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Data Storage Upgrades IT

SSHDs Debut On the Desktop With Mixed Results 154

Posted by timothy
from the getcher-bits-in-a-row dept.
crookedvulture writes "Seagate's solid-state hybrid drives have finally made it to the desktop. The latest generation of SSHDs debuted with a 2.5" notebook model that was ultimately hampered by its slow 5,400-RPM spindle speed. The Desktop SSHD has the same 8GB flash payload and Adaptive Memory caching scheme. However, it's equipped with 2TB of much faster 7,200-RPM mechanical storage. The onboard flash produces boot and load times only a little bit slower than those of full-blown SSDs. It also delivers quicker response times than traditional hard drives. That said, the relatively small cache is overwhelmed by some benchmarks, and its mechanical sidekick isn't as fast as the best traditional hard drives. The price premium is a little high, too: an extra $30 for the 1TB model and $40 for the 2TB variant, which is nearly enough to buy a separate 32GB SSD. Seagate's software-independent caching system works with any operating system and hardware platform, so it definitely has some appeal. But dual-drive setups are probably the better solution for most desktop users."
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SSHDs Debut On the Desktop With Mixed Results

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  • oops (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Thursday October 03, 2013 @05:56PM (#45030377)
    They seem to have forgotten a little defect. SSDs have a low failure rate, high speeds, okay prices, but everyone's scared of flash memory degradation after a number of writes. Some crappy one would get 1500 write cycles on a chip but OCZ ones get 9000 which, even at my high usage on a 128GB drive, is at least 8 years before it fries.
    So Seagate decides to take the biggest pitfall and hated feature and put it into a hybrid drive. All data written to the gigantic drive is passed through that 8GB buffer first. Flash memory that can put up with that amount of writes over the long term doesn't exist. These drives would maybe last a year or two if you're lucky.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      All data written to the gigantic drive is passed through that 8GB buffer first.

      The article says,

      the SLC zones store boot data and cache some incoming writes.

      One of you is wrong.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I vote for all three being wrong.

      • They almost definitely absorb all tiny writes and ignore large sequential files by simply caching everything then stopping if the data doesn't stop after XX ms. That would match with their "OS agnostic" claim.
        • Re:oops (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 03, 2013 @06:30PM (#45030675)

          It is not a write through cache. The drive firmware copies frequently read files to flash. I use a Momentus XT and can you can actually notice when it does this. Frequently used programs load quickly. If you update a program, it loads slowly a time or two, then suddenly switches to loading fast.

          Bittorrents screw all of this up. Frequent reads lead to more and more programs being displaced. If I leave bittorrent running over night, it takes a day or two for the flash to repopulate with the OS and programs.

          • by arth1 (260657)

            It is not a write through cache. The drive firmware copies frequently read files to flash.

            The problem with that claim is that it doesn't jive with it being OS-agnostic. To know what a file are, you have to understand the file system. I can guarantee you that this drive does not understand XFS with external journal, which is what I use.

            If you mean frequently read blocks, that's doable, but to have a counter for every block of a 2TB drive would take up far more memory than this device has.

            What is feasible is a caching system which expires blocks that haven't been read in a certain amount of time

            • by citizenr (871508)

              It is not a write through cache. The drive firmware copies frequently read files to flash.

              The problem with that claim is that it doesn't jive with it being OS-agnostic. To know what a file are, you have to understand the file system. I can guarantee you that this drive does not understand XFS with external journal, which is what I use.

              it doesnt care, it caches SECTORS, not files

            • by hawguy (1600213)

              It is not a write through cache. The drive firmware copies frequently read files to flash.

              The problem with that claim is that it doesn't jive with it being OS-agnostic. To know what a file are, you have to understand the file system. I can guarantee you that this drive does not understand XFS with external journal, which is what I use.

              If you mean frequently read blocks, that's doable, but to have a counter for every block of a 2TB drive would take up far more memory than this device has.

