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Is the Time Finally Right For Hybrid Hard Drives?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the half-man-half-machine dept.

Data Storage 311

a_hanso writes "Hard drives that combine a traditional spinning platter for mass storage and solid state flash memory for frequently accessed data have always been an interesting concept. They may be slower than SSDs, but not by much, and they are a lot cheaper gigabyte-for-gigabyte. CNET's Harry McCracken speculates on how soon such drives may become mainstream: 'So why would the new Momentus be more of a mainstream hit than its predecessor? Seagate says that it's 70 percent faster than its earlier hybrid drive and three times quicker than a garden-variety, non-hybrid disk. Its benchmarks for cold boots and application launches show the new drive to be just a few seconds slower than a SSD. Or, in some cases, a few seconds faster. In the end, hybrid drives are compromises, neither as cheap as ordinary drives — you can get a conventional 750GB Momentus for about $150 — nor as fast and energy-efficient as SSDs.'"

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Why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211568)

Why be born with such a painful, useless thing? Anyone who says otherwise is a token loli. And token lolis... need censorship.

It'd better happen quick then (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211572)

If there is to be a time for hybrid drives, the window on it is fast closing. As SSDs get cheaper and cheaper more and more people will opt to just go that route. Most people don't really need massive HDDs and so if smaller SSDs get cheap enough that'll be the way they'll go. They don't have to be as cheap as HDDs, just cheap enough that for the size people need (probably 200-300GB for more people) they are affordable enough.

For me personally, the time already came and went. I was very enthusiastic about the concept of hybrid drives, particularly since I have vast storage needs (I do audio production). However no hybrid drive for desktops was forthcoming. Then there was a sale on SSDs, 256GB drives for $200. I picked up two of them. $1/GB was my magic price when I'd be willing to get them. Now I have 512GB of SSD storage for OS, apps, and primary data. That is then backed by 3TB of HDD storage for media, samples, and so on.

A hybrid drive has no place. I'd certainly not replace my SSDs, they are far faster than any hybrid drive (even being fairly slow on the SSD scale). Likewise I have no real reason to upgrade my HDDs, they serve the non-speed intensive stuff.

While I'm willing to spend more than most, it is still a sign of things to come. As those prices drop more and more people will say "screw it" and go all SSD.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (4, Insightful)

thsths (31372) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211618)

Right, but it didn't happen quickly. These is only one model of a hybrid hard disk available, which makes it unsuitable for any serious use in mass production. Also Seagate now tell us that their previous version was actually crap, and the new one is much much better. The price is lower but still high - about 100 dollars for 8 GB of flash. For that money you could get an SSD with 48 GB - and put all your system data on it.

This is a niche product, designed for laptops with only one disk slot that require both fast access and high storage. It is heavily compromised in both aspects, and the price is outrageous.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (3, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211844)

SSDs typically have large memory caches, where as HDDs are still stuck around the 32MB mark. With RAM so cheap these days even the lowest end graphics cards are coming with 1GB, but not HDDs for some reason.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (3, Informative)

jimicus (737525) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212026)

The cache on a hard disk is often used as write cache - store incoming data in cache, leave actually committing it to disk until a convenient opportunity arises.

32MB of cache doesn't take that long to flush. 1GB, OTOH...

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212176)

So maybe there could be a little computer and a battery on the hdd along with the gigs of cache?

Re:It'd better happen quick then (4, Informative)

jimicus (737525) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212206)

Would add far too much cost to the hard drive, but this is essentially what server-class hardware RAID controllers do. The battery doesn't power the hard disk, it just keeps the cache running.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211628)

But a disadvantage of SSD's is that you can only write to them so many times. They corrupt more easily than regular hard drives and people, with their operating systems, are constantly writing to drives and moving things around.

One thing that I wonder though is why don't hard drives contain more cache memory? 32MB of cache memory is very little, adding substantially more cache memory could easily increase speed without increasing cost very much while reducing ware and tare on a drive, especially on an SSD drive.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (2, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211688)

Frankly I'm not sure the write thing's as much of an issue as people make out.

