Western Digital demos hybrid SSHD technology

Although SSD prices are falling, hard drives remain cheaper by about a factor of 10. Western Digital expects that delta to persist for the foreseeable future, so it’s working on a hybrid solution that combines the two storage types. Due out this year, this Black-branded “SSHD” will pair a solid-state cache with mechanical platters.

WD is demoing the drive at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and Scott got a first-hand look at it. The demo involved loading a suite of applications, and it took 81 seconds on a standard hard drive. An SSD ran the demo in just 51 seconds, while the SSHD completed it in 55 seconds.

Like Seagate’s Momentus XT hybrids, WD’s SSHD solution uses its flash memory as a read cache. Incoming writes from the host system aren’t stored in the NAND, although that may change for future generations. Interestingly, the caching mechanism is controlled by a combination of firmware and host-based software drivers. The Momentus XT’s caching is implemented entirely in the firmware, and I’m curious whether bringing the host PC into the picture provides any benefits. We’ve already seen good results from driver-based caching solutions like Intel’s Smart Response Technology, which allows SSDs to be configured as caches for traditional hard drives.

Western Digital’s upcoming hybrid will have a 2.5″ footprint and a 7-mm thickness, which should allow it to squeeze into thinner notebooks than typical 9.5-mm mechanical offerings. It looks like an even slimmer 5-mm version may be in the cards, as well.

Comments closed
    • oldog
    • 7 years ago

    No mention on the capacity of these drives.

    Would these be any good in a server in a RAID array?

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Hey, only five years late… Three if you count the Momentus… and they’re still trying to sell these as separate products. Just bite the bullet and apply this tech to your entire drive lineup. If it’s better then Seagates you’ll make performance once again part of the buying decision for HDs rather then the current $/GB. Heck people may even buy normal HDs again instead of always opting for SSDs if they don’t need space.

    As Geoff said, something like this should be done in firmware. Having to install drivers for a device that never needed drivers isn’t such a good thing. Although somethings a hard drive can’t see without communicating with the system

    When are we getting HD’s larger then 4TB?

      • aspect
      • 7 years ago

      5TB+ supposed to come out by end of this year, probably hideously expensive since they are enterprise drives and using new designs.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        How do they do that? That can’t just be a platter density increase… They lobbed another platter on the things to barely hit 4TB.

          • aspect
          • 7 years ago

          [url<]http://www.xbitlabs.com/news/storage/display/20130103193432_Helium_Filled_Hard_Drives_Could_Lift_Western_Digital_in_Enterprise_Market.html[/url<] Potenially 5 - 6 TB

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            I remember hearing about that, also something to do with heating the platters… Neither have manifested themselves though.

      • Deanjo
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]As Geoff said, something like this should be done in firmware. Having to install drivers for a device that never needed drivers isn't such a good thing.[/quote<] Had to shake my head when I read that in the article. First thing that popped into mind is that pretty much means that it is a "Windows vers XXX" device only. It's winmodem hell all over again.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        Yeah… I don’t really care about nix, but that means these things wont be all that compatibile with RAID and may mean it needs a special driver just to have the device detected.

        It could also have some sort of advanced caching functionality that doesn’t happen unless the driver is installed and it simply functions like a normal drive without it. We’ll have to wait and see…

    • evilpaul
    • 7 years ago

    Were hybrid setups good? I seem to recall that Windows Vista “Ready Drive” stuff working terribly. And the HDDs with a couple gigs of NAND seemed similarly unimpressive. Like they kind of worked if you let them work at it for a while, but were still overall only a small percentage faster.

    I’m not sure what the cost difference is, but I’d go for a RAID1 array with my mechanical storage and live with it when ever I dive into the SSD…ocean?

      • jessterman21
      • 7 years ago

      I’ve had a single 750GB HDD for two years, and I recently bought a cache-SSD that uses Dataplex. Works like a charm. Not as fast as a straight SSD, but for the 50GB of “hot data” it intelligently caches for me, it is very close – about the same as WD’s SSHD.

    • Parallax
    • 7 years ago

    Has anyone seen hard data on how reliability & longevity of hybrid drives are affected by their flash components? What happens when the flash starts to wear out? Does constant writing to the drive wear out the flash faster? In the even of power loss, is my data on both the HDD and flash buffer protected?

      • Chrispy_
      • 7 years ago

      It’s usually SLC flash for these hybrids – which wears out so slowly that you may as well call it invincible outside of datacentres.

