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Hybrid Storage Drives - articles and market reports

This page is mostly about hybrid storage drives - in which a hard drive is packaged in the same proprietary (factory integrated) drive module as an SSD. This is primarily a consumer market concept. The hybrid storage drive has not found favor in enterprise applications (for reasons which were obvious right back in 2005 when the hybrid SSD-HDD concept began). Instead in storage array systems which use a mixture of solid state and magnetic drives the designers prefer to mix and match whole SSDs and whole HDDs at the drive level which gives a better choice of COTS components and contributory costs and technical characteristics and where also the tiering and caching intelligence occurs at a systems appropriate efficiency level.

See also:- hybrid storage arrays, hybrid DIMMs, storage market research
Toshiba samples subtly different SAS hard drives

Editor:- December 19, 2017 - I thought this was a joke at first. But it's for real. Toshiba today announced it is sampling the AL15SE - a 2.5" SAS HDD with 10,500 RPM spin speed.

This is the first time there has been a new spin speed since the 1990s although it falls between the previous two fastest bands.

Now I guess that rotating storage reliability experts can start worrying about whether the new frequency drives will create subtle reliability reducing resonances if they are mixed in the cabinet with other frequencies.

Seriously though - the combination of 12Gbs SAS in the new hard drives and the almost imperceptible improvement in latency (hard to notice when it's so slow compare to SSDs) shows that the storage industry which has been desperately seeking more SSDs than it could get or afford in 2017 has become receptive to any new nuanced device which can store data in an array better than what came before.

Everspin quantifies MRAM cache opportunity in AFAs

Editor:- May 12, 2017 - Everspin Technologies spoke about various design ins and design wins for its MRAM in enterprise flash arrays in a conference call re Q1 FY17 results. Sizing the market opportunity the company said that a typical U.2 flash SSD in a storage array can use between 5 to 9 of its devices. And in revenue terms this would mean upto about $1,000 of MRAM revenue in a typical rack designed by its customers.

Editor's comments:- Everspin's first publicly disclosed design win in an AFA system was in 2014 - Skyera - whose buyer - WDC - invested in Everspin in January 2015.

what does Infinidat think about the SSD market?

Editor:- March 22 , 2016 - Views differ about many things in the SSD market and one of the fundamental bones of contention has always been - the pace of the (decade long predicted) race towards the solid state storage data center and how long (7 years already) there will remain a viable market for hybrid storage appliances (hybrids which include hard drives - as opposed to hybrids which consist of multiple latency adapted SSDs).

That prompted me to ask Steve Kenniston, VP Product Marketing at Infinidat (which sells multi-petabyte hybrid appliances) for his suggestions for the SSD Bookmarks series on .

You can see what Steve recommends you read today on the home page, and if you like these links and want to easily find them again later - his SSD bookmark suggestions are permalinked here.

Toshiba demonstrates 3.5" ethernet hybrid

Editor:- May 18, 2015 - Toshiba today announced demonstrations of a new hybrid drive which combines HDD and flash in a 3.5" form factor with an Ethernet interface.

Editor's comments:- for reasons which were obvious to systems architects 10 years ago - and haven't changed today - you will always get better control of performance and cost by designing a hybrid storage array with distinctly separate HDDs and SSDs compared to combining both these functions in a single type of drive.

But the dream of combining these functions in a single drive to add value to hard drives does re-emerge in different guises from time to time.

The only merit I can see to such a product - as the new hybrid from Toshiba - is that if you have very simplistic and primitively designed systems software, combined with using large arrays in a single type of applicaton - then combining both the flash and magnetic storage in a single drive could simplify the high availability aspects of the design by spreading the risk and consequences of drive failures in a homogenistic way which makes writing the software easier.

In the consumer market - where we've seen most of the past market experiments with hybrid drives - it doesn't matter if the product is withdrawn from the market after a year or so - because the design costs only have to make sense for a brief window of market opportunity.

But in the enterprise market - the risks of committing an array design to a drive type which is single sourced and hasn't got an independently arguable credible future roadmap means that such system implementations are rare.

WD demos 3.5" PCIe hybrid HDD

Editor:- January 2, 2015 - "WD is committed to working with the industry to push the boundaries of what you might expect from a traditional hard drive," said Matt Rutledge, senior VP , Storage Technology, WD recently as the company previewed the demonstration of a prototype 3.5" SATAe hybrid drive.

WD's 4TB 3.5" hybrid hard drive includes upto 128GB flash cache and looks like a single volume to the application.

Seagate reports low take up of hybrid drives

Editor:- September 10 , 2014 - Seagate today announced that it has shipped its 10 millionth solid-state hybrid hard drive (SSHD).

Seagate says it has experienced rising demand over the last 2 years for these solutions that offer the speed of SSDs combined with the industry's highest storage capacities.

