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Data Storage Upgrades Hardware

Hybrid Drives Struggling In Face of SSDs 256

Posted by timothy
from the great-enemy-of-the-good dept.
Lucas123 writes "New numbers show hybrid drives, which combine NAND flash with spinning disk, will double in sales from 1 million to 2 million units this year. Unfortunately for Seagate — the only manufacturer of hybrids — solid-state drive sales are expected to hit 18 million units this year and 69 million by 2016. Low-capacity, cache SSDs, which typically have 20GB to 40GB of capacity and run along side hard drives in notebooks and desktops, will see their shipments rise even more this year to 23.9 million units, up by an astounding 2,660% from just 864,000 units in 2011. Shipments will then jump to 67.7 million units next year, cross the hundred-million-unit mark in 2015, and hit 163 million units by 2016, according to IHS iSuppli. If hybrid drives are to have a chance at surviving, more manufacturers will need to produce them, and they'll need to come in thinner form factors to fit today's ultrabook laptops."
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Hybrid Drives Struggling In Face of SSDs

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  • by proxima (165692) on Friday June 15, 2012 @08:14PM (#40340917)

    SSDs and hard drives fail in different ways, so it doesn't make much sense to me to combine them into one physical unit. Having both in one system does make a lot of sense, however, and making intelligent use of them isn't all that hard.

    Put your OS and basically all applications on the SSD. RAM is cheap, so unless you're doing something unusual you should not be hitting the SSD for swap. Documents and other small but important data can go on the SSD as well. Larger media, like movies, music, and large photo collections, go on the hard drive. The hard drive can act as the first backup for the SSD as well (but not the only backup, of course). I get that companies like Seagate want to have software figure out an optimal mix of where to store data based on usage, but I'm not sure that's such a huge advantage. SSD lifespan can be extended by reducing writes, and storing mostly applications there can really cut down on those, versus using it as a large cache.

    On a desktop, having these as separate physical devices is straightforward and very useful. If one starts to die (likely the hard drive), it can be replaced without affecting the other. An added bonus is that either the SSD or the HD could be upgraded separately as you need or as components become cheaper.

    On a laptop, things are trickier. Most modern laptops only have one hard drive slot, but it wouldn't be hard to keep a traditional hard drive slot and include, say, 64 GB of SSD on a small chip. Apple does this with most of their Macbook line now; an unfortunate side effect is that proprietary sizing or connectors make third party replacement more difficult, but there's no reason that your standard non-Apple companies have to go that way. There are already several SSDs in the 1.8" form factor, which should be reasonable to fit alongside the standard 2.5" hard drive form factor. A setup like this would be much better than a hybrid disk with a measly 4GB of flash; you're better off making greater use of suspend on your laptop and spending a little more to bump up your RAM.

  • by chrylis (262281) on Friday June 15, 2012 @09:12PM (#40341345)

    I'm not sure exactly which market Seagate are aiming for here.

    *raises hand*

    I put one of the 750GB XT's in my laptop and have been thoroughly pleased with it. It's nice to talk about having one SSD for caching and then platters for big storage of everything else, but the point of the hybrid drives is that you don't have to split up your partitions and manually allocate data between the two. A device-mapper target could theoretically do the same thing, but I'm only aware of one quite new third-party driver for Windows that attempts this sort of mapping, and in the meantime, I'm satisfied with near-instant application launches from my XT without having to touch a thing.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:21PM (#40341691) Homepage Journal

    Agreed. Sometimes, I read an article like the one above, and the critical thinking thing is slow to kick in. But, bottom line - no one has ever proven a real ability to predict the future. At best, an educated person makes deductions based on data about past performance. The problems with the predictions above begin with the fact that SSD prices are falling.

    In 2016, why would ANYONE buy a comparatively slow hybrid, if he could get a comparatively sized SSD for only 5% more money? Or - what if the SSD is actually priced lower than the hybrid?

    Even if Nostradamus had made the predictions in TFA - I wouldn't bet any money on them.

  • by Anubis350 (772791) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:34PM (#40341737)
    To win a competition at Supercomputing several years ago, to save power and enhance I/O speed we had an entire cluster running off a very lage ram disk on the headnode exported over IP over IB on QDR Infiniband to all our compute nodes. Since we couldn't use battery backup and couldn't back things up to the one hard drive in the cluster (the head node's boot drive) particularly often (and certainly not in the middle of data crunching, we did save results back to disk eventually) I spent the whole competition biting my nails (way back in 07 we actually had a power outage).
  • by QQBoss (2527196) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:48PM (#40341803)

    It's nice to talk about having one SSD for caching and then platters for big storage of everything else, but the point of the hybrid drives is that you don't have to split up your partitions and manually allocate data between the two.

    caching: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. :)

    If you have an SSD set up as a caching drive, there is no need to split anything up, it works just like the Momentus (though a particular chipset like the Intel Z68 or another solution might be required to make it work). Perhaps you are thinking of using an SSD for a boot drive + critical performance apps (for some definition of critical, I am sure WoW counts as critical, sure), plus a spinning platter for bulk data + lower performance apps?

    Personally, I like having a 240 GB SSD with ~20 GB allocated to caching my 2 TB data drive (the Z68 chipset makes this possible [anandtech.com], I don't know if other methods allow it), and the remaining ~220 GB allocated as my boot drive. But I do this on a desktop, not a notebook. I am fortunate to not have any performance oriented requirements related to disk access on my notebook at this time.

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