    • tootercomputer
    • 7 years ago

    I have a 64G Mushkin SSD caching a 1Tb Black Caviar on an i5/z68 system I built last spring using the Intel RST drivers, and it is awfully good. Not quite as fast as my SSDs, but not that different either. Boots up pretty quick, programs load very fast. So I am interested in the hybrid technology, it may have at least a short-term future, so to speak.

    I’d love to see what a hybrid raptor would look like.

      • Kougar
      • 7 years ago

      The cheapest Velociraptor HDD costs 0.44 cents per GB. SSDs are around 60-75 cents per GB. So a raptor hybrid would cost nearly as much as a SSD but with reliability, performance, heat, and especially noise tradeoffs. It wouldn’t make any sense to create one.

    • jjj
    • 7 years ago

    Seagate is showing it’s third gen,including a desktop drive

    • jonjonjon
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]The demo involved loading a suite of applications, and it took 81 seconds on a standard hard drive. An SSD ran the demo in just 51 seconds, while the SSHD completed it in 55 seconds.[/quote<] yea ok WD i'm sure that's a real world test. i'd bet that sshd was specially configured so those programs are all sitting in the cache and it never read from the hdd. in actual desktop usage everything isnt going to be in the cache every time you load something. nice try though. also it doesn't even say how big the hdd is and much nand flash it's using.

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    For those moaning about the “why do these exist” I just had to spec up a couple of laptops with hybrids:

    We didn’t have the budget for 512MB SSD’s and I needed the capactity to be at least 400GB. Given the option of slow-ass mechanical or slightly-better hybrid, I went for the Hybrid. It’s better than a slap in the face when there’s no room for an mSATA cache drive and you only have one disk bay.

      • Voldenuit
      • 7 years ago

      Sounds like the solution (for the industry, at least) is to have more laptops with mSATA slots instead of introducing a stop-gap solution that hasn’t lived up to its promises (cf Momentus). An mSATA drive is smaller than a single SO-DIMM these days, surely it can’t be that hard to fit one in, can it?

        • DeadOfKnight
        • 7 years ago

        What? The newer Momentus XT (750GB) got amazing reviews for people who only have room for a single notebook drive.

    • glynor
    • 7 years ago

    SSD prices are falling?

    For the past two months or so (since OCZ stopped being so aggressive, essentially), aside from Black Friday fire sales, they’ve been either rising or flat.

      • My Johnson
      • 7 years ago

      And a 32GB caching SSD is expensive per GB too. My guess is that the initial price for the controller and materials must still be quite high.

    • Shambles
    • 7 years ago

    Hybrid drives weren’t a good solution when they came out and have less and less of a reason to exist as time goes on. Just shows how out of touch WD and Seagate are and how the only market they can exist in is one without any competition.

      • jjj
      • 7 years ago

      You are out of touch , hybrids are the best per/price solution and the push is just starting.

        • Arclight
        • 7 years ago

        Hey, we are purists here.

    • Barbas
    • 7 years ago

    Can’t decide if hybrid drives are a good solution. They I see it, if you can’t afford an SSD when buying a new system, grab a traditional HD and buy the SSD later

      • ludi
      • 7 years ago

      The majority of the market is in mobiles, which tend to have only one SATA bay.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        Not to mention that hybrid disks are not THAT much cheaper than at least a 120-180GB SSD. It’s not a whole lot extra to pony up for an SSD.

        On the desktop, though, I think Barbas might be right. Smaller market but you can’t ignore it.

          • internetsandman
          • 7 years ago

          For the desktop, a separate, dedicated SSD for boot and crucial files and HDD for media are the optimal solution, no compromises on either front, simple

          For a laptop with one SATA bay and no mSATA or mPCIe available for additional storage, it depends on your needs. I personally have a 256GB in my laptop and I never managed to fill it more than 3 quarters of the way, I kept my movies on my PS3 and then my PC when I installed a hard drive on it. If you need a lot of space to keep everything local then it depends on what you can afford, either an HDD or a hybrid, I’m sure a lot of cash strapped folks wouldn’t mind saving a considerable sum of money in exchange for long load times. For people who are good at belt tightening (figuratively speaking) and can put down the cash, a dedicated SSD is probably the best option

            • dmjifn
            • 7 years ago

            My home desktop is running an SSD boot and HDD for data, media, and large steam folder. Now that my other home PC and 2 work workstations are 100% SSD, I can legitimately say that the split drive solution is far from optimal and is very much about compromise.

            In fact, I wonder if it help if the HDD and SDD were swapped and superfetch left enabled. I rarely shut down my home PC and it has enough RAM that surely any important system files and apps will be cached. Let the SDD bring its speed to bear on uncached stuff you don’t have a carved-in-stone access pattern for.

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