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Samsung's Hybrid Hard Drive Exposed 255

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the under-the-hood dept.
Erica Campbell writes "Samsung is preparing to release a new Flash memory-assisted computer hard drive that boasts improved performance, reduced energy consumption, a faster boot time, and better reliability. The new hybrid hard drive will be released around the same time as the upcoming Windows Vista operating system and will be one of the first hardware designed specifically to benefit from it."
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Samsung's Hybrid Hard Drive Exposed

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  • So awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Warbringer87 (969664) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @10:16PM (#16511729)
    that buffer is fucking huge. Laptops awesome, wonder when they'll actually work on a regular size one though. Then again, seeing as it's gonna be the first batch out the door, potential issues from what is practically a new drive type will scare me, and my wallet away.
  • by Utopia (149375) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @10:24PM (#16511775)
    Looks like Samsung and Microsoft designed this together.
    http://www.samsung.com/Products/HardDiskDrive/news /HardDiskDrive_20050425_0000117556.htm [samsung.com]

    It was on display at WinHEC in April 2005.

    • by Trogre (513942)
      Hmm so I wonder if Samsung had to sign some kind of non-compete clause to keep Linux and OSX out.

  • TFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 19, 2006 @10:25PM (#16511789)
    Sorry, don't know how to link to one of the Caches, but here is the text of the article:

    Samsung's HHD prototype
    Samsung is preparing to release a new Flash memory-assisted computer hard drive that boasts improved performance, reduced energy consumption, a faster boot time, and better reliability. The new hybrid hard drive will be released around the same time as the upcoming Windows Vista operating system and will be one of the first hardware designed specifically to benefit from it.

    Samsung's HHD - faster boot and resume on Vista
    In mid-May 2006, Samsung unveiled a prototype hybrid hard drive (HHD) at WinHEC, the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference. Samsung's prototype HHDs have a buffer of 128 or 256 MB, much larger than the 8-16 MB of cache in current hard drives. This new buffer differs from the existing cache buffer on hard drives not only in size but also in structure, composition, and qualities. Conventional cache is made out of volatile memory that is erased when the drive is powered down. HHDs add another layer of cache consisting of Flash memory that is non-volatile and can be accessed quickly when the drive is powered on. Adding a large buffer to a hard drive can also reduce the drive's power consumption, thereby increasing the battery life, and reducing the time required for the system to resume its operation after suspension. Indeed, boot or resume time will occur about twice as fast as conventional hard disk drives, saving 8-25 seconds, and laptop batteries will provide 20 - 30 minutes more power. Another added bonus of the HHD is the improved reliability due to less mechanical wear and tear.

    Samsung and other manufacturers are currently pursuing Solid State Drive (SSD) technology (to be covered in an upcoming TFOT article). Currently Flash prices are too high to allow SSDs to replace standard hard drives of any reasonable size and, although Flash prices are continually falling, it will be several years until such a drive will become affordable to most users. Here enters the near-term solution for enjoying improved performance at a reasonable price - the hybrid hard drive, combining the low cost and large storage capacity of conventional hard drive technology with quick and low-power Flash memory.

    Apart from the reduction in Flash memory prices, hard drive manufacturers such as Samsung believe that we are about to undergo a major storage revolution in the next few years due to the upcoming release of Windows Vista. This new operating system from Microsoft will introduce three new performance-enhancing technologies: SuperFetch, ReadyBoost, and ReadyDrive. According to Microsoft, "SuperFetch understands which applications you use most, and preloads these applications into memory, so your system is more responsive". Windows ReadyBoost allows users to use a removable Flash memory device such as a USB thumb drive to improve system performance. ReadyBoost retrieves data stored on the Flash memory more quickly than data stored on the hard disk, decreasing the interval until the PC responds. Windows ReadyDrive enables Vista-based PCs equipped with an HHD to boot up faster, resume from hibernate in less time, preserve battery power, and improve hard disk reliability.

    Hard drive platters won't have to spin as much
    Hard disk platters are components of hard disk drives that consist of circular rigid disks that store magnetic data. While the platters in conventional hard drives rotate most of the time, thereby consuming a great deal of power, the platters in HHDs are usually at rest, as if they were off. In HHDs, incoming data is generally written to the Flash buffer and any saved documents are saved to the buffer, instead of being written to the hard drive each time. Only when the Flash buffer is almost full or when the user accesses a new file that is not stored on the buffer, will the HHD platter rotate or "spin up". Thus, the battery power of laptops with HHDs is preserved, extending battery life.