MTBF for HDD and SSD are both ludicrously high these days. I'd be more worried about the mechanical failure of an HDD than reaching the write limit on an SSD.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1, Troll)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211738)

The key word in "MTBF" is "mean". I'm a power-user. Means don't apply.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (2)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211766)

So the longer MTBF for an SSD is a bad thing thing for you?

Personally I think you're talking crap. What exactly do you do to hard disks Miss Jane Q. Poweruser?

Re:It'd better happen quick then (0)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211788)

I have yet to see actual figures that show an SSD with a higher MTBF than a decent, new hard drive.

The last time I looked at the stats, which I admit was about a year ago, it was more like 100 to 1 in the other direction. You might be surprised just how reliable hard drives are these days.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38212010)

OCZ Vertex 3 240 GB - 2,000,000 hours MTBF Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB - 1,500,000 hours MTBF

Re:It'd better happen quick then (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212024)

"OCZ Vertex 3 240 GB - 2,000,000 hours MTBF Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB - 1,500,000 hours MTBF"

If true, it is the first time I have seen such a figure.

And if true, I would consider it to be good news.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212040)

"OCZ Vertex 3 240 GB - 2,000,000 hours MTBF Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB - 1,500,000 hours MTBF"

But I should also point out that as far as I know, the MTBF figure is not related to the number of rated write-cycles.

But I don't claim to be certain. I'll check.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (4, Informative)

cgenman (325138) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212090)

MTBF is a complete BS statistic. Take the first week of a hard drive's life. Make a linear extrapolation to that over the next 1000 years. Post marketing statistic that is grossly divergent from reality. The Western Digital listed in the thread below has a MTBF of 171 years. Anyone working in a real environment will confirm that is just ludicrous. What you're measuring is that for the first week of a hard drive's life, it behaves like it would live for 171 years. After the first week, it's all downhill. Back in the real world I kill laptop drives at least every 2 years, and desktops every 5.

This makes MTBF an OK but not great cross-device comparison statistic, with the assumption that all hard drives age in about the same way. SSD's really don't age like Hard Drives. They're less prone to total catastrophic failure. They lose a little capacity on a regular basis. They don't have axle bearings or dust to worry about. They will age and have electrical problems, but nowhere near the mechanical problems of hard drives. They will age in a more linear fashion. A 50 year MTBF of an SSD drive is actually a plausibly useful data point, whereas a 200 year MTBF of a hard disk is a BPOS.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (2, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212138)

"They will age in a more linear fashion. A 50 year MTBF of an SSD drive is actually a plausibly useful data point, whereas a 200 year MTBF of a hard disk is a BPOS."

Theoretically that may be true, but SSDs are still young enough that I give a lot of weight to "anectodal evidence", and the majority -- in fact almost all -- of what I have heard is that they actually tend to fail catastrophically.

As far as I am concerned, a "wait and see" approach is still feasible before I spend a bunch of money.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1, Redundant)

gmack (197796) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212220)

The only time I have really heard of them failing on any large scale is when they are plugged in and just don't work(or work intermittently) due to incompatibilities/software defects or when someone updates the firmware and generally if they work for the first week without problems they will run well. I own several and they have been solid although I have avoided spending large amounts of money and ended up with the smaller sizes that I used for system files.

With just the system files on SSD the difference in speed has been huge for both Linux and Windows.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212252)

I have heard lots of stories, some of them right here. And I mean bricking, not just "working badly". That's what I meant by catastrophic.

I'm not saying that's what they typically do. I'm only saying those are the majority of the failure stories I have heard / seen.

