepage Journal
    Haven't disk manufacturers been doing this forever, using faster memories to cache disk? I guess the difference now is that the memory is slower than DRAM and non-volatile so it isn't lost in the event of power failure? Or maybe you can get more flash storage at a low price point?
    • by eln (21727)
      High-end storage devices have been using SSD for years to speed things up. It basically allows for a larger cache than RAM (for less money), and also means non-volatile cache like you noted. Of course, how much of a speed gain you get depends on what your workload looks like and how good their caching algorithms are. So, I'm not impressed at all by this little device, but I would be impressed if it came with a new and more efficient caching algorithm.
    • You know, you don't need a sig that announces "Slashdot reader since 1997". We can all see the number beside you nickname.
      • Re:Your sig (Score:4, Insightful)

        by KlomDark (6370) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @04:56PM (#31014714) Homepage Journal

        // You sound jealous...

        • by nuckfuts (690967)

          // You sound jealous...

          I was merely pointing out a redundancy. I can see your 4-digit number as well, so it's understandable that you'd like to think everyone is jealous. Sorry to disappoint you.

          A low number carries status, but the fact that someone got in early is no guarantee of their sagacity. I judge comments on their content, not on the pedigree of the commenter.

          To put in another way, one doesn't need a low number to post a good comment, one only needs a brain.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by St.Creed (853824)

        That's because you might confuse him with other people with low numbers, who only post things and never read anything...

    • Haven't disk manufacturers been doing this forever, using faster memories to cache disk?

      Digital's ESE series disks. RAM backed by disk with (iirc) write-behind caching. Expensive (memory was, after all) but in production in the 1980's. Welcome to the future.

    • DRAM can only be used as read-cache. SSD is much larger and is read and write cache.
    • The main problem with HDD cache is it is so small with regards to the space it is caching. Yes, HDs have cache but 16MB and 32MB are common. There are a couple 64MB ones but that's it. That's for 500GB-2TB. Can't cache much data with that. Compare that to your CPU which tend to have somewhere in the 4-8MB of L2/L3 cache and usually RAM in the 2-8GB range. There's a lot less oversubscription of the cache which makes it works better. A system like this has the potential to work a lot better since you can equa

  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:02PM (#31013398) Homepage

    No software or driver update is required

    Some software is needed to achieve the magic

  • You mean like in... (Score:5, Informative)

    by kungfuj35u5 (1331351) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:02PM (#31013402)
    ZFS? Hybrid storage pools have been around for a long while, and exist as a pretty well balanced software solution to this problem. Hybrid solid-state/magnetic disks were in the market as well which used a similar technique. There is nothing new or impressive about this device.
    • There is nothing new or impressive about this device.

      Other than that it is compatible with applications and peripheral drivers designed to run on the majority operating system for home and office PCs, which has no support for ZFS.

    • I usually just put the OS on a scsi and data on a separate drive(possible raid if desired). This is not really interesting news unless the guy does it at a hardware level.
  • Well... it looks like there finally might be a reason to spend the money on an SSD. Up until now, it would be a nice speed boost, but the cost:performance ratio is so out of whack for SSDs, it just makes purchasing one ridiculous unless you have some very specific needs. For 95% of the people who have purchased them, they just want the biggest e-peen. That's fine and all, but my days of swinging around the biggest e-peen are over, so I've held off buying an SSD until the prices drop and capacity goes WAY

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by radish (98371)

      Well... it looks like there finally might be a reason to spend the money on an SSD. Up until now, it would be a nice speed boost, but the cost:performance ratio is so out of whack for SSDs, it just makes purchasing one ridiculous unless you have some very specific needs

      "Very specific needs" like wanting my OS & apps to load as fast as possible? Putting OS, apps, pagefile etc on the SSD greatly improves system responsiveness. FLACs, MP4s & JPGs can stay on a spinning disk, I don't need to access them

      • by evilviper (135110)

        Very specific needs" like wanting my OS & apps to load as fast as possible? Putting OS, apps, pagefile etc on the SSD greatly improves system responsiveness. FLACs, MP4s & JPGs can stay on a spinning disk,

        Putting your swap file on a RAM-Disk has long been the stereotypical geek example of human stupidity...someone who knows just enough to be very dangerous.

        Additionally, if you have excess amounts of RAM available, every modern operating system will cache all disk reads, thereby offering instant acce

        • Putting your swap file on a RAM-Disk has long been the stereotypical geek example of human stupidity...someone who knows just enough to be very dangerous.
          Putting a swapfile on a regular ramdisk (that uses up system memory) is indeed stupid.

          Putting swap on storage that is faster than a HDD but not directly usable as ram seems pretty sensible to me in certain situations (admittedly I don't belive those certain situations are the average users desktop).

