Seagate, WD tease next-gen hybrid drives

Looks like Intel’s next-generation Haswell platform will have some special sauce for hybrid hard drives. A new Seagate hybrid will be demoed at the Intel Developer Forum this week, and the press release says the drive makes use of a "Hybrid Information Feature" in the Serial ATA spec. That feature, which doesn’t seem to be detailed on the SATA-IO site, is also supported by the version of Intel’s Smart Response caching tech due in the second half of next year. It’s unclear whether Smart Response Technology is required for the Seagate hybrid’s caching scheme to work, though.

One thing is certain: Seagate isn’t the only drive maker with a new hybrid in the oven. Western Digital has one of its own, and the thing measures just 5 mm thick. That’s notably thinner than the 7-mm drives designed for ultrabooks and about half the thickness of the 9.5-mm models found in most notebooks. The press release is short on details, though it does reveal that the drive’s solid-state cache uses MLC NAND. AnandTech claims the cache weighs in at 32GB, some four times the size of the solid-state component of contemporary hybrid drives.

Those current models come from Seagate, which has released two generations of Momentus XT hybrids already. The original came with 4GB of SLC NAND, while its successor bumped the cache up to 8GB. Both of those drives handle SSD caching internally, without the aid of special SATA commands or auxiliary software like Intel’s Smart Response Technology. Seagate has stated previously that drive makers are the ones who should be in charge of hybrid caching, since they have the best information about how data is stored on the disk. That said, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see some cooperation between hybrid drives and caching software like SRT, especially if there’s a new SATA feature involved.

Comments closed
    • WillBach
    • 7 years ago

    I just did some Linux caching research for LocalCitizen and I’d like to repost it so it’s not buried. DragonFly Linux has the [url=http://leaf.dragonflybsd.org/cgi/web-man?command=swapcache<]swapcache[/url<] command that caches on separate drives, which is what these hard drives would report to the OS if I understand correctly. There's also the open source [url=http://bcache.evilpiepirate.org/<]Bcache[/url<], and an open-source (but not free) [url=http://www.stec-inc.com/product/ssdcache.php<]EnhanceIO SSD cache[/url<] that do caching. I think Facebook is adopting EnhanceIO so there may be a free version of it released eventually. Hope this helps!

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Both Seagate and WD coming out with drives at the same time… My guess is that the cache onboard is actually ‘dumb’ and the chipset tells the drive what to do through the SATA cable, as was sorta hinted at. WDs lack of a product in this area and then magically conjuring one up would add more weight to this.

    So really it’s just simply moving the SRT cache to the HD… Maybe, hopefully, there is more to it then that.

    • halbhh2
    • 7 years ago

    It would be pleasant to have an effective (better than the current XT) hybrid hard drive for my laptop, which I can’t leave on standby much of the day if I want long use time. But yeah, if SSD prices are getting that 256GB down under $150 soon, it won’t even matter how good hybrids become, for my laptop (240, 256GB is enough). So that leaves the desktop market…..but…

    What’s surprised me lately though is that I no longer much need a SSD for my desktop.
    DDR3 is so cheap, and modern system idle power so good, that for a desktop (not a laptop for now…but…later), a very good cache is having 16GB of DDR3, if you don’t have to reboot every day. For instance, I use a old F3 hard drive (decent 150MB/sec in the fast area) and 16GB, and in a few hours Win7 has filled 8GB with cached stuff, and all my usual programs load very quickly.

    • Shambles
    • 7 years ago

    Hybrid drives have never had a useful role. They were a silly waste of money when they were created and they are far more useless now that SSD prices have nose dived.

    • tootercomputer
    • 7 years ago

    I use SRT on an i5 Asrock system I built last spring. A tad tricky to initially configure, but works like a charm, speedy and fast, very similar in daily performance to a straight SSD. A hybrid with 32G of cache would be awesome on a laptop.

      • l33t-g4m3r
      • 7 years ago

      I’d like to see a benchmark comparison between SRT, hybrid, and dataplex. Also, how safe is SRT compared to the alternatives? Referring to how it uses raid.

        • tootercomputer
        • 7 years ago

        There’s a setting in SRT for how “safe” vs. how “fast” you want your data, something akin I think to the write caching options in device manager in Windows. My system is not mission-critical system, so I opt for best speed. But basically everything is saved to the mechanical hdd unless your system crashed while data was in cache. At least that is my understanding.

        Also, somewhere I saw some benchmarks where SSD > hybrid > mechanical hdds on a number of pertinent measures.