Editor's comments:- The low take up of Seagate's hybrid drives for notebooks - which are 10x smaller than equivalent SSD shipments - rather than (as Seagate must have hoped when they launched these products 10x bigger) shows that's original assessment about the flaws in the concept (reported on these news pages in April 2005) were correct.

At that time I pointed to the segmental shrinking acceptability of the integrated hybrid drive concept concept which my analysis suggested was due to the inflexibility of having to fix the ratio of flash to magnetic media when the drive is made rather than being able to adapt and optimize these ratios of capacity and performance at the system level. The all in one hybrid also precludes optimum integration of the caching regimes with the various OSes.

Having said that - a niche market is better than no market. And the recent acquisition of LSI's SSD business - which gives Seagate control of the SandForce SSD controller family - will give Seagate the leverage to grab a sizable chunk of the notebook SSD market - if it chooses to use that leverage.

Apacer will unveil new MLC-mix hybrids next week

Editor:- May 30, 2014 - Apacer said that next week at Computex Taipei 2014 it will unveil a new type of hybrid SSD which it calls MLC-mix products in which a single SSD embeds both MLC and SLC to extend the lifetime by 6x and speed upto 2x compared to MLC alone.

Editor's comments:- it's not a totally new concept. In June 2008 - Silicon Motion launched SSD controllers which supported exatcly the same idea.

Hybrid Memory Cube gets x2 speedup

Editor:- February 25, 2014 - Although the market for Hybrid Memory Cube compatible RAM has barely begun - a new Gen2 specification was announced today which doubles the fastest short-reach data performance (previously 15Gb/s) upto 30Gb/s. See also:- ORGs, RAM DIMM compatible SSDs

Everspin's MRAM caches Buffalo's industrial SSD

Editor:- November 18, 2013 - 18 months ago it was reported that Buffalo Technology was designing MRAM as the cache in a "soon to be shipping" new SATA 3 SSD aimed at the industrial market. Bringing that up to date - the identity of the MRAM supplier is now known to be Everspin Technologies - which today said more about this application.

"As an early adopter of ST-MRAM, Buffalo Memory is taking a bold step to continue as an innovator in the SSD market," said Phil LoPresti, president and CEO of Everspin. "Spin-Torque MRAM technology will give Buffalo Memory a strong differentiator in the market for high-performance industrial SSDs."

Editor's comments:- Everspin's 64Mb DDR3 ST-MRAM (pdf) obviates the need for supercaps in sudden power fail situations while providing very fast write latency (compared to flash). Other past applications for these chips include flight recorders and write logs in RAID systems.

Although skinny flash SSD controllers can also solve some of the same problems - and also don't need supercaps - they do need more complex data management within the controllers to work dependably.

new ORG founded to ensure future of rotating magnetic storage

Editor:- August 13, 2013 - Today a new storage org was launched to conserve and nurture the interests of rotating magnetic hard drives and hybrids. Founder members of the Storage Products Association are HGST, WD, Seagate and Toshiba.

Among other things - the SPA's faqs page says "the SPA will seek to clarify how hard drive technology, solid-state technology and variations of these technologies may be combined to effectively meet the needs of a growing storage requirement."

See also:- How will hard drives fare in an SSD world?, directory of past storage ORGs

Super Talent launches PCIe hybrid SSD

Editor:- June 12, 2013 - Super Talent Technology today launched a new entry level (800MB/s) PCIe hybrid SSD which combines 192GB of flash with an integrated hard drive. The company says that their new Super Hybrid product line is "the solution for high performance storage at a low cost."

Editor's comments:- As "price" is the sole reason why consumers would want to look at this product I was surprised it wasn't mentioned in the press release. I asked the question - and if I find out - I'll add a note here later.

The word "enterprise" also appeared hopefully in Super Talent's blurb about this product. But saying so - doesn't make it so.

BTW - OCZ launched a very similar hybrid called the RevoDrive Hybrid back in August 2011. See also:- hybrid SSDs, not all PCIe SSDs are the same

new WD hybrid has SanDisk SSD inside

Editor:- May 7, 2013 - a new 2.5" hybrid for notebooks from WD - called WD Black SSHD (500GB HDD capacity, 5mm high SATA) - has a tiny SSD from SanDisk inside - it was announced today.

Editor's comments:- SanDisk' contribution to this is a tiny SSD which they call iSSD which has 9K/1K R/W IOPS performance and measures 16mm x 20mm x 1.2mm for capacities upto 16GB. The height budget moves up to 1.85mm for 128GB of flash.

How "solid" is an SSHD? - when less than 2% of the capacity is solid state

Editor:- March 5, 2013 - Seagate would like you to believe that the best way to make a consumer SSD better (more affordable) is to put it in a hard drive.

