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The Benefits of Hybrid Drives 193

Posted by Zonk
from the best-of-both-worlds dept.
feminazi writes "Flash memory is being integrated with the hard disk by Seagate and Samsung and onto the motherboard by Intel. Potential benefits: faster read/write performance; fewer crashes; improved battery life; faster boot time; lower heat generation; decreased energy-consumption. Vista's ReadyDrive will use the hybrid system first for laptops and probably for desktops down the road. The heat and power issues may also make it attractive in server environments."
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The Benefits of Hybrid Drives

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  • Finally... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cherita Chen (936355) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @10:48PM (#15814865) Homepage
    This is not a new idea, nor is it new technology... This has been a long time coming.
  • Re:Finally... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TwentyLeaguesUnderLa (900322) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @10:51PM (#15814872)
    But it's still pretty cool - a new way to integrate existing technologies, bring them together to make computers work better. I thought TFA was an interesting read, even though it didn't have anything particularly earth-shattering in it.
  • Magnetic-RAM. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 30, 2006 @10:58PM (#15814899)
    MRAM would have been a better choice.
  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @11:17PM (#15814956)
    The solid state portion of the drives are really only good for data that will not change often. That section suffers from limited number of re-writes before the data integrity degrades. The hybrid disks work well mainly for the primary system OS disk and that is really just about it. The kernel and main OS components will rarely change (patches and kernel updates are the only times). This is why boot times are increased using these disks, because the OS and kernel is contained on the faster solid state memory...

    Again, in an environment where data is constantly being written and deleted, these disks will fail a lot sooner.
  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @11:20PM (#15814965)
    Hackers don't abuse this because it is such a narrow target, every motherboard is different.

    exactly, every mobo is different.. this sounds like something which could make its way in as a standard part of windows computers.. much less narrow a target.
  • preference (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spykemail (983593) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @11:22PM (#15814975) Homepage
    I'd prefer something longer lasting (and faster) than flash memory.
  • They forgot one... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mattmacf (901678) <mattmacf@@@optonline...net> on Sunday July 30, 2006 @11:27PM (#15815000) Homepage
    Potential benefits: faster read/write performance; fewer crashes; improved battery life; faster boot time; lower heat generation; decreased energy-consumption.

    What about increased reliability? I realize a lot of this might depend on how the flash memory is interfaced, but it would be awesome to have a small built in flash chip capable of live backups of critical data. With say a spare gig of memory on the hard drive, it should be more than feasible to have data of certain folders (e.g. My Documents and system folders) in the off chance that your hard drive actually does fail. Being able to boot directly to the flash chip would be great in emergencies, and a copy of DSL/Puppy Linux/*Your favorite recovery tool* would be perfect to store there. Bonus points if you can easily (i.e. without a soldering iron) swap the flash chip to a fresh drive and do a Stage 1 Gentoo reinstall from scratch.

    Come to think of it, the possiblities of RAIDing these things together could be interesting as well. With a RAID 1, all but the most paranoid wouldn't need to include the flash memory in the mirror. Or, should the flash memory get sufficiently large (say, 20-25% of the hard drive size), you could use the flash memory as dedicated parity in a RAID 4 array. Obviously this means squat if you can't interface the flash memory properly, but hey, at least the possibilities are there.
  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @11:45PM (#15815053)
    The technical specifications of the flash memory in my USB drive says that it is guaranteed to work for, at most, 100000 (i.e., one followed by 5 zeros) writes. People do not talk about this limitation, but I have seen this limitation written into the technical specifications of the flash memory in many devices

    But, on the other hand, how often do you write to your windows folder? There's the monthly update, the occassional reg hack, but all in all, once it's established, that's a pretty static area of your drive. I could see this as an incredible benefit to system files, which, as has been discussed oft here before, the big reason for this.

    Loading your PPT file in flash won't help bootup. Loading that fuster-cluck of the system32 folder, though, would.

    Someone will be awfully upset when she makes a final save of her million-dollar PowerPoint presentation for the CEO and discovers that the save is the 100001st write to the hybrid drive.