I have been an early adopter of many things. But I value my data (which is my bread and butter, after all), and so I will take a conservative approach to this. After more people have had them, for a little while longer, I will revisit the issue then.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212054)

My normal work machine is very heavily used, acting as a database and web server along with its other duties. So yes, the hard drive is exercised A LOT more than your everyday home computer.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38212160)

So get more RAM, hurp durp. If your hard disk is being "exercised" that much you're doing it wrong.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (0)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212240)

"So get more RAM, hurp durp. If your hard disk is being "exercised" that much you're doing it wrong."

"Hurp durp" yourself. My RAM is maxed out. You know nothing about the situation, so thanks but I don't need your advice.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38212318)

Calling bullshit on that. If your "database and web server" dataset is larger than, what, 32GB on a desktop machine, then you're doing it wrong. It wasn't advice. Durrrrrp.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212110)

Okay, for everybody's information, I looked it up. According to this recent article [storagesearch.com], write-cycles are still the limiting factor for most SSDs, rather than MTBF. (Certain RAID configurations are an exception.)

However, the good news is that the article says write endurance has increased a lot in the last few years, with some manufacturers offering SSDs rated at more than 5 million write cycles.

So, the question in my case is not "Will a cheap SSD do the trick?" but "Do I want to spend the money on a high-end SSD?"

MTBF includes warehouse HDs (0)

cheekyboy (598084) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211952)

The MTBF includes the 10,000,000 HDs in storage in the warehouse, they mostly wont fail, but some drives in a package unused, can still fail.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211992)

This is a misunderstanding of what MTBF is. It is NOT a measure of drive longevity (i.e. the "mean it will last before an error occurs). It's a measure of reliability that specifically doesn't include the effects of wear and tear. A MTBF of 1,000,000 hours means the following: If you bought 1 mio. new non-defect drives and ran them simultaneously, it would take on average 1 hour before the first one failed.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211644)

> Most people don't really need massive HDDs

Are you kidding me.

Record FRAPS of your gaming sessions, photography (or RAW), record and edit anything with any modicum of quality? Save said media and final encodings?

Age of conan, 33 GB. LA Noire13 GB. Mortal Online, 30 GB.

That is stuff ordinary people do, not audio producers.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211708)

Ordinary people, but not most people.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211762)

The thing is, audio is pretty small. CD quality is 10 megs a minute uncompressed. I've got a collection of over 600CDs that I've ripped to FLAC and it's under 200GB. Audio is such a small load on a modern HDD that you would never need a hybrid or SSD.

HD video editing on the other hand is LARGE. My camera spits out 25Mb/s, an hour of video is a little over 11 gigs, It's so big that an SSD would be great for streaming but they are cost prohibitive and a hybrid's cache is too small to matter while editing.

I just don't see the purpose of a hybrid drive for stuff average people do.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212112)

I was using a Lenovo with a manual hybrid SSD / HDD (I.E. they have a laptop with a SSD drive, an HDD drive, and some logic to link the two into one drive). It actually booted about twice as fast as the HDD alone, and launched applications rather snapily.

Of course, when the drive had problems it was impossible to get at or fix. That's why I went up to a 256 SSD System drive and traditional HDD for data / programs. But a more traditional hybrid drive wouldn't have that problem, and would just run faster.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38212052)

Not to mention world of warcraft: 30GB

Re:It'd better happen quick then (0, Troll)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211654)

I'll seriously invest in SSDs when they consistently surpass 1 or 2 million write-cycles per block (not just per cell). Until then, they might be great for caching but I'm not seeing the reliability I want.

(P.S. Please don't lecture me about wear-leveling, etc. I know how they work.)

Re:It'd better happen quick then (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211812)

I'll lecture you about my practical usage versus your theoretical bullshit.

I used a SSD for 3 years now and I have zero problems. It was cheap and it has literally transformed the way I use my computer. Its so fast I'd never go back to mechanicals.

On the other hand, I had 3 mechanical drives failing on me, after an average use of 2-3 years.

Until you actually try SSDs, don't lecture other people about them because you don't know what you're talking about.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

Theophany (2519296) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211942)

Have you noticed any particular speed issues over time or, for lack of more precise terminology, 'decreased functionality' over time?

