Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Data Storage Windows Hardware

WD Explains Its Windows-Only Software-Based SSHD Tech 286

Posted by timothy
from the horse-before-the-cart dept.
crookedvulture writes "Seagate and Toshiba both offer hybrid hard drives that manage their built-in flash caches entirely in firmware. WD has taken a different approach with its Black SSHD, which instead uses driver software to govern its NAND cache. The driver works with the operating system to determine what to store in the flash. Unfortunately, it's Windows-only. You can choose between two drivers, though. WD has developed one of its own, and Intel will offer a separate driver attached to its upcoming Haswell platform. While WD remains tight-lipped on the speed of the Black's mechanical portion, it's confirmed that the flash is provided by a customized SanDisk iSSD embedded on the drive. The iSSD and mechanical drive connect to each other and to the host system through a Serial ATA bridge chip, making the SSHD look more like a highly integrated dual-drive solution than a single, standalone device. With Intel supporting this approach, the next generation of hybrid drives appears destined to be software-based."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

WD Explains Its Windows-Only Software-Based SSHD Tech

Comments Filter:
  • Win modem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by webnut77 (1326189) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:57PM (#43670645)
    Yeah, that was a nightmare!
    • by KiloByte (825081) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:03PM (#43670705)

      Here's [angband.pl] my dissertation on winmodems. Should apply well to windisks too, I guess.

      • Twice the productivity!
      • Re:Win modem (Score:5, Interesting)

        by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@ w o r f.net> on Thursday May 09, 2013 @01:10AM (#43672233)

        Should apply well to windisks too, I guess.

        Except these disks are more standard. They're basically an SSD and a HDD hooked to a SATA multiplexer (that lets you connect more than one SATA device to a SATA port. NOTE: Note all controllers support MUXes. Also, both drives share the bandwidth of the upstream port).

        So plug this into a Windows PC and install the drivers, and two drives become one. Plug it into a Linux PC and you see two drives. Plug it into a Windows PC without drivers and again, you get two drives.

        • Re:Win modem (Score:5, Insightful)

          by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot&nexusuk,org> on Thursday May 09, 2013 @03:29AM (#43672687) Homepage

          Should apply well to windisks too, I guess.

          Except these disks are more standard. They're basically an SSD and a HDD hooked to a SATA multiplexer (that lets you connect more than one SATA device to a SATA port. NOTE: Note all controllers support MUXes. Also, both drives share the bandwidth of the upstream port).

          So plug this into a Windows PC and install the drivers, and two drives become one. Plug it into a Linux PC and you see two drives. Plug it into a Windows PC without drivers and again, you get two drives.

          I would be concerned about how accessible my data was without the drivers. So you're using Windows and your data is partly on the platter and partly on the SSD; you reboot to an OS without the driver (i.e. the driver breaks when you upgrade Windows, you boot into Linux, whatever) - can you still get at your data. My guess would be that whilst the contents of the drives will be accessible as two independent drives, they will be in some undocumented format and therefore irrecoverable.

    • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:45PM (#43670977) Homepage

      Hey, it's right along the lines of a software raid controller that only works in Windows. Awesome...

    • Re:Win modem (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday May 09, 2013 @05:23AM (#43673013) Journal

      While WinModems and WinPrinters do indeed suck and were all about penny pinching and dumping all the work on the CPU, if they do this right? Frankly it would make a LOT of sense.

      Since Vista Windows has had Readycache keeping lists of most used programs and more importantly HOW they are used so that RAM is better utilized. For example Windows knows that I use WMP and my browser during the week while I'm using WMC and Steam on the weekend so it knows which to have loaded into memory on which days, and Readyboost is already baked in to do a similar thing with any fast flash stick to add a buffer using the flash for faster small file reads instead of the HDD.

      So in this case you have Windows doing all this work whether WD uses it or not so all they'd be doing is duplicating what is already running on the system so why not use it? By using Readycache the drive can just be told by Windows "he uses this on these days and that on others, and here is a list of the things he uses most often regardless" and if you clone from an existing drive it can be faster on the very first boot by simply getting the info from Readycache and loading it to the SSD portion while activating Readyboost. Most importantly unlike the caching software I've seen from Sandisk I've NEVER heard of anybody left with a system that wouldn't boot because Readycache or Readyboost fails,because its designed to fail safe. if Windows can't read the cache? it just goes to the original files on the HDD, no harm no foul.