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    Alternative Operating Systems aside, the 93% of the market running Windows has already become tired of hybrids from these manufacturers. Most laptops now ship with an mSATA port and an Intel chipset supporting SmartResponse disk caching.

    It’s leagues better than the existing hybrids – since it’s not just a read cache and you have no limitations on which mechanical disk you pair it with.

    I’m sorry to say it, but Seagate and WD [b<]really missed the opportunity on hybrid drives.[/b<] They could have been great but we're only starting to see now what should have hit the market five years ago.

      • sschaem
      • 7 years ago

      Have you priced 32GB SSD 5 years ago ?

        • Chrispy_
        • 7 years ago

        It’s not the quantity of NAND that’s important here, it’s the way it’s implemented;
        The fact that it works with Intel’s SRC means that it’s more than just a read cache and it has it’s own dedicated NAND controller.

        The Momentus XT’s had a pathetic read-only cache which was transparent to the OS, meaning that the OS couldn’t really take advantage of it.

      • My Johnson
      • 7 years ago

      Have you seen prices for a 32GB mSATA drive? About $50 I paid a little more and scored 90GB as an OS drive for $70.

      My argument may be null if the laptop already ships with the drive because OEM’s can get a better price.

    • Sahrin
    • 7 years ago

    The problem with these is that there’s a fixed cost for the HDD component that isn’t getting any lower in and of itself – the price will scale with capacity (ie you can pack more bytes on the same area for no practical manufacturing cost – just R&D and tooling) but for the vast majority of users it’s not *useful* capacity. The nth Terabyte isn’t as valuable as the first half-or-so TB.

    For SSD’s, this isn’t true because a) the cost of fabbing a given amount of memory falls every 18 months with Moore’s Law and b) SSD’s haven’t reached a plateau for useful capacity yet. (The most expensive HDD’s are about the same price as a 200GB SSD – if we assume that 500GB is the ‘lower limit’ for HDD based on what PC makers are putting in shelf machines then SSD’s can double in capacity and the capacity increase will still provide a meaningful price decrease because most users are buying and using the extra capacity).

    So basically you’re taking a bad SSD and bolting it on to accelerate a slow mass storage device – the phrase “why buy one when you can have two at twice the price” comes to mind. You have to be really dead set on magnetomechanical storage to want a hybrid drive at a *premium* over an SSD with the same capacity.

      • Washer
      • 7 years ago

      Most laptops provide space for only one storage device.

        • travbrad
        • 7 years ago

        Yep laptops are the use-case where one of these hybrid drives makes the most sense.

        For a standard desktop tower I see very little reason to get a hybrid drive instead of a separate SSD/HDD

      • ptsant
      • 7 years ago

      What are you smoking? The Momentus XT 500 GB costs $111 versus $393 for the cheapest 512 GB SSD (prices are approximate conversions from local currency). The advantage is obvious, for the same capacity you pay way less. What is there not to like?

        • willmore
        • 7 years ago

        Maybe he meant that a non-hybrid 500G HD + a small SSD are cheaper than a hybrid? That’s about all I can see that would make sense of that strange mass of words.

      • bcronce
      • 7 years ago

      “The problem with these is that there’s a fixed cost for the HDD component that isn’t getting any lower in and of itself ”

      I am not disagreeing with your post, but I would like to point ouit another point of view for “fixed” costs for HDs.

      A low end HD in 2005 cost about $100, and low end HD in 2010 cost about $80. That is a 20% drop over 5 years. Now add in inflation. Back in 2005 $100 would have been about $121 in 2010 money. So low end “fixed” costs went from about $121 to $80, which is about a 33% drop in price in 5 years.

      This ignores the raw cost/GB.

        • UberGerbil
        • 7 years ago

        And over the longer term, HDs have dropped in $/GB quite dramatically. In fact, they used to be measured in $/MB.

    • tbone8ty
    • 7 years ago

    A 16gb-32gb cache 1tb drive would be baller for my laptop!

      • phileasfogg
      • 7 years ago

      I was born before 1970. I don’t grok what “baller for my laptop” means. Does ‘baller’ in this context mean ‘excellent’?

        • Johnny5
        • 7 years ago

        You grok it.

        • Washer
        • 7 years ago

        Only on TR…

        I’m willing to bet if you polled a thousand random people in the US more would be familiar with “baller” in the given context than “grok.” Luckily for me I was born after 1970 and also enjoy classic Sci-Fi.