I ask because I've only just made the jump to an SSD and I can't get worries out of my head that writing and erasing huge amounts of data will be to the detriment of the disk's performance over time (and I do love this whole sub 10 second boot thing, so cool).

As to your comment about mechanical disks, I guess it's all luck of the draw. I still have a couple of old Seagate disks kicking around, used daily on a backup server at home. IDE disks in a RAID array that still function perfectly *touches wood* and have been doing so for well over five years now. They're slow as hell, but they do the job. To this day, I've only ever had 1 mechanical disk fail on me, all the others I've ever had continue to be used and used until their interface becomes so unavailable that I cannot continue to use them in extended RAID arrays.

I do realise I have been extremely lucky though. I also realise that if, at any point, a mission critical drive had failed I'd probably have embraced SSDs a lot sooner than I have done.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

neokushan (932374) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212146)

I'm glad to say that I've never had a Hard Drive fail on me, ever. I've had MBT partitions get corrupted, which I thought was a faulty HDD but turned out to be caused by faulty RAM under a specific circumstance, but never a HDD fail.

However, I'm still a firm believer that anything with "Moving parts" will inherently be more likely to break than something without, or at the very least will certainly wear over time and fail eventually. SSD's do seem to have their issues and certainly have their own issues with "wear", but the technology is still pretty young. At the very least, it's possible to negate any wear issues and extend the life of the drive by allocating more reserved space to it. That way, the blocks that start erroring can be ignored, much like we do with Mechanical HDD's today.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211842)

I'll seriously invest in SSDs when they consistently surpass 1 or 2 million write-cycles per block (not just per cell). Until then, they might be great for caching but I'm not seeing the reliability I want. (P.S. Please don't lecture me about wear-leveling, etc. I know how they work.)

Modern SSD reliability design is no longer focused on minimizing cell (or block) error rate. The measurement that you should be looking at ishard-error rate.

Hard-error rate is how many TB you have to move before you encounter a bit error.

You can make any MLC device to just about any reliability specification by incorporating enough spare blocks/ECC bits.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (-1, Offtopic)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212072)

"Troll"? This comment? Really?

I mean come on, modder. Maybe you have it out for me, but at least you could save your mods for something that is even a little bit trollish.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (2, Informative)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212170)

.... when they consistently surpass 1 or 2 million write-cycles per block ............
(P.S. Please don't lecture me about wear-leveling, etc. I know how they work.)

The last FLASH process size reduction took away ~39% of overall erase cycles but added ~64% more capacity per per mm^2.

In your view the latest generation SSD's are even worse than the previous generation because they only have 61% of the erase cycles, right?

If you really knew how SSD's worked, you wouldnt be talking about SSD's with millions of erase cycles per block. I mean what the fuck...

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212188)

"If you really knew how SSD's worked, you wouldnt be talking about SSD's with millions of erase cycles per block. I mean what the fuck.."

Write cycles, not erase cycles. But never mind, I really don't want to split hairs.

See the article I linked to elsewhere in this thread. It says the life of SSDs is still limited mainly by the number of write cycles. So my concern is perfectly valid.

Further, in regard to how they work: when SSDs were a bit newer, I mentioned right here on /. how I could easily write a program to wear one out. I was told I was full of BS. Lo and behold, a program to do just that was made available on the web.

Of course they have improved since then, and so has the wear-leveling. But I know how they work, dude. And yeah, the # of write cycles they are rated for is important. (Also, as one other commenter pointed out -- and so does that article -- the latest generation of dense multi-level memory chips actually have LESS write endurance than their predecessors.)