          One thing i've learnt is that the cost of a system has a h

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by radish (98371)

          Putting your swap file on a RAM-Disk has long been the stereotypical geek example of human stupidity...someone who knows just enough to be very dangerous.

          Likewise declaring someone stupid when it turns out YOU are the one who needs to do a little learning. Quoting the Windows Engineering Blog [msdn.com]:

          Should the pagefile be placed on SSDs?

          Yes. Most pagefile operations are small random reads or larger sequential writes, both of which are types of operations that SSDs handle well.

          In looking at telemetry data from tho

      • by NitroWolf (72977)

        "Very specific needs" like wanting my OS & apps to load as fast as possible? Putting OS, apps, pagefile etc on the SSD greatly improves system responsiveness. FLACs, MP4s & JPGs can stay on a spinning disk, I don't need to access them so quickly. A couple hundred bucks on a smallish SSD gives you a MUCH better performance kick that spending the equivalent on RAM or CPU, in my experience (provided of course you have at least an average spec machine to start with).

        Haha... I don't know if you're trying to be serious or funny. If serious, then I kind of feel sorry for you, but your e-peen is huge, man, huge!

        You quoted me saying "Very specific needs" and within 2 words, you use the word "want."

        I said absolutely nothing about wants in the quoted text. Sure, I WANT a huge SSD array. However, I do not need one. Sure, you WANT your OS and apps to load as fast as possible, but you do not need it. Very few people NEED the speed of an SSD. The cost:performance ratio is o

    • by Phleg (523632)
      RAID 0 is for chumps. You get a similar read speed boost from RAID 1, and you don't have the dramatically increased risk of failure.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by timeOday (582209)

        RAID 0 is for chumps. You get a similar read speed boost from RAID 1*

        * read performance only

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ftobin (48814) *
          While that is true in many cases, when one drive dies you will get much better read and write performance out of RAID 1 than RAID 0.
    • Holy carp indeed... always loved that fish symbolism for the Christians.

  • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:08PM (#31013480)

    In order to appear as one storage device in Windows, SilverStone has needed to use some software to...

    There is the turn off for me. If I were to use something like this I would want an OS agnostic solution. Of course that would mean the caching would have to be done at the block level rather than the file level so it might not be able to be as bright (a block level cache manager wouldn't know to deallocate space on the SSD immediately when a file is deleted for instance), but it should be quite practical to design an algorithm that keeps the most often used blocks in the cache (the SSD) without the whole thing being needless wiped first time you copy a massive data file in (you wouldn't want that 20Gb file to be written to the SSD first time it is laid down, at the expense of dropping blocks frmo OS startup files and such, in case it is hardly ever accessed again - for instance an image of a blueray disc that you are copying to another disc would not want to touch the cache as it'll probably be written one, read once then wiped. How this block-based cache management algorithm would work in detail is left as an exercise for the reader...

  • by KDN (3283) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:17PM (#31013600)
    Would it not be more cost effective to add more main memory to the machine? Main memory would be a lot faster than SSD ram. Also I have a concern that frequently updated blocks (like your file system superblocks) would not get written out to disk in a timely fashion.

    Now, maybe you could do it safely if the device had RRD ram to handle the caching, SSD flash ram to handle power outages, a rechargable battery or ultra cap to provide power to write the RRD ram to flash ram after a power outage, and a controller to handle all this. You would need to implement all the normal os buffer caching and writebacks as well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      Would it not be more cost effective to add more main memory to the machine?

      I've never had a machine with capacity for more than 12GB RAM.

      Also I have a concern that frequently updated blocks (like your file system superblocks) would not get written out to disk in a timely fashion.

      That's a bigger problem with your RAM-based approach than with a flash-based one.

      Now, maybe you could do it safely if the device had RRD ram to handle the caching, SSD flash ram to handle power outages, a rechargable battery or ultra cap to provide power to write the RRD ram to flash ram after a power outage, and a controller to handle all this.

      You can get this with ZFS, a DRAM disk with a backup battery (volatile disks do exist that you load with DIMMs) and a caching raid controller with a backup battery.

  • by HannethCom (585323) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:27PM (#31013708)
    This solution uses two 3.5 inch drive bays in your computer, one for your large platter drive, the other for the caddy with a SSD drive.

    Some software is installed (Windows only) that makes the two drives look like one.

    The most used files from the large drive are copies to the smaller SSD drive. When files cached on the SSD drive are requested, they are read from there, if they do not exist there the request is passed onto the bigger drive. If the file is being used enough it will be copied to the SSD drive at the same time as the information is getting sent to the computer. You will not get SSD drive speeds in this case.

    Yes, this is just using a SSD drive as a cache.