    To learn more about Samsung's hybrid hard drive technology, TF
  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @10:26PM (#16511793) Homepage
    What's so different about Vista that makes this drive benefit from Vista. Will the drive not work in Windows XP, Linux or Mac OSX machines?
    • by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalkerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday October 19, 2006 @10:45PM (#16511995) Journal
      Vista is designed to be bootable from flash memory. Significant changes to the bootcode of XP would be nessesary for the instant on features. The other features could possibly be incorperated with drivers.
      • by timeOday (582209) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @11:04PM (#16512135)
        As a Linux laptop user (yes, there are a few of us) super-fast bootup would be a very attractive feature, and an advantage now falling to XP. I'm curious how the boot time will compare to a resume from "suspend to disk" (though the attractiveness of suspend to disk / suspend to ram are limited by the fact that they're often a nightmare to set up anyways).
        • by StikyPad (445176) on Friday October 20, 2006 @12:11AM (#16512579) Homepage
          It might be useful to Linux users who turn off their workstations as well.

          Oh wait...
        • by oohshiny (998054)
          You've been able to boot from Flash for years. These days, you can easily stick a 4G or 8G flash card into your PCMCIA slot and boot off that. But don't expect miracles: the boot process itself takes time. That's being addressed, though, with a rewrite of "init" (shipping with Ubuntu Edgy Eft).
      • by NineNine (235196) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @11:37PM (#16512387)
        That is actually reason enough for me to re-think that whole Vista thing. With partial flash drives and eventually 100% flash drives, the last major component of computer hardware failure, namely, all of those closely moving parts in a hard drive, will be wiped out. Wow. That sounds pretty cool.

        Oh yeah, and it'll be fast as hell, too.
        • by soupforare (542403) on Friday October 20, 2006 @12:56AM (#16512835)
          Just because flash doesn't move doesn't mean flash doesn't fail.
          • by anethema (99553) on Friday October 20, 2006 @01:53AM (#16513109) Homepage
            No, but flash DOES fail fairly predictibly and in certain ways. You get a certain amount of write cycles per sector, etc. You implement a write spreading alg on the drive and increase its life dramatically. You can easily start marking sectors as bad and have VERY early warning on drive failure. You can extend life dramatically by having extra sectors on the drive for write spreading (more benifet the more full the drive is). Also with current write lives, we can have drives you can write to 24/7 for years without that sector failing. With the write-spreading the drive lifetime would vastly outstrip a normal hdd on average.

            The access time is also VERY low compared to a HDD, and unless the controller itself fries, its almost impossible to have catastrophic data loss.

            Basically, we cant switch fast enough, there are no downsides but price.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by pe1chl (90186)
              The access time is also VERY low compared to a HDD

              It depends. I have one of those "IDE Flash disk" modules in a system I want to keep as silent and lowpower as possible.
              It looks like a normal IDE connector (a bit larger) and plugs directly in the motherboard, looking just like a normal IDE disk to the BIOS, the OS, etc.
              (so you can just install your system on it and boot, read/write, etc. no special drivers or trouble with booting from USB)

              However, this device is easily outperformed by any modern harddisk.
        • funny? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by oohshiny (998054)
          I can't tell whether you're trying to be funny.

          That is actually reason enough for me to re-think that whole Vista thing.

          Has the ability to boot and run Linux off flash made you "re-think that whole Linux thing"?

          With partial flash drives and eventually 100% flash drives, the last major component of computer hardware failure, namely, all of those closely moving parts in a hard drive, will be wiped out.

          They'll be replaced by a medium that has a much higher MTBF for writes.

          Oh yeah, and it'll be fast as hell, to
        • by ad0gg (594412)
          If flash gets faster we'll have instant on computers. Turning on a computer will be like turning on a tv.
    • Here is a movie that goes into it;

      http://channel9.msdn.com/Showpost.aspx?postid=2386 08 [msdn.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Sadly, I can't RTFA as the account has already suffered a slashdotting, but I have a question about this drive. Isn't there an upper limit to how many times you can write to flash memory before it ceases to function? Granted, hard drives wear out eventually, but unless this stuff is of high quality then the cache is going to wear out before the rest of the drive.

    When the cache dies off, what happens?
    • by bcat24 (914105) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @10:30PM (#16511841) Homepage Journal
      I think the cache is designed to help with booting and suspend/restore, so it shouldn't be written too much. With a large enough flash buffer, it should be able to least for the normal life of the drive.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by wwahammy (765566)
        Actually flash is used significantly more than that. The cache will actually store writes and once the flash starts to get close to full, it actually writes the cached writes to disk. While I'm sure Samsung and Microsoft have worked hard to extend the life of the flash, with that many cache I don't see how the cache could last even close to as long as the drive. My understanding is that flash is reliable up to about 100K writes compared to millions of writes to a disk drive. I still haven't heard how the dr
  • Linux Next? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Yehooti (816574)
    It's designed for Vista, but I want it for Linux. How long until then I wonder?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      A week after they hit the market?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dotgain (630123)
        Ha! That's for the 0.85-alpha82-pre1 version!