      If they are just using Readycache and Readyboost it makes sense, especially if it lowers the price on the drive. if its using those systems what you would have is a three tier system, 1.- RAM cache, 2.- SSD cache, 3.- HDD and unlike a "pure" SSD not only will large sizes not be wallet breaking but if the entire SSD portion fails mid boot all it should do is slow the system back down to HDD levels. If they price this right I know as a system builder I'll be taking a serious look at this, it sounds like just the right combo of speed and reliability that would be perfect for my home users and SMBs where having a speed boost is nice but NOT at the risk of losing any data. hell they slap this on a 2TB HDD and have it at a decent price i might have to see about getting it myself, sounds nice.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:02PM (#43670695) Journal

    It isn't clear, exactly, from TFA what the drive will look like when you plug it in. Both components(the HDD and the SSD) apparently can function as SATA peripherals; but they are both behind some sort of bridge chip, type unspecified.

    If the 'bridge chip' is just a reasonably generic SATA port multiplier, then an unsupported OS, or Windows without the driver, will just see two drives, the larger mechanical one and the smaller flash one. This would leave the way open for any OS with SATA and AHCI support to do whatever it prefers to get the best performance(on Linux, I assume that'd be at the filesystem level, with something like btrfs)

    If the 'bridge chip' is some sort of proprietary oddity, and the vendor driver is required to even communicate with the flash portion(presumably at least some part of the drive will be visible as a normal SATA device, or booting without specific BIOS support would be a problem...), then that's pretty much worthless.

    • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@nOspAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:51PM (#43671013)

      Unclear whether this is a problem or not...

      IMO it's a problem either way. The Intel "Smart Response" stuff that they introduced as a chipset feature a year or two ago (you put a HDD and SSD in your computer and it will cache stuff on the SSD) works similar. A neat idea, but a non-starter for what I wanted. Why?

      Even if it works fine in Windows and works fine in Linux, it may still not really work if you want to dual boot. If you want to be able to use the SSD cache in both operating systems, they have to be able to not step on each others toes. If you want to be able to read data from the other OS, it has to be able to understand the format the other is in. (Potentially this could be "doesn't have to do anything in particular" if you make it a write-through cache, but write-back caches might have more stuff. And you still need to understand the format to write if you have a write-through cache.)

      Obviously not everyone needs dual booting, but not everyone needs Linux support either. It's a bit selfish to say that it's a problem if there is only support in Windows, but it's not a problem if there is support in both OSs but the support isn't compatible. :-)

      • I'm not sure if I understand the problem. If it is caching, shouldn't the OS write out the cache when it shuts down, and clear it before it starts using it on bootup? What format it is in would depend on the filesystem, rather than the OS, would it not?
    • by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @09:12PM (#43671151)
      Think secure boot. If the 'bridge chip' has a key, that only the trusted driver can supply, then with UEFI and "secure boot", they have just locked down the machine to windows only.
    • It's stupid though (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @09:12PM (#43671153)

      The nice thing about Seagate HHDDs or SSHDs or whatever the companies what to call them now is that they just work. You drop it in a system, it works like a normal drive but faster. The flash works like cache on a RAID controller or the like. It just speeds things up.

      With this, there's mucking about. Even if you could use it as separate drives, why would you want to? If I want to to just some small SSD storage and larger magnetic, I can. In fact I do. In my laptop I have a SSD for OS and apps and an HDD (actually one of Seagate's hybrids) for media and samples. My desktop is the same but more and larger drives.

      It just seems silly to me. An all hardware approach seems much better and clearly doesn't cost that much as Seagate's drives are not expensive.

      • by SuperAlgae (953330) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @10:09PM (#43671441)

        Don't you see? WD has invented the idea of having an SSD and an HDD show up as separate devices! It's ingenious! Next they're going to move beyond computers and re-invent the classic Swiss army knife. Instead of having all the tools inconveniently stuck together, they'll have a bunch of separate tools in a box!

      • by smash (1351)

        Exactly. And in terms of "knowing" what to put in the cache, the drive knows just as well as anything else what should be there - because it knows what sectors have been hot. The filesystem on top is pretty irrelevant.

        I've been pretty happy with my Seagate Momentus XT 750, which works this way. I'm not sure if they do write caching or not yet, but that would clearly help, as would some more NAND. Early days yet, but if seagate can get say, 32GB of NAND and write caching on a new 2TB drive, sign me up

    • I suspect it's the proprietary oddity, as way way WAY too many systems out in the wild don't work with SATA port multipliers.
      • The most notable example being SATA on Intel chipsets:

        http://communities.intel.com/message/133881 [intel.com]

        If Intel wanted to, they could probably have a new driver that enables support for port multipliers before WD releases the disk.