              What is feasible is a caching system which expires blocks that haven't been read in a certain amount of time. But that would contradict the claim that it boosts boot speed, because those blocks are generally only read once, at boot time, and would get expunged.

              Why wouldn't it just cache the first 8GB of blocks read after power on? That should cache the O/S startup files and whatever applications are autostarted after boot.

            • It is not a write through cache. The drive firmware copies frequently read files to flash.

              The problem with that claim is that it doesn't jive with it being OS-agnostic. To know what a file are, you have to understand the file system. I can guarantee you that this drive does not understand XFS with external journal, which is what I use.

              If you mean frequently read blocks, that's doable, but to have a counter for every block of a 2TB drive would take up far more memory than this device has.

              What is feasible is a caching system which expires blocks that haven't been read in a certain amount of time. But that would contradict the claim that it boosts boot speed, because those blocks are generally only read once, at boot time, and would get expunged.

              It doesn't have to track every block on the drive, only those it has seen. And it wouldn't need a counter to each block, a simple seen/not-seen is enough. The controller could use an algorithm like:

              1. Block first seen - Mark the block address in some list of seen blocks.
              2. Block seen list full - Drop the LRU seen block from the list.
              3. Block seen again - If the block is in the list of seen blocks, migrate the block contents to the cache.
              4. Not enough cache space, evict the LRU block in the cache.

              The block s

          • "Bittorrents screw all of this up. Frequent reads lead to more and more programs being displaced. If I leave bittorrent running over night, it takes a day or two for the flash to repopulate with the OS and programs."

            This is an excellent ILLUSTRATION of how Seagate's design decisions were pretty obviously bonehead.

            Their Flash research division convinces the bigwigs to put all their money behind the technology... but it's not really quite ready for prime time. Meanwhile, their HD operations -- which USED TO be just fine -- have shut down anything over 5,400 rpm.

            • by deroby (568773)

              It's not because the OS file-sectors get swapped out and get replaced by the torrent-files (that are obviously more often accessed and hence better served from the cache) that they are now SLOWER than as if there was no flash-cache at all. If some bytes are not cached they are simply read from disk like it would be with a 'normal' drive.

              It probably would be possible to add something to the I/O protocol alike TRIM that would tell the SSHD to not-cache certain reads, but I don't know if they have enough momen

          • by gl4ss (559668)

            I thought they had these on the market for a while now though...

            and yes, they'll fool boot time stats on sequential boots, you know, very useful for all those times you're doing sequential booting! otherwise they're no match for ssd and it's just seagate being cheatgate again.

    • by Arker (91948)

      It's apparently only 'some' writes cached, and one wonders how exactly that is done while still being OS agnostic. But not much.

      This is just a crappy drive with an expensive cache, which may or may not die more quickly than normal case, whose only real advantage is persistence. Which means it will do little more than make your system boot faster. If you are booting often enough to worry about it you are doing it wrong IMHO. I'd rather spend the money on a faster spindle or a better conventional cache (or bo

    • by raymorris (2726007) on Thursday October 03, 2013 @06:37PM (#45030741)

      I looked at buying one of these. Writes don't really go to flash. Selected blocks are asynchronously copied to flash.

      There's cool way to avoid the cash over use you mention that I wish someone would make in an under $500 drive. Have 4GB of flash, 4GB of DRAM, and a capacitor. Random writes go to DRAM, making random io a thousand times faster. On power failure, the capacitor flashes the contents of the DRAM to the flash. You get the speed of DRAM, crash safety, and 3TB of capacity from the underlying spindle.

      • by jaak (1826046)

        Well, in that case you could actually just skip the flash entirely.

        The RAM could write directly to a dedicated area on the hard disk in the event of a power failure - sort of like how hibernate / suspend to disk works now.

      • After reading TFA, I was wrong, that was the previous model. This model does cache some writes in an area of the flash operated as SLC.