The company describes this as "SSD + HDD = the best of both worlds."

Seagate's latest offerings at the hybrid drive altar - Seagate SSHDs (Solid State Hybrid Drives) - which are designed to deliver "SSD-like response from your favorite applications and files" are now shipping in 2 main wrapper styles:-
  • Seagate Desktop SSHDs - are similar to the notebook drives and have upto 2TB magnetic capacity in a higher package (26mm rather than 9.5mm).
"Seagate's engineers have really out done themselves this time" said Scott Horn, Seagate's VP of marketing in a press release today.

"Our new SSHDs serve up your favorite content with the lightning-fast performance you have to experience to believe. With these new drives it's like adding a turbo-charge to your PC, without having to sacrifice capacity, at a price that's easy on your wallet. Now consumers can create, store and consume digital content like a pro without having to spend like one."

Editor's comments:- Hybrid drives like this are aimed at the benchmark experience. Seagate says they'll boot 5x faster than a 5,400 RPM HDD based notebook. But will that translate into the kind of product which users will rave about?

Ask yourself this question.... If this kind of flash to HDD caching ratio (125 to 1) works so well - how come the enterprise rackmount storage market isn't dominated by racks stuffed full of Seagate hybrids - using an enterprise-adapted version of Seagate's Adaptive Memory Technology?

What are all the clever people in the enterprise storage market doing wrong? - with their different ways of doing Auto-tuning SSD Accelerated Pools of storage?

That's the question I asked myself about the viability of hybrid drives on these pages back in 2005 - when the hybrid drive market began. And I concluded that - if as a user you want better performance - you will generally get better results and economics by using vanilla HDDs in your HDD+SSD mix.

That doesn't mean to say that millions of people won't buy hybrid based PCs. The question is - would they choose to buy the same product again? And would they recommend it to their friends?

If you really want park bench performance in the PC experience- rather than benchmark experience - here's 2 ways to dissect and improve the Seagate SSHD.
  • lose the SATA interface
  • lose the hard drive

does ReRAM have role in hybrid enterprise SSDs?

Editor:- June 15, 2012 - A research group led by Professor Ken Takeuchi at Chuo University in Japan has published results of using ReRAM in a hybrid design with flash which can reduce power consumption by an order of magnitude and increase the operating life by 7x according to -an article in The research is looking at implications for enterprise SSD designs.

See also:- SSD controllers, RAM flash cache ratios, hybrid SSDs

Buffalo puts MRAM into flash SSD cache

Editor:- May 21, 2012 - Buffalo Technology is using a hybrid nvm approach in a new design of SSD - according to a report in Tom's Hardware - which says the company will use MRAM in its cache.

Editor's comments:- this was anticipated in my 2008 article - the Flash SSD Performance Roadmap.

The RAM cache flash ratio in SSDs varies from close to zero (skinny) upto 100%.

More RAM makes it easier for designers to meet symmetry goals which are desireable in some applications - but it also creates additional cost and complexity in the sudden power loss management subsystem.

RAMlike NVMs such as MRAM aren't a golden bullet either - but by compressing the time window required to maintain holdup for critical save operations from milli-seconds to microsends (and cleaning up the state on the next restart) such chips can enable a smaller footprint than other approaches.

At the other end of the spectrum - designers of skinny cache controller architecture can achieve the same in-system apps results with virtually no RAM. So - as usual in SSDs - you will see a diversity of approaches in competing SSDs. They aren't all going down the same path - even if the destination looks the same.

will OCZ's new hybrid SSD be a market game changer?

Editor:- September 1, 2011 - OCZ yesterday launched a hybrid PCIe SSD - the RevoDrive Hybrid - which integrates 100GB SSD capacity along with an onboard terabyte HDD and SSD ASAP / auto hot spot cache tuning controller capable of 910MB/s peak throughput and upto 120,000 random write IOPS (4K) - all for an MSRP under $500.

"The RevoDrive Hybrid leverages the best attributes of both solid state drives and traditional hard drive technology to deliver dynamic data-tiering on a single easy to deploy PCIe storage drive," said Ryan Petersen, CEO of OCZ.

Editor's comments:- although many oems have tried to make a success of all in one SSD-HDD hybrid drives - the hybrids which have come to market in the past 6 years have mostly been failures - as I predicted back in 2005 they would be. That's because there's an infinite number of permutations which designers can choose to blend the mix of interface, SSD and HDD capacity and budget - whereas there is only a small and finite market in which any such combination of features will work and be competitive. Many past hybrids have also failed to ignite user buying chain reactions - because they were too slow - having been designed with interfaces which were too slow, controllers which didn't work, and not enough SSD capacity relative to the hard drive storage.