        Open source coders are good, but they're not Godlike. If the specs aren't open they get practically nowhere sometimes, and if they are - they'll still take as long to iron out the bugs and get it stable than anybody else.

    • Re:Linux Next? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JimXugle (921609) <JimNO@SPAMxugle.com> on Thursday October 19, 2006 @10:45PM (#16511991)
      You can have a similar effect now by using a flash drive as your root partition, or as a swap partition. Keep in mind that using it as a swap partition would make the drive age faster.
      • by misleb (129952)
        You can have a similar effect now by using a flash drive as your root partition, or as a swap partition. Keep in mind that using it as a swap partition would make the drive age faster.


        Why? If your machine is hitting swap that often, you need to get more RAM. That is a HUGE performance hit. Ideally, your system should barely touch swap. At least on Linux. I guess Windows can be pretty liberal about swapping things out...

        -matthew
        • Re:Linux Next? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by keesh (202812) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:32AM (#16513575) Homepage
          Except that Linux does preemptive swapping long before you run out of RAM, so that if something suddenly needs it, there's no huge delay whilst things get swapped out.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by misleb (129952)

            Except that Linux does preemptive swapping long before you run out of RAM, so that if something suddenly needs it, there's no huge delay whilst things get swapped out.

            Monitor swap usage on any healthy Linux system and you'll notice that usage remains pretty low most of the time. Anything you DO swap out should be largely unused anyway. So I don't really get how using flash for swap woudl wear it out faster unless you were using it as a substitute for more RAM.

            -matthew

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Bizzeh (851225)
        most usb flash drives only write around 17mb/s, how is that faster than sata2 drive doing nearly 100mb/s?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Kingrames (858416)
      If the hardware is designed for Vista, I'd bet it already runs better in linux.
  • Apple? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @10:27PM (#16511805)
    The new hybrid hard drive will be released around the same time as the upcoming Windows Vista operating system and will be one of the first hardware designed specifically to benefit from it."

    Given Apple's strong relationship with Samsung (iPod shuffle+nano memory both come from Samsung, I believe- and I'm almost positive Samsung has supplied RAM to apple on+off since the golden olden days), what do others think about the possibility of this ending up in a Powerbook, er, Macbook Pro- and 10.5 being designed to take advantage of it?

    Apple can be hit or miss with the latest and greatest- they took forever with USB2 (yeah yeah, firewire blah blah) and lagged behind a lot of the smaller laptop mafacturers with Expresscard (given there's next to nothing for expresscard, who can blame them?)...it'll be interesting to see if Apple thinks this is a win or lose technology...

    • Re:Apple? (Score:4, Informative)

      by znu (31198) <znu.public@gmail.com> on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:25AM (#16513269)
      See rumor here [appleinsider.com].

      In short: Intel apparently has a similar technology (presumably with the flash memory being on the motherboard, rather than in the hard drive, which seems like a better idea), and it's rumored Apple is working with them to get it implemented for next year's Mac laptops.
  • by kingkade (584184) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @10:46PM (#16511999)
    Flash technology seems promising and looks poised to take over devices that would be better off using solid state components (laptops, etc) that traditionally don't. I've wanted to invest in Samsung and flash technology in general. Samsung seems to only be on the Asian markets, is this so? Does anyone know of and good mutual funds/ETFs that allows one to invest in this specific tech sector?
  • by Beuno (740018) <argentinaNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday October 19, 2006 @10:49PM (#16512023) Homepage
    The new hybrid hard drive will be released around the same time as the upcoming Windows Vista

    Why don't they just flat out say they don't know when it's going to be released?
  • Is anyone else super enthused by the clearness of the HD rather than any performance improvements?

    Sure faster boot ups will be great and eventually bootup will equal Flash -> DDR2 memory transfer speed but this seems like more of a limited upgrade.

    Except the clear shell that's just too sexy for words!
    • by timeOday (582209)
      Another possible advantage - if the disk heads in a laptop can stay parked 90% of the time, it should dramatically reduce the odds of a broken/corrupt disk.
  • by pensivepuppy (566965) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @11:01PM (#16512101)
    If Vista knows about the CF, why does it need to be on the hard disk itself? It sounds like all the heavy lifting is being done by Vista anyways. WOuldn't it make more sense just to use any CF attached to the system for this caching, etc, and use normal hard disks instead? That way adding CF to a PC would improve its performance, no matter what type of hard disks you have attached.
    • by RoundSparrow (341175) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @11:13PM (#16512197)
      Vista does support this - ReadyBoost - but USB2 isn't nearly as fast as SATA 300.