      • by citizenr (871508)

        its called OS cache, just allocate 4GB of ram to caching and be done with it
        good luck with power outages tho

    • by Dunbal (464142) *

      These drives would maybe last a year or two if you're lucky.

      So, ten times longer than the average Seagate drive, then? That's actually pretty good for them! Eh, it's a joke, but based on reality. I've had so much bad luck with Seagate since they bought Maxtor, I don't buy their products anymore, ever.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        I have plenty of Seagate drives.

        I usually retire them for being too small before they actually fail. Although I do have a few older ones that I've kept around because they continue to chug along and simply haven't generated any SMART warnings yet.

        It will be about 5 years before any of my SSDs or Hybrid drives have been in service as long. It will be awhile before ANYONE can say that actually.

        That's the problem with the newest shiny shiny. No track record yet.

        • I had 2 of the three first Intel SSDs die... one just stopped, and the other had the bug where it started showing up as 8mb... I consider it gen 1.5 SSD really... but the speed difference is so large I wouldn't go back. Just dropped a 240gb into my desktop, keeping the 120gb already there.. my laptop has a 256gb too...
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Why not just use actual RAM for caching? It wouldn't even have to be particularly fast RAM. and then put some kind of battery on the drive in the case of a power outage. Currently drives have something like 64 MB of cache, but RAM is pretty cheap. Why not just put 8 GB of RAM on the drive, and use that for caching? Personally, I find my computer plenty fast, even with a spinning hard drive, as I have lots of RAM and modern systems are pretty good at doing their own caching. Sure it's a little slow if I
    • by jaseuk (217780)

      Forget endurance failures, think more about firmware blowouts. The latter are far more likely and will take all your data with it, while leaving the drive for warranty purposes and statistics functional. Premature SMART errors are on thing on traditional hard drives due to bad firmware, but this trend with SSDs of firmware issues hosing all data is the real concern.

      Jason.

    • "So Seagate decides to take the biggest pitfall and hated feature and put it into a hybrid drive. All data written to the gigantic drive is passed through that 8GB buffer first. Flash memory that can put up with that amount of writes over the long term doesn't exist. These drives would maybe last a year or two if you're lucky."

      That's only half the problem. Seagate made a SECOND really poor decision, when it decided to dump the manufacture of spinning platters over 5400 RPM. They were TOLD that was a bad idea, yet they did it anyway, and look at the results: their very FiRST generation of new drives can't keep up. And what about the future?

      Come on, Seagate. That's TWO MAJOR dumbass moves in a row.

  • Huh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Russ1642 (1087959) on Thursday October 03, 2013 @05:57PM (#45030393)

    I've had one in my desktop for a couple years now.

    • by macraig (621737)

      These aren't yer momma's Momentus drives. These are NEW and ADAPTIVE!

      • Also those old ones blue screened at least once per day. Apparently multiple firmware flashes still couldn't fix certain ones that couldn't properly move instructions around to put "commonly loaded" data into the cache area.
        • by BLToday (1777712)

          What? I still use my first generation Momentus XT (500GB with the 4GB of SLC), never had any BSOD after firmware SD23. Of course, the damn thing doesn't spin down on my laptop. Or if it did, it would lag as it spins up.

    • I belive you're confused because you use the normal definitions of "debut" and "news", not the slashdot ones.
      Even though people have been using this for over a year, it's still called "debut", because it's a slow news day.