OCZ's new product therefore is coming into a market which has been littered with the bodies of past failures from other larger storage oems. What's different - and what could make a difference in this case - is that the ratio of SSD capacity to typical desktop RAM is a usable number (it's been much too low in all previous hybrids from hard disk makers) and the ratio of SSD to HDD looks right too. And the interface - PCIe means that the controller latencies won't get in the way between the host and the SSD - which has been a weakness in SATA based hybrids. Therefore it looks like a balanced design.

Is there a big enough market for this exact combination of features? OCZ with its track record of high performance consumer SSD sales is better placed to judge this than most SSD companies (and most analysts). If any hybrid SSD is going to provide the kind of user experience which leads users to spread the word and become part of the sales force - this one might well just be it.

Jim Handy says hybrid drives will replace HDDs in mainstream PCs

Editor:- October 25, 2010 - Objective Analysis has published a new market report Are Hybrid Drives Finally Coming of Age? - ($5,000 54 pages).

It explains hybrid drive technical principals, the technology's potential market, competing technologies, and how the NAND, PC, SSD, and HDD markets will all be impacted by this new twist on an old technology.

The report tells why the technology failed in the past, and forecasts its anticipated growth. Objective Analysis says this technology was well conceived but poorly implemented in its first generation. Now that working versions have been implemented the hybrid drive promises to sweep the PC hard drive market.

"We expect the hybrid drive market to nearly double every year for the 5 years following its initial adoption, reaching 600 million units by 2016," said the report's author Jim Handy. "This blazing growth will result from hybrid drives replacing standard HDDs in mainstream PCs."

Editor's comments:- this is the scenario which Seagate is hoping will come true - according to their recent statements.

In contrast's view is that instead of hybrids - users will do better using vanilla SSDs in light weight notebooks and in higher capacity notebooks using a combination of vanilla SSD (on the motherboard) working with vanilla HDDs tuned by SSD ASAP techniques (controller or software).

The market will decide which approach they prefer. For more differences of opinion about how solid state storage should fit in with computer architecture see the SSD Heresies.

NVELO launches notebook SSD ASAP

Editor:- August 17, 2010 - NVELO launched Dataplex - a software product aimed at PC oems - which provides SSD ASAP functionality inside a notebook.

Since Dataplex works with off-the-shelf storage devices, PC OEMs and consumers have complete freedom to choose any SSD and any HDD, from any vendor.

"Consumers love the idea of SSD performance, but there is still a huge (price) gap between HDDs at $0.20/GB and SSDs at $2.00/GB; as an HDD replacement, the economics simply don't work for all but a very small percentage of the market," said David Lin, VP of product management at NVELO. "With Dataplex, we are making SSD performance economically feasible for a much larger market by using the strengths of SSD and HDD technology together. And we're not talking about simply installing the OS and whatever applications can fit onto a small SSD. Dataplex learns user behavior, and intelligently caches all important data and applications in an SSD device while maintaining the full capacity of the HDD for storage."

Dataplex will begin shipping from select Tier 1 PC OEMs in 2011. NVELO is currently in discussions with leading HDD and SSD vendors to enable aftermarket sales and bundling options for Dataplex, and has begun development of an enterprise version of Dataplex for server systems.

Editor's comments:- if successful - NVELO's product will render obsolete most hybrid drives aimed at the notebook market. In the server ASAP market - it's a direct competitor to the unloved MaxIQ SSD Cache Performance Kit created by Microsoft, taken to market by Adaptec - and now owned by PMC-Sierra.

Seagate launches hybrid for notebooks

Editor:- May 23, 2010 - Seagate today launched the Momentus XT a 2.5" hybrid drive - for the notebook PC market - which internally has a 500GB HDD cached by a 4GB SSD ASAP controller.

Seagate says the new drive is OS agnostic and delivers SSD-like performance at the lower price of a hard drive.

This isn't a new concept - as you can see on this archived product page for the Platinum HDD from March 2008. Except that pioneering old product from DTS was a 3.5" form factor and used a RAM SSD. (Since then DTS has moved on to market a fat flash SSD - called the Platinum M-Cell SSD.)

In 2006 the reputation of hybrid hard drives in notebooks (as a poor man's SSD placeholder) was ruined by the poor performance of Microsoft's ReadyDrive support in VISTA. So experienced users may be cautious about Seagate's new product. Anyone who needs serious PC application performance won't be wasting their time with a hard drive.

When Seagate introduced 7,200 RPM HDDs in 1992 computer users were impressed by its performance. But Seagate's press release headline today - "World's Fastest Hard Drive for Laptop Computers" - is a bit of a joke. Because hard drives aren't fast.

2.5" hybrid flash SSD/HDDs are a waste of space - says's editor

Editor:- May 17, 2010 - a recent article in discusses prospects for the hybrid SSD/HDD market and includes the above quote from yours truly.