    Backups? Alternate locations? If this is what it takes for them to learn the necessity of redundant copies, it's even better.

    There should be some level of safeguard built in that anything user created should be stored to the magnetic part of the drive, my documents, program files, but they should have this anyway. I mean, nothing like the last save and then having to call Dell because your drive is spitting out an Error Code 7...
  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:15AM (#15815142)
    Hey mods next time look at the timestamp before you mod redundant. Just because the other posts replied to a post before mine doesn't mean that the information contained in those replies came before my information did.
  • by Cerium (948827) on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:20AM (#15815154) Homepage
    True enough, but what customers are going to pay more for a drive that costs more AND needs to be replaced more often when the only advantage is a possibly insignificant performance increase?

    I doubt many people are going to take this route when existing technologies (RAID comes to mind) work fine for those who absolutely need the extra performance (or rather, have convinced themselves they need it [Hi, owner of that $7,500 gaming rig!]).
  • by QuantumFTL (197300) * <justin@wick.gmail@com> on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:44AM (#15815209)
    Servers that don't access much of the disk (say, less than 1GB or whatever the size of the flash cache is) the majority of the time would benefit from this the same as laptops, by letting their disks spin down.

    Also fast restart is especially good for critical servers as a method of reducing both planned and unplanned downtime. I know at lylix.net [lylix.net], we will be getting one of these as soon as Gentoo Linux properly supports it - you don't want an Asterisk box down longer than it has to be.
  • Re:Finally... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Knetzar (698216) on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:18AM (#15815289)
    I don't like that idea, since if a system failure occurs and I want to move my harddrive to another system, there is a chance that the harddrive is in a bad state. Where as if you have th flash integrated with the HDD, then the write buffer is with the disk (as it should be).
  • by Anarchitect_in_oz (771448) on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:43AM (#15815497)
    Indeed, but i would think the main market for this would be laptops. Where the value is in making the computer useable in the fastest time or lowest battery useage, hopefully both. Something like the UMPC/ PDA type tablet could boot without firing up the hard drive, till you need something on it. Then just use pretty graphics to get the user to not notice the wait (log in screen should do it).

    Alot of data is write rarely read often, such as individual track info for media player, and the media player itself. Fire up the harddrive as soon as the user picks the media player app, by the time they have picked a tune the drive is ready to go.

    Careful use of what user data goes on flash but backed up to magnetic could mean you have a system that might not even firing up the hard drive for 90% of user activity. Sure you have the max write cycle thing, but a well thought out system is not going to have a big issue with this.

  • Re:Hybrid Drives! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by moro_666 (414422) <kulminaatorNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:59AM (#15815560) Homepage
    Actually the saving power hype quite stunned me :)

    The article said that it will be integrated into windows server architecture, so that your servers will power down the hdd's to save power. but this idea has flaws

    * first of all, who the hell wants to spin down server hdd-s ? you can't cache hudred of gigabytes, and servers that would save any noticeable amount of power from that can't cache all the necessary data to the tiny dram or flash.
    * second, there is no real "mega power save" here, intel makes cpu's that still float near 100W while they are at fullspeed, whereas a modern hdd goes under 10W in normal conditions while spinning normally.
    * third, if it's mainly used as booting speedup, how many times do you really want to start your server (yeah ok, on windows, the update cycle needs you to boot once per month, but still ...)
    * fourth, spinning any physical item down and up again will reduce it's lifetime, temperature changes in the oil and materials make it less resistable to damages.
    * fifth, spinning up the hdd requires a lot more power than keeping it spinning.
    * sixth, unless this works transparently (emulating some 'natural' disk operations will certainly make it slower than just disk access), who the hell is going to rework all the raid software that you have enhanced your boxes with ?
    * seventh, add all the things up from here, and althrough you find the disks inexpensive, the total cost will be expensive, may not save you a dime.

    To save power i currently look at amd geode and laptop cpu's (from both, intel and amd). if i stack up my machines with those i will save more power per work unit than any flash trick.

    For a desktop or notebook that you boot once per day, this ofcourse seems like a nice idea, way to go.

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"

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