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Western Digital still pushing forward with its hybrid drives

Western Digital still pushing forward with its hybrid drives

Western Digital is continuing with plans to launch hybrid hard drives in 2013, despite the rapidly dropping costs and rising capacities of pure solid-state storage devices.

Despite the plummeting costs of solid-state drives (SSDs,) storage giant Western Digital claims there is still a market for hybrid drives - which is just as well, given the company's plans to launch just such devices next year.

Hybrid drives, developed back when solid-state storage capacities were either measured in single-digit gigabytes or simply out of reach of most consumers' budgets, combine a traditional spinning-platter hard drive with a small portion of high-speed NAND flash. Files which are frequently accessed are invisibly migrated to the flash area, providing near-instantaneous loading and allowing the spinning platters to switch off and save power.

It's a clever idea, but one that the industry has largely ignored: Seagate's Momentus XT hybrid drives have been popular, but the small size of the flash area - typically around 4GB - were popular for a time, but with the cost of 240GB and larger SSDs now dipping below the £100 mark and software solutions offering many of the same advantages with a dedicated small SSD may have met their match.

Western Digital, naturally, disagrees. 'All major PC [original equipment manufacturers] have shown strong interest in our 5mm and 7mm hybrid designs as an alternative to solid-state and dual drive configurations,' president Stephen Milligan told press and analysts during his company's most recent earnings call. 'In the first half of calendar 2013, we will be supplying small samples and gearing up for the volume kind of activity in the back half of 2013.'

WD's hybrid drives promise to beat rival devices from Toshiba and Seagate on price and performance, using new algorithms to minimise NAND wear and swap out the usual single-level cell (SLC) flash for cheaper multi-level cell (MLC) components. Pricing for the parts, however, has yet to be disclosed.

During the call, WD also confirmed $4 billion in revenue for its latest financial quarter, from 62.5 million hard drives shifted to its customers. That's a serious improvement over the same quarter last year, which saw the company earn $2.7 billion in revenue on shipments of 57.8 million units - suggesting that the slowdown affecting other technology companies including Intel and AMD isn't hurting the storage sector too badly.

4 Comments

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ShinyAli 23rd October 2012, 12:14 Quote
Their profits have soared in 12 months although it's not clear what percentage of that is from hybrid drives but as they say most interest and sales for hybrid drives is from OEM's, they must think there is a market for hybrid drives but getting into a price war with Toshiba and Seagate over a product that is one of those transitional products that will surely eventually be dropped for pure SSD's does not seem like the best business practice :?

As said, It may be a clever idea but with SSD prices falling who is going to continue to buy hybrids, surely when SSD's become as cheap as HDD's even the OEM's who seem to be the biggest hybrid market will use SSD's to keep their PC prices down, again I have to defer to the experience and knowledge of WD but it seems like a lot of work and investment for a product that will be outclassed and out-priced in maybe two years at the most? Surely it would be better for WD to spend that investment money on SSD development or some other future storage systems?
play_boy_2000 23rd October 2012, 19:50 Quote
With most computers to this day, still shipping with plain old HDDs, I do think think this will be a positive stepping stone, especially as NAND prices continue to fall, and they can move toward getting 32GB-64GB of flash integrated.

After all, the problem we are dealing with here is consumer stupidity and we all know that:

2000GB is 15x faster then 128GB
pictures of kitty in a dress should be saved on my desktop, not that funny looking D:
Zephyr 24th October 2012, 03:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by play_boy_2000
After all, the problem we are dealing with here is consumer stupidity and we all know that:

2000GB is 15x faster then 128GB
pictures of kitty in a dress should be saved on my desktop, not that funny looking D:

You nailed down the biggest problem that SSD's face infiltrating the non-power user market. SSDs are fantastic and the majority of users would benefit greatly from a 64 or 128GB "Operating System and System Intensive Applications ONLY" SSD and a 1TB "Everything Else" drive; but the majority of users also save everything to their desktop and have no idea what changing a program's install directory means.

There's a gap in the market for software which creates a virtual hybrid drive out of an SSD and a mechanical hard drive that is specifically designed to control install and save locations. It would be great of the user simply saved everything to their Users folder, but the Users folder was automatically mapped to a mechanical hard drive while important operating system files are on the SSD. A whitelisted set of programs could be set to install to the SSD, everything else goes on the mechanical drive. Basically wrap everything that any decent power user is doing with their SSD/mechanical combination and automate it.
Jimbob 26th October 2012, 16:20 Quote
I actually use a Momentus XT as my games storage drive and use a 120GB SSD as a boot drive. As I tend to play the same game for a while at a time it sits nicely in the cache and you get great load times but plenty of space.

Surprisingly, even games off the cache seem to load pretty quick too.
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