The article, written by experienced storage commentator Chris Mellor, came out of a discussion that Toshiba might be thinking of new hybrid SSD products.

As readers know I always have an opinion about everything - but as I thought the Toshiba idea was not a very good one - I didn't want to waste my time writing about it. Chris asked why I thought that - and as a result he has written a much better article than I would have done myself anyway. the article

...Later:- after seeing the above article - a long time SSD reader reader asked me to say more about about my dismissal of single hybrid drives for consumer markets.

While agreeing that past solutions in this market had failed - he asked if the SSD ASAP concept couldn't be scaled down to a single flash SSD cached hard drive.

Here's what I said.

As you aware many companies have tried to include various caching schemes to leverage the benefits of a small amount of flash SSD capacity compared to a larger amount of HDD capacity. There are also companies in stealth mode looking at this problem. I think when it comes to the consumer case - economics and the philosophy of computer architecture clash in an irreconcilable way.

If we look closely at the detail we meet all kinds of problems - which individually seem solvable - but taken together aren't.

1 - SSD caching applications have to be designed with a particular data usage model in mind. An algorithm that works for 1 type of app may be useless for another - and in the worst case give even worse performance than no caching at all.

2 - The best results for SSD speedup are when the CPU is limited by the IOPS it is seeing from the HDD system. Enterprise motherboards are mostly designed so that peripherals can get access to a fast processor type of bus (originally designed for comms etc) and it's possible to access more latent CPU power than is used by HDD systems. But the budget conscious nature of consumer notebooks means that there usually isn't much CPU headroom available. If there was - it would mean that the design was using too much battery power - or the oem was paying for faster chips than it needs for most application.

But if we take a step up from all these issues - there is another obstacle in the current market which works against the idea of an SSD ASAP for consumer platforms.

The success of flash speedups in an SSD is due to the SSD controller.

If you have a small capacity flash SSD - most of the cost is in the controller and not in the flash.

Speeding up the flash SSD controller to make it better able to manage a hybrid storage pool is possible - but at some point the cost and power of this SSD CPU will be higher than that of the notebook CPU to which it is connected. That's why - it's economically unlikely to happen - regardless of the caching algorithm.

In the long term notebooks should be designed with the chipsets optimized for SSD (with CPU headroom - like portable servers in architecture). I don't think any flash SSD / HDD hybrid for consumer apps will be good value for money - unless it is designed for 1 particular application. In that case the market segment will be so small it won't be viable.

For apps like playing video - your don't need SSDs - because the sequential pattern of data usage matches HDDS well. (It's different for video servers - because when you have hundreds or thousands of users - you can't dedicate a fixed fraction of a physical disk stream to each. That's where SSDs are useful.)

XLC invites HDD partners for "enterprise" x4 hybrids

Editor:- April 1, 2010 - XLC Disk announced details of a paper it will discuss later this month at the NV Memories Worskhop (UC San Diego) called - Paramagnetic Effects on Trapped Charge Diffusion with Applications for x4 Data Integrity.

The company says its findings could have applications in the enterprise storage market by solving the data integrity problems in x4 MLC SSDs within a new class of hybrid storage drives. more

Avere Launches Hybrid NAS SSD Rackmounts

Editor:- October 5, 2009 - Avere Systems unveiled its FXT Series of clusterable 2U rackmount hybrid NAS appliances.

Each module contains upto 8x 3.5" SAS hard drives, 64GB DRAM and 1GB of nv RAM. The embedded Avere OS provides storage acceleration by dynamically tiering between the internal rotating and solid state storage. List pricing starts at $52,500.

"The FXT Series is a milestone in the evolution of storage products with its dynamic use of storage media to maximize speed while minimizing cost," said Ron Bianchini, co-founder and CEO of Avere Systems. "The end-result is a product line that can deliver tremendous business value to customers by providing high performance and high efficiency to the storage network simultaneously."

Editor's comments:- Avere is the 3rd company in recent weeks to announce an automatic solution for the age old problem of accelerating legacy hard disk array applications with solid state storage. There are some interesting differences in approach and target markets.

Avere's product is aimed at NAS systems. It's a complete end user solution which includes the hard disks which are to be accelerated. Avere says the new product can be configured with upto 1.6TB of DRAM per cluster.

Dataram's product is aimed at SAN systems. It's an end user upgrade solution which fits between the customer's FC switch and pre-existing SAN rotating storage arrays. In some cases where users have already over provisioned hard disks - the XcelaSAN may also, as a side effect, increase the usable storage capacity as well as speed up the apps.

Adaptec's product is aimed at DAS systems. The MaxIQ SSD Cache Performance Kit an integrator / oem solution which simplifies the task of building a hybrid storage pool.