        • Knowing Intel, they'd lock the driver improvements to their latest hardware similar to what they did when they brought TRIM support to RAID, artificially locking out 6 series chipsets.
    • by Wovel (964431)

      If that is the case then a Mac would be able to use it as a fusion drive.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      It isn't clear, exactly, from TFA what the drive will look like when you plug it in. Both components(the HDD and the SSD) apparently can function as SATA peripherals; but they are both behind some sort of bridge chip, type unspecified.

      If the 'bridge chip' is just a reasonably generic SATA port multiplier, then an unsupported OS, or Windows without the driver, will just see two drives, the larger mechanical one and the smaller flash one. This would leave the way open for any OS with SATA and AHCI support to do whatever it prefers to get the best performance(on Linux, I assume that'd be at the filesystem level, with something like btrfs)

      If the 'bridge chip' is some sort of proprietary oddity, and the vendor driver is required to even communicate with the flash portion(presumably at least some part of the drive will be visible as a normal SATA device, or booting without specific BIOS support would be a problem...), then that's pretty much worthless.

      If their target market is Windows, then it is reasonable to assume that their target market is or includes desktops and laptops. At a guess, the disk will be readable from the BIOS for boot purposes (not much good if it only works as a second disk!), so it must be some sort of bridge that the BIOS doesn't care about... time will tell I guess.

    • If the 'bridge chip' is just a reasonably generic SATA port multiplier

      A transparent bridging scenario such as this would not make much sense as an SSD can easily saturate the available bandwidth of a 6 Gb/s SATA port. A non-transparent bridging scheme which makes the device look more like a traditional spinning HD with a really big cache would make more sense as the SATA port driver would not have to route every sector write/fetch to specific device. Most likely the driver on the OS side only manages migration of data between the SSD and HD to balance read/write performance f

  • Stop. Hammer time. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:02PM (#43670699)

    The iSSD and mechanical drive connect to

    I believe I speak for the majority here when I say.... D'ARGH! KILL IT WITH FIRE NOW! This is yet another pathetic attempt by WD to marry it's crappy line of mechanical drives to SSDs in order to stretch their relevance out a little bit longer and keep them from having to retool their assembly lines and such to produce SSDs exclusively. Weeeell, good for you guys. But as my father would say: "Shit or get off the pot." Either switch to SSDs, and eat the cost, or stick with mechanical drives because they're cheap. But don't waffle and try to do both; You're getting the worst of both worlds then.

    • by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:26PM (#43670877) Journal

      >You're getting the worst of both worlds then.

      No. With SSD caching you get all the capacity of rotating disks with > 80% of the speed of SSDs.
      That is not the worst of boths worlds. It is the best of one and most of the other.

      • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:30PM (#43670909)

        No. With SSD caching you get all the capacity of rotating disks with > 80% of the speed of SSDs.
        That is not the worst of boths worlds. It is the best of one and most of the other.

        No; You can achieve that with a separate SSD and a mechanical drive; That's what most people are doing now anyway.

        By putting the two together, what you're basically getting is a mechanical drive with a massively large cache. And because you now have two drives married behind a single logical interface, you've decreased the life expectancy further -- if either fails, it's a boat anchor.

        • by Atzanteol (99067)

          Boat anchor? How large do you think these drives are?

        • Yes. The only thing that is different is that the SSD and drive is not separable.

          I would not choose this product. I choose mirrored rotating disks and one SSD cache.

        • No; You can achieve that with a separate SSD and a mechanical drive.

          I can't do that. My laptop only has one drive bay.

          • Then you don't want spinning platters in your laptop draining your battery, you want a full on SSD that just barely sips power with no speed loss.

            • by EvanED (569694)

              Then you don't want spinning platters in your laptop draining your battery, you want a full on SSD that just barely sips power with no speed loss.

              What if you have need for a hefty amount of storage without paying through the nose? You can get a 1 TB hybrid laptop drive for much less than the cost of a full SSD that's a quarter of the size. Or a 500 GB hybrid for just a little bit more than a 128 GB SSD.

              Obviously not everyone needs that space, but I certainly would if my main computer were a laptop.