    The product does not come with SSD storage, you have to buy a SSD drive of your choosing as well as this caddy.
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Really it sounds and I RTFA, like an extension of RAID0.

    • by mariushm (1022195)

      That's not how I see it. You have to defragment the big drive first, to have all executables and OS files at the start of the big disk. Then you use the software they give you to fill up the SSD with the data at the start of the big disk and after a reboot, reads and writes to those first 32 GB or so of the big disk will pass through the SSD.

    • by Zebra_X (13249)

      "Microsoft has a rocket launcher pointed at their feet and they think they can rocket jump."

      Well, it worked in Marathon...

  • 1- RAM systems work that way too: L1 cache, L2 cache, slow RAM, to compare to RAM cache (OS or controller), SSD, HD.

    2- SSDs right now are very un-optimized: you've got to put, for example, your whole OS on them, even though I'd guess 20-30% of the files are actually read frequently enough to justify being on the SSD... and probably 5-10% of the files are *written* frequently enough to justify NOT being on the SSD. So seeing the SSDs as a cache rather than a hard disk makes a whole lot of sense, and probably

    • Another question:

      it seems SSDs are mainly good at boosting boot times, app load times, and game level loading. Why don't HDs load the OS in their cache during POST ? It must be quite simple to memorize which sectors get read first after power-up ?

      • It would require much more complex firmware on the hard drive.
      • by SlashDev (627697)
        "Why don't HDs load the OS in their cache during POST ? It must be quite simple to memorize which sectors get read first after power-up ?" Well that's because POST needs to perform certain critical functions and recognize hardware (such as drives) in order to boot up the computer.
  • by thethibs (882667) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:47PM (#31013932) Homepage
    Good Grief, Alice! They've invented cache!
  • From http://www.silverstonetek.com/qa/qa_contents.php?pno=HDDBOOST&area=usa [silverstonetek.com]

    After the initial mirroring of data is completed, SSD and HDD will have the same front -end data. HDDBOOST's controller chip will then set data read priority to SSD to take advantage of SSD's much faster read speed. HDDBOOST's priority will be determined by the following rules:

    1.When data is present on both drives, read from SSD.
    2.When data is not present on both drives, read from HDD.
    3.Data will only be written to HDD.

    [...]

    In no

  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @04:41PM (#31014524)

    Sounds a lot like the CacheCard from SiliconDust for Series1 TiVos [9thtee.com], except instead of an SDRAM DIMM it uses an SSD. And the CacheCard doesn't sit between the devices but instead connects to the TiVo motherboard's card-edge connector, provides an Ethernet port, and is designed only to cache a particular 0.5 GiB part of the drive.

    But since the SDRAM loses its contents on power off, it does add significant time to test and fill at startup, while the SSD would be ready nearly immediately.

  • I am not sure about the speed advantage of reads from disk, given the problem of what to prioritize; but I could see the advantage of writes to disk.

    Does that make any sense?

  • Why hasn't someone already made this, just like caching IDE controllers? (Terminology wrong, of course, in that SATA doesn't need a "controller" in the IDE sense because it's host-to-host)

    An inline device that you plug in the SATA line. Should be the size of a USB memory stick with a connector at each end, or with an extension cord & connector at one end. Give it 2 to 8 GB of memory, again like a USB memory stick. Different sizes could be different price points.

    Monitor all reads. Cache them
  • by redelm (54142) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @05:28PM (#31015072) Homepage

    There are alignment tricks with SSD around their large erase blocks, so you have to be careful partitioning.

    Also, consumer-grade MHC SSDs are _not_ tremendously faster than spinning disks in transfer speed. Maybe 20%. Access time is where SSDs shine, 0.2 ms vs 8-10ms .

    A simple scheme I use is to put the OS & small, frequent datafiles on SSD, and large [image] files on platter.

    This might not help large databases with sparse access, but lots of RAM disk cache should be better. IIRC Seagate had a disk with flash boost, but had trouble with it.

    • by owlstead (636356)

      "Also, consumer-grade MHC SSDs are _not_ tremendously faster than spinning disks in transfer speed. Maybe 20%. Access time is where SSDs shine, 0.2 ms vs 8-10ms ."

      My Intel consumer-grade SSD is pushing way more than 20% extra, especially on reads. These things do 250 MB/s, what hard drive gets even close to that?

  • In 2007 there was a whole movement toward hybrid drives -- it went nowhere.

  • Windows ReadyBoost already does this. Plug-in an SSD, turn it on, and it caches frequently accessed files there. The last benchmark I read on it said it wasn't any faster though - probably because USB flash-drive SSDs are really slow since they are optimized for physical size, data density, and power consumption -- not speed.

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