Key questions for customers are going to be:- Does it work? How does the price / performance compare to vanilla SSDs and human tuning? And how reliable are the new products going to be? Understanding the failure modes in large SSD arrays is not something that traditional storage designers know very much about.

Adaptec Enters the SSD Market

Editor:- September 9, 2009 - Adaptec announced a new platform for integrators building hybrid storage pools using SSDs.

Its MaxIQ SSD Cache Performance Kit (which operates with upto 4x customized 32GB Intel SSDs) includes software that identifies frequently (hot) read data blocks and optimizes subsequent "reads" by moving "hot" data directly into the SSD cache for lower latencies and higher system performance.

Adaptec president and CEO Sundi Sundaresh said that the new product "Underscores the potential that we see for significant future management and conditioning of data through the I/O path, which is central to our new ... strategy."

DTS Hybrid SSD Wins Best of Show

Editor:- June 12, 2009 - DTS today confirmed it has won a best of show award at Interop Tokyo 2009 for its Platinum SSD.

Editor's comments:- DTS's original Platinum drive was a 3.5" hybrid - which included a RAM SSD accelerated hard drive. The internal SSD controller virtualized the interface to make it appear as an OS agnostic SATA drive.

More recent versions of this drive embed a flash SSD (instead of HDD). The best way to think about this product is as a scaled down single disk version of an SSD accelerated RAID. It can significantly increase random IOPS for some types of application - at a cost which nothing else comes close to (using SLC flash technology). It's scalable too. Some DTS customers use these drives in rackmount arrays.

This is the kind of product which requires extensive benchmarking in the production environment in which it's going to be used. If it's a good fit - then great. But actual speedup and competitiveness depends on a variety of factors which are too difficult for most users to model. DTS says it will ship a 2.5" SSD which delivers about 40,000 IOPS later this month.

Sun Responds to User Needs for More SSD Capacity

Editor:- May 27, 2009 - Sun Microsystems announced today it has improved its hybrid rackmount storage systems to support an additional 600GB of flash SSD cache (compared to the current 64GB internal limit) for enhanced application performance.

The Sun Storage 7310 is available today and starts at a price of $40,165.

Editor's comments:- terabyte SSDs become commercially available in 2002 - so Sun's initial product offering last November - which supported a mere 36GB per 4U rack - was a sure sign that the company either didn't know what it was doing - or was being overly cautious.

There are plenty of rackmount SSD vendors in the market - and soon there will be hundreds more. There's wide diversity in product architectures (open versus proprietary) and applications experience in this part of the SSD market (ranging from months in the case of Sun - to more than a decade for companies like Solid Data Systems and Texas Memory Systems).

If you are thinking of buying an SSD from Sun - timing the purchase is a something to think about. In recent years Sun used to steeply discount towards the end of its quarter. I'm not sure how being part of Oracle will affect that. See also:- Hybrid Storage Drives

DDRdrive Launches Low Cost PCIe RAM SSD

Editor:- May 4, 2009 - DDRdrive emerged from stealth mode and launched the DDRdrive X1 - a PCIe compatible RAM SSD with onboard flash backup.
Load / restore time is 60S. I/O performance is over 200K IOPS (for 512B blocks). For 4kB blocks IOPS is:- 50k (reads) and 35K (writes). R/W throughput is 215MB/s and 155MB/s respectively. Capacity is 4GB. OS compatibility:- Microsoft Windows (various). Price is $1,495. ..... DDRdrive X1 PCIe SSD - click for company profile
Using Microsoft Windows built-in RAID support, DDRdrive X1's can be spanned (capacity), striped (performance), mirrored (redundancy), and RAID-5 configured.
Editor's comments:- the DDRdrive X1 looks competitively priced for accelerating database applications in which the hot files can be squeezed into a capacity range from about 4GB to 12GB. Above that - you get into the region of entry level rackmount SSDs and high performance PCIe flash SSD cards from companies like Fusion-io and Texas Memory Systems.

There's definitely a gap in the market for this scale of product (low entry price, low capacity - high IOPS). For the past year or so DDRdrive shipped an earlier generation of its SSD accelerators exclusively to a large enterprise for secret internal projects.

Samsung Announces 40nm Geometry for Flex-OneNAND

Seoul, Korea - March 10, 2009 - Samsung Electronics - today announced that it has begun using 40nm process technology to produce an 8Gb Flex-OneNAND fusion memory chip.

Flex-OneNAND incorporates SLC and MLC NAND on a single piece of silicon, allowing application designers to choose the portion of SLC and MLC NAND storage to be used in any particular design through a simple adjustment to the accompanying software. This maximizes the performance and efficiency of the embedded flash chip. storage chips

DTS Launches Fastest 3.5" SSD

San Jose, CA - February 17, 2009 - DTS, Inc today announced availability of the fastest 3.5" SATA SSD - the Platinum HDD 2009 model.