      Who knows how much benefit it really provides, but it sets the direction. Nice for the software to be ahead of the hardware.
      • USB2 isn't nearly as fast as SATA 300.

        So what? [addonics.com]

      • by asuffield (111848)
        Vista does support this - ReadyBoost - but USB2 isn't nearly as fast as SATA 300.


        Nearly flash memory nor hard drives are anywhere near as fast as USB2 or SATA 300. It's not going to make much difference to performance, unless you're using a whole lot of them (in which case SATA 300 has the advantage because it's several busses, while USB 2 is typically just the one shared bus).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I was under the impression that it did. I plugged a CF card into my laptop when it was running a Windows Vista beta, and it popped a dialog along the lines of "Do you want to use this device for file storage, or for increased system resources?"
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @11:39PM (#16512411) Homepage Journal
    That article mentions power savings a lot, but never boils them down to raw consumption numbers.

    If a standard current notebook 40GB HD were replaced with 10 standard 4GB Flash drives, how much less power would the Flash consume than the HD?
  • oh? (Score:3, Funny)

    by racebit (959234) on Friday October 20, 2006 @12:28AM (#16512681) Homepage
    Additionally, do you honestly think any company (Intel, Microsoft, Samsung) would back this technology if it was limited to R/W cycles in thousands?

    Oh? Last time I checked...my xp seems to stop working after only several hundered read/writes, funny that.
    • by Tatsh (893946)
      Additionally, do you honestly think any company (Intel, Microsoft, Samsung) would back this technology if it was limited to R/W cycles in thousands?

      YES!

      "MONEY MONEY MONEY!" -- from the horse himself
  • Anybody know if these will have a PATA interface? My thinking would be putting this into laptops that currently exist, say for example my 12"PB?
  • Actually I think it's more like fixing software problems in Hardware. The situation in which this technology will improve access time is when you have to randomly seek on your harddrive. Unfortunately that is needed in Windows as there is little possibility to keep all your bootup files one after another in the order you need them. With Linux, however that is rather easily possible. You can create an initial ramdisk which the computer can load very quickly without much booting and then boot from it. Theoret
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:43AM (#16513837)
    We did some basic research with Flash / HDD hybrids two years ago. As such disks weren't available, yet, we were using a real (Notebook)HDD and a IDE-Flash-HDD in parallel.
    Our goal was to minimize energy consumption for mobile devices (i.e. not a lot of ram available for caching and the device is switched off repeatedly to save energy).

    Using a very sensitive (time resolution wise) energy measurement device, we determined, that most energy was consumed by moving the heads into position. The difference was substancial: Around 0.63W for the HDD spinning idle and about 5.3W during heavy seeking (e.g. trigered by a "find ." in the root of a freshly booted system).

    We decided to not use the flash as cache (flash is quick to read, but slow to write) and just put the relatively static metadata (directory structure, inode tables...) onto the Flash drive, but keep there files and data on the HDD, as each directory access triggered a expensive seek, but delivered very few data, compared to reading a file.

    To simulate our mobile device we used a Linux-System limited to 32 ram to prevent the system from excessive caching.
    We observed up to a factor 8 reduced energy consumption and as a surprising side effect a factor 6 increase in speed!

    When increasing the available Ram, this advantage quickly vanished on repated benchmark runs, as the System appearently cached the directory structure very effectively. The first run after booting however still performed substancially better with our system, no matter the amout of ram. (And this was our target useage profile: Power on, search something, Power off).

    As the code was an embarrassingly ugly hack to the ext2 driver and we envisioned trouble keeping the hdd with the data and the flash-hdd in sync, it was not persued further.
    However with hybrid drives becoming available, it might be worth a more detailed analysis...
  • My iPod does this. It has a 20GB disk and 32MB ram (or is it 64MB?). Anyway, not new.
  • by Trelane (16124) on Friday October 20, 2006 @10:18AM (#16515795) Journal

    My main question is what the interface is going to be to this. Is it going to appear as regular flash media? Will there be extended PATA and SATA commands to address the Flash/modify the drive priorities? The re-posted article says that it's only designed for Windows Vista and will not support XP; does that mean that the interface is now totally different from anything else and these drives won't work?

    Finally, why the hell haven't they given Linux hackers a go at the drives? There are certainly those who would be interested in supporting the technology. AMD and Intel sure seem to (note that Linux supported x86_64 before it even shipped!)

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