  • by djupedal (584558)
    "But dual-drive setups are probably the better solution for most desktop users."
    • Re:Amen (Score:5, Funny)

      by bobbied (2522392) on Thursday October 03, 2013 @06:08PM (#45030505)
      Linus Torvalds agrees with you...
    • Definitely not. 32GB cache drives force you to buy an overpriced motherboard with a rather odd Intel chipset (maybe AMD has one too). Then if power is lost basically ever, you're screwed. Data transfers at 5:1 speed difference between an SSD cache drive and a traditional hard drives can stack up to whole minutes. You'll be cutting files in half left and right and from what Intel claimed, there is no magical remedy. They recommend a UPS.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        What configuration are you referring to? I would think the normal strategy for a dual drive setup is to have an SSD for the OS and applications, and an HDD for big bulk data like video, and backup of the SSD. (Add another HDD if you want to be able to back up more of your bulk data than the SSD can hold). Seems simple and effective enough.
        • by Yomers (863527)
          Optimal strategy for ssd + hdd dual drive configuration on linux would be to use ssd drive for cache, there are couple of ways to accomplish this, easiest is flashcache - open source kernel module developed by facebook.
      • by jedidiah (1196)

        > Definitely not. 32GB cache drives force you to buy an overpriced motherboard

        No. They just require that you have a decent amount of SATA ports.

        Considering that one of the cheapest motherboards I could lay my hands on 6 years ago had 6 SATA ports on it, this should not be a problem.

        Although you can never trust the name brand pre-packaged kit. Some of those machines are like oversized Mac Minis. Then again, SATA cards are cheap too making expansion possible even on some lame-*ss Compaq.

      • by AK Marc (707885)

        Definitely not. 32GB cache drives force you to buy an overpriced motherboard with a rather odd Intel chipset (maybe AMD has one too). Then if power is lost basically ever, you're screwed.

        Perhaps for the Intel caching application, but not for just having a big disc for data and an SSD for boot/applications. For that, anything would do, and many laptops will handle second drives in the optical drive slot, as the optical drives are increasingly SATA. My 1+ year old Lenovo E530 will take 3 HDs (one must be the small format SSD, one in the optical slot, and one "regular"). Sure, I can't set up the intel proprietary SSD caching for HD application, but I don't need to. And power outages on lap

      • by fa2k (881632)

        No no, don't worry about the intel one. For Linux there's bcache and flashcache. Like with any multi-drive RAID-ish system, better to go with a plain software solution than a software solution hidden in a proprietary driver. There is also ZFS with support for read cache devices, but you won't get great boot speed because it's not persistent across reboots (there is a patch in one version of ZFS). Basically a bigger RAM cache that also doesn't get wiped out by applications

  • The SSHDs are useful, but we tend to combine them on our multicore machines.

    Different stripes for different tykes.

  • Came out for the desktop and everything else for that matter in 1995. Get with it, people.
  • bcache (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I must say I find Linux's bcache much more appealing than hardware hybrids. I'm also not sure how this new hybrid drive would cope with software full disk encryption.

  • Had one in a laptop (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HockeyPuck (141947) on Thursday October 03, 2013 @06:10PM (#45030523)

    I had one of the laptop versions for about a year and a half now, and it's definitely an improvement over a traditional drive and considerably cheaper per GB than an SSD.

    I'm not sure why the majority of the population wouldn't opt for these as they still give you decent capacity and speed over dedicated HD or SSD drives.

    Sure they're not as good as a dedicated setup with a SSD and a HD, but then again, the average user can still install everything on their C: drive without making any changes from the default installation.

    • The cache, whether it's flash or ram should be 'close to' the processor that benefits from rapid access to the medium.
      Putting the cache on the other side of the interface always was and still is stupid. We don't need SSHDs. We need motherboard makers to stick flash close to the processor (in terms of access latency and throughput) on the motherboard.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        SATA is fast enough to keep up with the SSD cache. Your argument makes more sense for RAM cache. Except not entirely since some of the logic that the drive may use in deciding what to cache depends on information that never traverses the interface. The motherboard and OS don't really know what block is where. Anyways the amount of RAM cache that anybody would build into an HDD is now virtually free, like 8 to 64 MB. In other words, on the order of 1/1000 of system RAM.
        • >Your argument makes more sense for RAM cache

          No it doesn't. Ram cache doesn't give you the boot time benefit of a non volatile cache. It would still be better if that was hanging of a direct memory bus to the processor, rather than on the other side of a SATA interface. SSDs are only fast compared to rotating disks.

