The latest hybrid hard drive comes from an unexpected source: Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology, and Research. The Agency's Data Storage Institute has announced the creation of a 2.5" hybrid drive that combines a terabyte of mechanical storage with 32GB of flash memory. Impressively, the drive squeezes its mechanical and solid-state elements into a case measuring just five millimeters thick, about half the thickness of the 9.5-mm drives typically found in notebooks.
Although the press release notes that the drive's motor has been patented along with 30 other design elements, there isn't much detail on how the hybrid mechanism works. Obviously, the drive caches frequently access data in the NAND. However, it's unclear whether the caching scheme is limited to reads, like Seagate's existing Momentus hybrid drives, or whether it can also capture incoming writes from the host. There's no mention of the spindle speed of the platter, either.
Interestingly, the Data Storage Institute regards Seagate and other drive makers as potential customers rather than competitors. According to Yahoo News, the agency is "in talks with partners," to market the drive in Singapore. If a deal can be reached, it would reportedly take up to eight months to begin manufacturing the hybrid, which would cost about $73. That's a pretty aggressive price target; the cheapest Momentus XT hybrid costs $80 for 500GB, and that's for a 9.5-mm model with a smaller NAND cache.
If the Data Storage Institute's design reaches the market, it won't be the only super-slim hybrid. Western Digital has already announced plans for its own five-mm hybrid drive. That model will also have 32GB of NAND, although its mechanical capacity has been pegged at only 500GB.
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