Monday, June 19, 2006

What is Hybrid Hard Drive?

How about a computer which can boot up almost 30 seconds faster, and a laptop which can last on battery for 45 min more than the usual battery time? By combining traditional rotating magnetic storage with flash memory, Samsung plans to create hard drives called as hybrid hard drive.

So in short, Hybrid Hard Drive = Traditional Disk + Flash memory

"These kind of drives have the best of both worlds and this could be a great drive for consumers wanting to use their PCs for entertainment," said Nicole d'Onofrio, an analyst at research firm Current Analysis. "I estimate we'll see other manufacturers with hybrids by the end of this year or beginning of 2007."

The idea is to use the larger storage capacity of traditional drives and use the speed and reliability of the flash memory combined with power efficiency into a single unit.

The hybrid hard drive contains a 1Gb flash memory chip from Samsung's OneNAND family. Incoming data is directly recorded to the chip. When the chip is about full, the hard drive wakes up, takes the data, records it and goes back into idle. This is the reason for laptops consuming less power since hard disk rotation is one of the key consumers of power. In HHD, the hard disk rarely spins and hence the laptop is estimated to stay longer on batteries.

Also the applications are stores in the flash memory enabling faster boot-ups.
This product will be compatible with the upcoming Microsoft Vista Operating System.

"Hybrid hard disks and Windows ReadyDrive Technology are integrated advancements that improve the performance and reliability of computers using Windows Vista, especially notebook computers," said Mike Sievert, Microsoft's corporate vice president in the Windows Client Marketing division, in a statement.

People have mixed opinions about Hybrid Hard drives. The earlier comment which was from Nicole d’Onofrio sounded like a favorable one. Following are some non-favorable ones from Gartner.

Joseph Unsworth, a principal analyst at Gartner, was of the opinion that Intel’s Robson will be a better market-puller than Samsung’s HDD "Robson offers flash right on the chipset," he said. "We're going to see a lot of notebooks with Robson, and you don't need Vista to run it." He said he expects Robson to be out in first quarter of 2007.

Gartner analyst John Monroe downplayed the value of the Samsung HHD technology. "There is nothing new in having cache on a hard drive -- it's been done for years," he said. "The basic difference here is that it is bigger and nonvolatile. The main reason you would need it is because Vista takes so long to boot."

With mobile devices, it might have some value, he said. "But probably not with desktop machines, which are often left on."

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