      • by Xyde (415798)

        Maybe call it something like, oh I don't know, Robson.

      • PCIe is very "close to the processor", and PCIe flash cards are available. They are awesome, but require software such as bcache.

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      the average user can still install everything on their C: drive without making any changes from the default installation.

      \

      This one is important. I purchased the largest SSD I could reasonably afford(fiscally conservative), and found that messing with manually shifting programs around(lots of games) was costing me more time than what the SSD saved in quicker response times.

      I'd like to buy a combo with a larger SSD, or see an automatic program capable of managing the caching, but these drives address a potentially huge market - almost as cheap as a HD solution while retaining ~90% of the 'real world' performance of an SSD.

      I'd

      • I'm pretty sure windows can do it for you. I know it can at least do automated caching via USB sticks (for what that's worth). You can also buy external cards for pretty cheap that will make a hybrid automatically: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009LIPHNC [amazon.com]

        Personally, I've got a 128GB SSD which only really fills when I get lazy about deleting games from my steam library.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        1) If the caching was better so I got SSD speeds and latencies (low latency is important to me) for almost anything that fits in cache (small copies and compiles) and full 7200RPM speeds for the real world large copies then I'd definitely buy just the SSHD. But that's not the case unfortunately.

        2) If Seagate's SSHD never performed worse than normal desktop drives I'd be tempted to buy the SSHD AND an SSD. However for some reason it's actually slower in many cases (look at the real world copy speeds for exam
    • by jedidiah (1196)

      > but then again, the average user can still install everything on their C: drive without making any changes from the default installation.

      It's 2013 and this is still a consideration?

      That's just plain sad.

    • by fa2k (881632)

      I did have one in my previous laptop (one of the first "Momentus" drives). It's *great* to have 500 GB but even that got too tight. This was four years ago, flash only wasn't an option for that capacity. The hard drive itself was also reasonably fast, even without the flash.

      There are some clear disadvantages:
      - It's always spinning and making as much noise and vibrations as a HDD
      - Uses more power than a HDD or SSD
      - Should be as careful with the laptop as for HDD when shutting down or hibernating
      - Significant

  • by tgibbs (83782) on Thursday October 03, 2013 @06:46PM (#45030815)

    I've been using a conventional hard drive paired with a SSD in Apple's Fusion drive configuration. This is only for Macs, but it makes it possible to use whatever size SSD you want, and the system automatically keeps the most recently written data on the SSD, saving the user the trouble of having to decide what to keep on the SSD and what to keep on the HD. In practice, the speedup is quite dramatic.

  • For one thing, it is annoying to have to separate the OS and whatever apps you want to launch fast on to a tiny drive from everything else. So it is of use to people that need cheap space, but wish to have convenience.

    However another use is for people like me: Who have SSDs, but can't afford them for all their storage. I have a 512GB SSD for my boot and program drive, and another 256GB SSD for my samples. However I then have 2x2TB HDDs for storing data, particularly bounced audio tracks. I can't afford that

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      For one thing, it is annoying to have to separate the OS and whatever apps you want to launch fast on to a tiny drive from everything else.

      I just put / on the SSD and /home and /var (if it has to hold a lot of data) on the hard drive.

      Oh, sorry, are you running one of those weird old operating systems that have that drive letter nonsense?

      • Drive letters have the benefit that you can be at different working directories on each disk.
    • RTFS. This is a hardware based solution, not two separate logical drives, so you can just create on single root partition and stuff everything into it.

  • In general, I don't see a lot of use of an SSHD on the desktop, at least not with only 8GB of NAND. There are significant advantages for a system (such as a notebook) where there is only a single available storage option.

    However, if you have the capability to have both an SSD and an HDD you have a couple of much better options (e.g. on a notebook with an mSATA port or any desktop).