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212200)

And as for block, rather than cell: the reason I stated it that way is that statistically, a block will not have as many write-cycles as individual cells are rated for, simply because there are many cells per block. And statistically, therefore (at least, if over-provisioning has been used up), on the average a block will not last for the full write-cycle rating. So yeah... I want long lifetimes in terms of blocks, not just cells. For statistical, not design, reasons.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (5, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211704)

The rewrite figures are going to shit as they move to smaller processing tech, 25nm eMLC is already down to 3000 writes/cell, they say you won't get $1/GB at normal prices until we get 19nm which at least some say will be down to 1000 writes. That you're getting 500MB/s write speed is nice, but if you actually start using that regularly you'll burn through the disk in a matter of months. My first SSD - which I admit I abused thoroughly - died after 8-9000 writes average (was rated for 10k) after 1.5 years. My current setup is trying to minimize writes to C:, but I still don't expect it to last nearly as long as a HDD. Using it as a read-heavy cache of static files may be a better way to boost it for those that haven't got hundreds of dollars to spend every time it wears out.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

wye43 (769759) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211706)

I think the time has come and gone. Full SSDs are cheap, fast and lately even in high capacities. They are here to stay. Good bye platters!

Seagate needs to get on board and ditch the monstrosities that nobody wants. The link to the article is dead. It looks CNET removed/moved the Seagate advertisement ... ups, I mean the article.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211792)

I'd kill for a decent hybrid drive for my laptop right now. I'm currently running Samsung's 1TB 2.5" drive, and that's about halfway full... pretty much the only SSD I'd be able to use is Intel's 320 (or 310?) with 600gigs, which costs about as much as I paid for my Thinkpad. And even with that, I'd be uncomfortably limited due to the lack of room for expansion... not to mention leaving room for wear leveling and such.

Looks like I'll be upgrading to a Thinkpad with two hard drive bays, or one with an mSATA slot, sometime soon.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211832)

I was very enthusiastic about the concept of hybrid drives, particularly since I have vast storage needs (I do audio production).

Have you considered running Linux and buying a ton of DRAM? If you think flash is fast, DRAM is really fast, and while it does cost more, $400 surely gets enough DRAM to store hours of raw audio? So you end up working out of DRAM (as soon as the cache is warmed up) while linux happily backs everything to disk?

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211914)

newegg.com just had 16GB of DDR3 on Black Friday for $60. They have since sold out however.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (5, Informative)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211850)

While I love the speed the SSD (and the prices is hitting the "magic" $1/GB) you're forgetting the HUGE elephant in the room with SSD that almost no-one seems to notice ...

SSDs have a TERRIBLE failure rate.

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2011/05/the-hot-crazy-solid-state-drive-scale.html [codinghorror.com]

He purchased eight SSDs over the last two years ⦠and all of them failed. The tale of the tape is frankly a little terrifying:

        Super Talent 32 GB SSD, failed after 137 days
        OCZ Vertex 1 250 GB SSD, failed after 512 days
        G.Skill 64 GB SSD, failed after 251 days
        G.Skill 64 GB SSD, failed after 276 days
        Crucial 64 GB SSD, failed after 350 days
        OCZ Agility 60 GB SSD, failed after 72 days
        Intel X25-M 80 GB SSD, failed after 15 days
        Intel X25-M 80 GB SSD, failed after 206 days

and ...

http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?hl=en&ie=UTF8&prev=_t&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=fr&tl=en&twu=1&u=http://www.hardware.fr/articles/843-7/ssd.html&usg=ALkJrhjecZZv1F6d_oT-dr41FPFYOIkVCw [googleusercontent.com]

- Intel 0.1% (against 0.3%)
- Crucial 0.8% (against 1.9%)
- Corsair 2.9% (against 2.7%)
- OCZ 4.2% (against 3.5%)

Intel confirms its first place with a return rate of the most impressive. It is followed from Crucial, which significantly improves the rate but it must be said that the latter was heavily impacted by the M225 - the C300 is only reached 1%. The return rate for failure are up against Corsair and OCZ especially in the latter confirmed by far his last position. 8 SSDs are beyond the 5%:

- 9.14% 2 240 GB OCZ Vertex
- 8.61% 2 120 GB OCZ Agility
- 7.27% 40GB OCZ Agility 2
- 6.20% 60GB OCZ Agility 2
- 5.83% 80 GB Corsair Force
- 5.31% 90GB OCZ Agility 2
- 5.31% 2 100 GB OCZ Vertex
- 5.04% OCZ Agility 2 3.5 "120 GB

At the _current_ price point & abysmal failure raite, SSD sadly has a ways to go before it catches on with the main stream.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (4, Informative)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212044)

Yep, had a OCZ drive fail after 3 months. First time I've had a drive that wasn't DOA fail before at least 2-3 years of usage

It wasn't even one of those gradual fails you tend to get with HDDs where they tend to start getting faults for a while before failing, giving you a chance to get the data off of it and order a replacement. One day it was working normally, next day, wasn't even recognised by the bios.

Just to add insult to injury, OCZ have an awful returns policy, had to pay to get it send recorded delivery to the Netherlands. Cost me £20. Going to be a few years before I take the plunge again and I won't be buying OCZ. Paying premium prices for something so unreliable, isn't on, especially given how much of an impact a sudden drive failure has on just about every type of user.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211852)

Hybrid drives are designed for laptops. Most laptops don't have space for two drives. Thus, the hybrid drive will let media obsessed folk to carry around 750 GB of stuff but give them a speed boost when necessary.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (2)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211880)

I know many people who would see a huge benefit from these hybrid drives, but then again they're all non-techies: they just use the computer the way they've learned, they know nothing about the internals and so on. A hybrid drive would atleast get them on the desktop a lot faster than they do right now, and that alone is quite useful. The thing is that I don't really feel like 8 gigabytes is enough. Windows alone can easily eat up more than half of that, and with many applications weighing in the hundreds of megabytes you don't really get all that much stuff in there. Up it to 16 gigabytes and it'll help even novitiate gamers.

For me though, hybrid drives are definitely not suitable. I rather control what exactly goes in there so I can optimize those things that I feel need optimization and leave the rest to standard non-SSDs. Like e.g. I'd definitely want most of Windows on SSD, plus Firefox+cache, a few IM applications, programming tools, and whatever game I happen to be playing the most at the time; I'd leave most of Steam to non-SSD, I'd just copypaste the currently most interesting game to SSD for fast startup and loading-times. And for example even though I access my music files regularly, they're so small that it takes barely a second to read a whole song to memory even from non-SSDs, so it'd be waste of fast storage to cache those files on there. A hybrid drive would most definitely be caching stuff that doesn't need caching.

Alas, SSDs are terribly expensive for an unemployed person. Before the floods I could get a 1TB non-SSD for 49€ whereas a 64GB SSD costs 120€. While 64GB would be enough for my needs it still hurts way too much to pay such sums for so little.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

cheekyboy (598084) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211922)

your wrong, every normal HD will become a hybrid , especially if 8gig flash becomes just a $4 overhead.

So a RAID 6 x 750HHD setup would kick ass in price over your discount rare offer of 256Gb * 18 setup.

SSD is nice, but you dont need it for rarely used data, so unless you run a twitter or major site which makes money, you dont need 5tb of SSD.

Every HD today has DRAM cache of just 16-32meg. So the cheaper that is, the more you can use, and if NAND is cheap, add another layer of 8-32gig of NAND cache on your giant 4tb drive.

LESS HD access = less wear and tear = longer life before FAILURE.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (1)

ProfessionalCookie (673314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211940)

I know there's no 3TB HDD/512GB SSD Hybrid on the consumer market, but you pretty much just described an inefficient hybrid (requires manual organization and has drives on separate controller).

I'm all for getting rid of spinning disks as well but if anything your post legitimizes hybrids.

Re:It'd better happen quick then (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38212086)

I like how you try to make a case against hybrid drives based on just your own needs.

"No" (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211592)

HDD for mass storage, small SSD for OS, installed software, and most frequently accessed files.