Internally it has a 1GB RAM SSD which operates as a non volatile RAM cache for an internal flash SSD (320GB to 512GB). Aimed at server acceleration applications performance is 25,000 R/W IOPS, read speed is 250MB/s, and write speed is upto 240MB/s. DTS says the huge nv cache also attenuates writes (the opposite of write amplification) - thereby reducing flash wear by x10 to x400 compared to conventional flash SSDs. ...DTS profile

Editor's comments:-
in my article Predicting Future Flash SSD Performance I noted how having a non volatile RAM cache is a key architectural factor in flash SSD tune ups.

In the rackmount SSD segment the RamSan-500 from Texas Memory Systems (launched September 2007) and in the 2.5" form factor the ESSD from Memoright are other examples of this type of implementation.

DTS's original Platinum drive (launched a year ago) was a hard disk / RAM SSD hybrid. The new 2009 model benefits from the faster IOPS performance which stems from embedding a flash SSD instead of HDD. It also builds on the experience of refining the internal cache which accelerates many types of server app - without any modification to the application software. You just install it like a hard drive. DTS says it's particularly good for VMware and similar multiple client environments. Their website includes comparative benchmarks.

Sun Launches Hybrid Rackmount Storage

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - November 10, 2008 - Sun Microsystems, Inc. today announced the availability of its new 7000 family of rackmount storage systems - which includes hybrid HDD / flash SSD arrays.

Sun says its Solaris ZFS can use SSDs intelligently as a cache for both application and file system metadata, placing latency-critical data structures appropriately on flash media and using algorithms to optimize data placement. In addition, Solaris ZFS provides acceleration of both read and write operations, and lets administrators configure the system to match workload demands. ...Sun Microsystems profile, rackmount SSDs

Verari Announces Intel-SSD-Inside Hybrid Storage Blade

DALLAS, TX. - October 15, 2008 - Verari Systems today announced HyDrive, a hybrid enterprise storage blade.

The new Verari HyDrive disk blade integrates Intel's X25-E 2.5" SSD as well as high capacity 3.5" SATA hard drives into Verari's BladeRack 2 X-Series platforms. ...Verari Systems profile, rackmount SSDs

Cypress Integrates Non Volatile Static RAM in Controller

Editor:- September 22, 2008 - Cypress Semiconductor introduced the industry's first device to integrate a non-volatile static random access memory and a programmable system on chip.

This may be useful in future hybrid designs of very fast flash SSDs which could use nvSRAM in the controller and thereby deliver better latency for small random reads / writes.

Silicon Motion Enables New Type of Hybrid Flash SSD

TAIPEI, Taiwan - June 23, 2008 - Silicon Motion Technology Corp today announced the launch of 3 new SSD controllers.

"We are already a market leader in the SSD controller market, especially in the low cost notebook PC segment. We shipped almost 1 million units of SSD controllers in 1Q'08, which is more than any other company in the world" said Wallace Kou, CEO of Silicon Motion.

The new controllers can support hybrid SSDs that use a combination of SLC and MLC NAND flash to minimize device cost and maximize endurance. SM2240, for example, can manage a 64GB SSD using 8GB of SLC and 56GB of MLC flash. Through sophisticated and innovative algorithms, the controller is able to analyze the incoming files from the host and intelligently move frequently accessed data to SLC NAND and non-frequently accessed data to MLC NAND. With this hybrid architecture, the SSD system cost is significantly reduced to a level comparable to a pure MLC-based SSD, while endurance is significantly enhanced and comparable to a pure SLC-based SSD. ...Silicon Motion profile

Editor's comments:-
this new class of hybrid SSDs is one way to fix the endurance problem faced in cost conscious server apps that are only viable with MLC type budgets. Another solution is EasyCo's MFT - which inherently reduces writes while increasing write IOPS through a host resident driver. But some of the other risks revealed in my article Are MLC SSDs Safe in Enterprise Apps? haven't gone away.

Hybrid Hard Drives Market Report

Los Gatos, CA - December 19, 2007 - The Hybrid Hard Drive will not make a big splash in 2008, according to a new 36-page report by Objective Analysis.

PC users who are waiting for this technology to speed their boot times are going to have to wait a little longer.

"Once all the kinks are ironed out, hybrid drives and their counterparts should sweep the market," said Jim Handy, the report's author. "Unfortunately, the hardware is ready but the software support is weak. Hybrid drives will have to wait for better support to justify their small additional cost."