              • by smash (1351)
                Yup. Precisely why I have a hybrid 750 in my laptop. I dual boot, and have the drive split 500/250 for OS X and Windows (gaming). I can spin up virtual machines for anything else (Linux, BSD, etc.) on the OS X side. The drive cost me about 130 bucks. Currently, a 500gb SSD would cost me near on 450-500 Australian, and I still wouldn't really have enough space to do what I am doing today.
          • by AK Marc (707885)
            My Lenovo E530 (E for economy/edge) has two bays, so long as one is a caseless SSD. It also has a quad-core i7 and 2GB descrete graphics, and 16 GB system RAM. And was under $1000, though the Lenovo outlet has refurb and dented ones for sale for more than I paid for mine, but I got it about a year ago in an opening of the line sale. So either the outlet store really sucks, or they've gone up in price significantly since I bought mine.

            Though I have to remove the 3G card to put in the drive, but I don't us
        • I have to disagree with you here on a couple of points.

          First, the SSD-HDD concept has proven itself, IF it's done right. When the Seagate Momentus XT was new, its write performance was better than many other SSDs it was compared to in benchmarks at the time, with read performace that comparable. (Of course, since then Seagate said they would stop making 7200 rpm drives, which means that isn't likely to happen again.)

          I don't know whether the "two disks with a bridge" idea is "done right", though. I gue
          • by dbIII (701233)
            They had a few bad designs that gave them the reputation that tarnished the rest of their drives. I've seen a lot of dead Green 1.5TB WD drives and a few years back they had some 200GB IDE drives that ran very hot and caused a few people problems (I lost three drives in an array but slowly enough that I got everything since the last backup off in time - the failing disk cooked the two on either side). Recently I seem to have a lot of Seagates dying on me so it's not just WD.
        • by smash (1351)
          Depends on the life expectancy of the SSD part. Hybrid drives are generally using SLC NAND which has a far higher life expectancy than MLC consumer grade NAND used in regular SSDs. If the NAND fails on the Seagate hybrid drives, it supposedly reverts back to regular hard drive performance.
  • ... in all the big Fortune double-digits, that have their data centers overflowing with Linux servers.

    The worst part of this, is that when WD goes bankrupt, as a result of this brilliant business strategy, there'll be even less competition in the HD market, which always means higher prices.

    • No the worst part will be bringing flaky driver issues to hard drives. What's to say the next version of Windows will even work with the thing. Hell, I can't even trust MFGs to put out drivers that actually work with Win7 for something as simple as a USB interface. I downgraded to Win7 from Win8 on new hardware and wound up having to use a Linux Live CD on that system because the open source WIFI and USB drivers worked out of the box (the same chipset was in a different piece of hardware that had an ope

  • by Chas (5144) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:12PM (#43670775) Homepage Journal

    As an end-user, I'm NOT going to put up with a solution like this.

    Even if it somehow performs better than current hybrid drives.
    Even though most of my work is done on a Windows platform.

    Hybrid drives are already a big compromise for minute gains.
    Tying it to an OS choice?

    NO FUCKING THANKS WESTERN DIGITAL!

    In a budget situation I'd rather just put up with a competitor's hybrid or a plain old mechanical disk.
    In a performance situation I'd rather just spring the extra cash for a real SSD. Better returns and more flexible.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:13PM (#43670781)

    WD has taken a different approach with its Black SSHD

    They'll have a lot more explaining to do, once some hacker, cracks the SSH password, starts pwning WD disk drives, and they begin to spew forth spam... :)

    • It's a feature. Once they hack it they start using it as cloud storage for their porn. Saves you the effort of finding and catalogueing the porn yourself. Just log in and browse around, every day will be an adventure!

  • RAM (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    And its worth reminding people, that Windows already caches stuff in RAM, if you had 24GB of ram then it would be a lot faster cached, and the only gain with these drives is on startup and then not by much (since Windows arranges the disk so the common items are close together ready for boot).

    So WD simply remind everyone why hard disk makers are struggling to remain relevant.

    • This part probably doesn't help WD as much as they would like(since they had to buy the SSD silicon from a different vendor, who presumably is eating a nontrivial percentage of the profit on the drive); but one of the reasons why Flash-based solid state storage is popular is that it is faster than mechanical; but a lot cheaper than RAM. Even assuming your system isn't socket-limited or 32-bit non PAE, 24GB of RAM(basic DDR3, no ECC or other fancy stuff) is ~$200. 24GB of SLC Flash, from Intel, is ~$120, and

      • by wagnerrp (1305589)
        Any idea what made memory prices jump so high? Just a few months ago, I upgraded two of my computers to 16GB for $80 each.
      • by AK Marc (707885)
        Using the RAM as a RAMdisk, not cache works well. I would boot DOS 3.3 into a RAMdisk, and it was the fastest OS I've used. Running a 386 with 2MB RAM with DOS 3.3 would not let you use more than 1 MB as RAM, so use the rest as a RAMdrive, and put the OS on it.