    1. Install OS to SSD, manually manage installing things to HDD.

    This will generally give you the fastest performance for the thin

  • by arcade (16638) on Thursday October 03, 2013 @07:55PM (#45031417) Homepage

    I really do hate overloading acronyms. SSH / SSHD is pretty well known already. It's what most unix folks (and I really do hope that that is the majority of slashdot readership) use to log on to servers every single day.

    C'mon.

  • by Lumpy (12016)

    A hybrid drive is better for MOST users. very few users can figure out how to configure windows to put /users elsewhere from the main drive. It's a HUGE design flaw that they dont let you pick it at install time like every other freaking OS on the planet.

  • Run PGP Full Disk Encryption and see if it performs well. That shit will screw it up good.
  • The idea of buying a $40 32GB SSD and using it as a cache instead of a hybrid drive is silly - those cheap SSD's wear out very quickly with sustained writes.

    I don't know if it's SLC, or what, on the drives, but you can push a lot of data to disk and not break the SSD on these things, which is fairly remarkable for NAND flash.

  • by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Friday October 04, 2013 @10:19AM (#45035337) Homepage

    one of the 2.5" drives. Benchmarks are a dubious thing - sure you can overwhelm the cache but in real world use that is not going to be an issue. Most users are doing the same thing(s) over and over and the drive optimizes to keep the necessary files in the ssd for rapid access. Likewise, modern drives, even the 5400 variants, are fast enough to keep up with video recording. So this really boils down to - are you willing to take a performance hit on the odd times you actually read or write a gigantic file in exchange for near equal everyday performance and a huge capacity at a very cheap price.

    In my caae, the answer is a firm yes.

    • by Cederic (9623)

      sure you can overwhelm the cache but in real world use that is not going to be an issue

      L.A. Noire has a single file that's over 5GB in size. The full game is 12GB in size.

      That's just one application. I multitask. 8GB of cache just doesn't cut it.

      • you aren't using 5GB at one time are you? Given the game reqs are 2 to 8GB I think not. As to multi-tasking - that is what it is good at: keeping the most frequently used files in the cache. But hey, go ahead and spend $600 and up for what can be had for $100. Or $1,200 and up if you want 2T vs oh.. $140.

        • by Cederic (9623)

          The game has a 5GB file. I have no idea how much of it gets used at once, but it's not unreasonable to assume that across a 12GB game there's a fair bit of data being used.

          I'm also certain that I'm using 8GB of storage when I'm processing 8GB of photographs.

          I'm also certain that I'm using more than 8GB of storage over the course of a week. A $140 hybrid drive just isn't going to give me the performance I'd like.

          So I spent $180 and got a 60gb cache not an 8gb one. But hey, go ahead and save $40 if you don't

          • None of your examples are using 8GB at one time. Are you really processing a single 8GB photo? Highly doubtful. Do you have 500 16MB photos? Possible. Once you start batch processing the drive logic is going to be precaching the next likely hits whether its an SSD or HDD. And if game performance was going to be affected by disk drive speed in the way you imply its a first for me - I've yet to see one spec out with "SSD required".

            As to cost - no, you are paying $180 more than I am to get a bigger buffer

            • by Cederic (9623)

              None of your examples are using 8GB at one time. Are you really processing a single 8GB photo? Highly doubtful. Do you have 500 16MB photos? Possible. Once you start batch processing the drive logic is going to be precaching the next likely hits whether its an SSD or HDD. And if game performance was going to be affected by disk drive speed in the way you imply its a first for me - I've yet to see one spec out with "SSD required".

              Game performance as a 'frames per second' isn't a storage IO issue. Game performance as a 'why is this game taking 40 seconds to load a level' is. That's where an SSD helps. Trust me, there's a very discernable difference.

              And yes, I quite often have 500 16MB photos. Forget precaching, there's "write to hard disk, read from hard disk, generated cached image, write to hard disk, read from hard disk" even before I do the actual photo editing. Being able to do all of that on an SSD cache (and again when I'm rev

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