    • flip-mode
    • 7 years ago

    If these don’t catch performance up to being meaningfully close to a standard SSD, I’ll be very disappointed.

      • Airmantharp
      • 7 years ago

      The Momentus XTs were pretty quick once they caught on to your usage pattern, and I expect these drives to be much quicker.

      If 32GB/500GB SS/HD seems to work, then I hope they keep that ratio, or close to it, as platter sizes continue to increase. Also, I hope they start making desktop drives with these. I want to see NAND caches everywhere!

    • LocalCitizen
    • 7 years ago

    does SRT work in Linux? I think this is very important info.

    Second !

      • WillBach
      • 7 years ago

      SRT in Windows only, and I believe it may be NTFS only, too. That said, Linux has had support for various caching regimes for a pretty long time now if that’s what you’re wondering about. The feature that SRT provides that I don’t think is offered in Linux is fast restore from sleep/hibernate.

      I got a really good deal on a really, really fast SSD that was only 60 GB, so I bought a motherboard that has SRT support, and I use it with Windows 7. The three things I notice using it are:
      [list<] [*<]Level loads are near-instantaneous. [/*<][*<]Waking from sleep and hibernate are really fast. [/*<][*<]Installations are fast.[/*<] [/list<] Edit: I totally forgot to mention, I have a "real" SSD in my work laptop, and I can notice the difference between "real" SSD and RST at certain times, usually in launching applications that I don't use frequently. I use my work laptop and home computer for totally different things, so it's hard to give you an apple to apples break down, thought :-/

        • LocalCitizen
        • 7 years ago

        Thank you for the info.

        It seems there is a market for NAND cache on board the mechanical drive that’s independent of OS. Sure it would be more efficient to know about the content of the disk block. I think the difference is not very big if the caching algorithm is smart enough.

        I appreciate the Seagate XT drive in my notebook, since I use linux on it. I feel $50 premium is well worth it. But I also feel 8GB cache is too little, 16GB or 32GB (costing < $20 more) would have helped.

          • WillBach
          • 7 years ago

          Linux caching to a separate SSD is further along that I thought. Sorry I forgot to reply sooner, but I should clarify some things. I don’t want to make you feel bad about your purchase, but I haven’t seen hybrid drives with 8 GB or even 16 GB of NAND boost performance substantially under Windows or Linux. (Power is a different story.) It may be because their caching algorithms are “naive” or because their NAND isn’t fast enough or is still too small, or because they’re writing through too aggressively. I’m not sure.

          Larger cache sizes, 20 GB and up, controlled by a “smart” program or OS seem to be the minimum bar and even then it’s most noticeable in certain, targeted tasks. The biggest improvements seen in 20 GB caches that are OS or program controlled is in booting, suspending, and resuming. Those three tasks are optimized in software to write to NAND, and the cache doesn’t get use for anything else. I think otherwise, too much necessary stuff gets evicted.

          I have a little more breathing room with my 60 GB drive, I notice really fast start ups and level load time, but that’s because everything I use in a given day fits in 60 GB, it would be difficult to fit that in 8 GB. Maybe a specialize Linux installation could do it, but I think once you start touching enough files, the tiny random access ones where NAND helps the most just get evicted.

          That said, your laptop may see the benefit in [i<]power[/i<]. I can tell my cache is being well-used because I frequently hear my hard drive (I got one of the low-power server ones with an aggressive idle policy) spin down and not hear it spin back up for thirty minutes or more at a time. During periods of many small writes, between OS boot, program launch, and the eventual write-lots-to-disk task in shut down, i.e. when you're using you laptop, your spinning platter could possible be off. That's great for power, usable life, and durability in case it gets whacked. That said, [i<]ahem[/i<] your Linux's [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Configuration_and_Power_Interface<]ACPI[/url<] has to working. (I always confuse that with [url=en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Host_Controller_Interface]AHCI[/url], man.) If you're using a modern laptop and a modern distro, it [i<]probably[/i<] is. Now, if you're using Linux, there are a few options available. DragonFly has the [url=http://leaf.dragonflybsd.org/cgi/web-man?command=swapcache<]swapcache[/url<] command that does exactly what you're looking for. There's the open source [url=http://bcache.evilpiepirate.org/<]Bcache[/url<], and an open-source (but not free) [url=http://www.stec-inc.com/product/ssdcache.php<]EnhanceIO SSD cache[/url<] would also work. Hope that helps!

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