        I have 16 GB on my laptop, and rarely pass 8GB in use. Making an 8GB RAM drive and loading the OS into that partition would make a huge difference in system performance.
    • by smash (1351)
      Eventually, you need to write to disk. And yes, RAM is faster than SSD, and yes, it will continue to be used as cache. Also - you need to GET THE DATA INTO RAM. This won't just be operating system startup, but will also be application startup. Also, this can be used to cache writes (turned OFF by default in Windows, for good reason) - which, if you do so in RAM is leaving you open to significant data loss if you were to have a power outage, operating system crash, etc.
  • only in black?

  • Windows only? (Score:4, Informative)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:27PM (#43670891) Homepage Journal

    Uh, okay, whatever.

    Guess I won't be buying one. Best of luck to those that do.

  • by OhANameWhatName (2688401) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:42PM (#43670961)
    At under $250 for a 256 Gig SSD, why would anyone buy a combination drive anymore? This would be like GM announcing that their next flagship green vehicle is powered by 150 horses.
    • by smash (1351)
      Because I want 750 GB of space, and that's quarter of a mortgage payment. I can get 750 GB which performs "well enough" to not piss me off like a totally mechanical drive for ~15% of that.
  • Wonderful idea. I can't wait to run right out and buy that. /sarcasm

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @09:15PM (#43671183)
    Do it in OS-agnostic firmware, you lazy shits.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EmagGeek (574360)

      It's not "lazy shits," it's "bean counters" that say software is cheaper than hardware always.

      It's also the Intel-Microsoft cartel trying an end run around anti-trust laws to lock out competitive operating systems.

    • by smash (1351)
      But then they get blamed for bugs. Fuck that, that's microsoft's job.
  • If I run sshd on my sshd? What if I have a virtual machine that runs sshd on a virtual sshd on a computer with an sshd that also runs sshd?
  • Like make the OS learn what stuff we usually read from the drive, and keep that stuff handy. That would be so cool!

  • Maybe that phrase needs to be updated a bit. In more ways than one.
  • by SpaceManFlip (2720507) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @10:14PM (#43671467)
    This is stupid shit for people who don't want to learn how to control their own computers.

    In my computer, I have a Crucial M4 SSD for the boot drive and the more speed fasterness "crucial" apps. Then I have a WD Black terabyte drive for all the shit that doesn't need to be maximum possible speed.

    Sometimes, I change my mind what needs to be faster than what is not at the forefront of my mission anymore. That's when I move my files around manually. Mind you, these are usually 8 - 20 GB of files or whatnot. This type of operation I do not want an un-brained background process to be performing at random times. If it picked the wrong time, I might drop FPS in an online match that was worth so many imaginary dollars to nobody at that precise moment...

  • Remember those great Intel software-based modems back in 1993 that Intel had for Windows 3.1 that weren't supported by any operating system afterwards?

    Remember how Intel sold that line of business and left us all hanging? Yeah.

    Software based hardware like this is destined to be a one-trick pony. Use it in one system, and then it's stuck on that operating system for the duration. You'll be left in the lurch when the next version of you OS is released.

    Go ahead and line-up to get screwed by WD and Intel. I

  • Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WedgeTalon (823522) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @10:31PM (#43671547)

    With how much straight SSD prices have dropped over the past few years, I don't even really see much need for a hybrid drive. In 2011 I bought a 60gb ssd for $95 ($1.58/gb). Today, I can buy a better performing 500gb ssd for $350 ($0.7/gb).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sl3xd (111641)

      SSD's suffer from one fairly critical problem: Longevity.

      As densities become higher (and process sizes smaller), reliability with SSD's will only decrease from its already horribly poor state.

      I'm sure you're probably thinking "but improvements in technology will bring greater reliability!" Unfortunately, we're at the point where quantum tunneling starts screwing with us, and there's little we can do about it. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle is a brick wall, and we've run smack into it. Quantum tunneling

    • Re:Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by smash (1351) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @01:50AM (#43672403) Homepage Journal
      For that 350 dollars, I can get 1.5 TB of hybrid storage AND a small boot SSD.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken

Working...