Hybrid Hard Drives: How, Why, And When? - is an in-depth review of the hybrid hard drive market, exploring the technology, implementation costs, and expected benefits, as it explains why those benefits are not within reach today. The report takes a special look at alternative technologies like SSDs, Intel's Turbo Memory, the SanDisk Vaulter Disk, larger DRAM main memories and DRAM HDD caches, and even small SSDs from Samsung. The report reviews members of the Hybrid Storage Alliance members and details their product offerings.

Readers will learn how hybrid drives work and why they are receiving so much attention today. They will also understand why hybrid drives will threaten the SSD market, and why neither technology is likely to see much acceptance until the second half of 2008 or later. ...Objective Analysis profile

IDC Report Casts Doubt on Hybrid Hard Disk Market

FRAMINGHAM, Mass - January 23, 2007 - IDC has published a new report called - "Outlook for Adoption of Hybrid-HDD or NAND in PCs" It says that so far, neither the hybrid hard disk drives nor embedded NAND flash technology convincingly realizes the potential of caching in Vista PC and therefore, neither can be considered the clear winner. Also the emergence of NAND flash-based solid state disks could disrupt the brewing NAND caching technology battle. ...IDC profile

Hybrid Storage Alliance Aims to Speed Up Notebooks

Storage Visions 2007 Conference - January 4, 2007 - Hitachi, Samsung, Seagate and Toshiba have formed the Hybrid Storage Alliance.

The goals of the industry group are to illustrate how flash memory/hard drive hybrid technology can extend the capabilities of today's notebook computers and to accelerate market adoption of the technology. IDC predicts hybrid hard disk drives will constitute 35% of all hard disk drives shipped with portable PCs by 2010.

Hybrid hard drive technology is the industry's answer to growing demand for notebook PCs that deliver the speed and durability of desktop PCs. Hybrid technology, which can be deployed in other mobile devices and computing systems, combines the unmatched capacity and cost-effectiveness of hard drives with the responsiveness, power-efficiency and durability of flash memory. ...Hybrid Storage Alliance, Storage Industry Trade Associations

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hybrid drives on
And this bit goes with that.
SLC / MLC / TLC - tactical / permanent / real / virtual?

If you've ever wondered about how to optimize SSD design by using a mix of flash memory types in the same SSD then this paper is an invaluable reference guide to the techniques which have been written about in the public domain.
tradeoffs in the design of mixed flash hybrid SSDs (December 2017)

M.2 SSDs
capacitor hold up times in 2.5" military SSDs
say farewell to reassuringly boring industrial SSDs
SSD ad - click for more info

hold up capacitors in 2.5" MIL SSDs

do you really need them?
image shows Megabyte's hot air balloon - click to read the article SSD power down architectures and acharacteristics
0 to 3S
Editor:- I've been looking at different aspects of power hold up schemes in mission critical non volatile memory systems for over 30 years.

But every time I revisit this vast topic and compare fresh examples from the market - I learn something a little bit new.

My new blog - Zero to three seconds - demonstrates the extreme range of hold up times now in the market inside leading edge 2.5" military flash SSDs. the article

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Hybrid Storage Drives Market

winners, losers and maybes

by Zsolt Kerekes editor - July 1, 2008
My immediate reaction on seeing the first news about hybrid flash / hard drives back in April 2005 was skepticism.

I didn't think that a flash / magnetic platter hybrid would be a good investment for users in either desktop systems or servers.
  • in single flash hybrid drive installations such as desktops or notebooks - the theoretical speedup benefit actually depended on how well Microsoft's Vista supported this function and whether there was enough free RAM.

    The marginal benefits delivered by first generation products are (in my view) so small that if you don't carefully measure the speedup - with storage analyzers - you wouldn't notice any speedup at all.
  • in multiple flash hybrid drive installations - such as a RAID system - there is an overwhelming cost, performance and reliability benefit in using vanilla hard disks and / or vanilla SSDs compared to using hybrids.
Storage analysts have published various reports which support a cautious view about the market. (You can see summaries of these in the news column on the left.)

You have to be cautious about placing too much weight on storage soothsayers' reports. As in the story about the emperor's clothes - many analysts are inhibited from saying that a new wardrobe (or market segment) is a complete waste of space - or invisible. That's because flattery works better in the courtier's business model.

I thought that was the end of the hybrid storage drive matter and let it rest.

For several years I didn't even create a separate page for this subject. Instead I slotted news and vendor listings about hybrid disks in the main hard disk page.

My reasoning was that - just as there isn't a need for a separate listing of disks which have cache memory or buffers (they all do) - there shouldn't be a need for a standalone flash-HDD hybrid page either. If successful it would become part of the mainstream HDD market - if not - then I hadn't wasted too much of my valuable time on it. It would go away.

But it didn't.

So that's why I started this special interest directory to chronicle significant developments in the SSD hybrid drive market.