Re:"No" (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211814)

so it's not the time for hybrid drives - but it's the time for hybrid setups?

on a laptop with a single drive bay I could see use for a hybrid drive.

Re:"No" (2, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212034)

That's precisely what a hybrid HDD does, except it takes the decision regarding what will benefit most from going in the SSD out of your hands.

movies and video (1)

harvey the nerd (582806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211602)

Favorite movies and video will keep hard drives spinning for a while.
$50/TB (next year) implies a 4 GB movie stores for 20 cents, not quite zipless for favorite 1000 movies and videos at $200, plus back up doubles that cost for a simple mirror.

Re:movies and video (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211740)

Surely you couldn't have any real need for four terrabytes of movies, let alone a RAID 1 system to store them? I personally find it convenient to spread my movies across the minimum number of physical disks - it doesn't sit terribly well with the RIAA goons^W^W police when you take two minutes to answer the door because you're busy removing and nail gunning your disks.

Re:movies and video (1, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211774)

I admit this is slightly off-topic, but I recently saw a 32GB Class 10 SD card for under $30... and it got me remembering back to when -- not as long ago as some might think -- it took an hour to transfer the contents of one 10MB... that's MB not GB... 5.25" HDD, which cost $400, from one machine to another over the network.

Multiple failure points (2)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211604)

I think the idea is cool. However, as you now get the best of both worlds (capacity, speed) you also have two areas of failure (mechanical damage, flash corruption). I also hope the firmware does not create problems. It's not completely unusable product either.

High dependance (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211630)

How effective the drive is, is highly dependent on the algorithm used and actual drive usage. Seeing as how the ssd part is just a very large cache, you want the algorithm to "smartly" place things that are used most often or recent within it. Otherwise, it be no different then having two drives. The problem is the "smart" part as "smart" is not always smart. On the other hand, there are still definite benefits to a hybrid depending on the situation. Large writes to the drive can be written to the ssd part for example to avoid write blocking applications (apps that wait on write). Apps dealing with lots of small constant reads/writes benefits from having basically a large fast scratchpad. Overall, it's definitely a step in the right direction but hopefully ssd will become cheap enough to where it becomes mainstream instead. At this point, all these benefits can be had by simply having a separate ssd with the OS handling it accordingly (something like ReadyBoost). It's a question of which one deals with it better, firmware which has lower level access which means it can deal with it faster but has less information to go by, or the OS which has high level access allowing it to deal with it more smartly but probably not as fast.

Is this significantly different from SRT? (3, Interesting)

pathological liar (659969) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211632)

I don't imagine it is. Anandtech found it wasn't that difficult to evict stuff from the cache you actually wanted [anandtech.com]. Not to mention that if you start copying anything especially large (your MP3 collection, or installing a couple games from a Steam sale, say) you nuke the cache and are back to mechanical HD performance.

Personally, I prefer to do it manually. Stuff I want to load fast (Windows, applications, games, my profile folder) sit on an SSD. Bulk data sits on a mechanical drive.

Re:Is this significantly different from SRT? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211948)

I thought by 'hybrid', it actually meant two different drives (one SSD, one HDD) working in conjunction, where maybe the OS sits on the SSD, and where both drives simply take up half as much room. That sounds a great idea for laptops, which only have space for one drive.

But now I know it's all this cache crap, I'm suddenly not at all interested. If one wants the best of both worlds, simply get two drives, and install the OS on the SSD one.

For What? (2)

Entropy98 (1340659) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211646)

Who is this for?

With only 4-8gb of flash I can't think of who this is for?

Mid-range consumer desktops/laptops?

Really with such little cache you might as well just add more ram.

Wouldn't even dream of putting one of these in a server. It's a shame linux doesn't have L2ARC support and it would be nice if there was a drop in hardware equivalent.

Streamlining. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211650)

The advantages I see are in precaching, and file optimization. You can basically lay out an optimized disk pattern in memory before blasting it out in a stream to the disk. Also I'd like to see HDUs (present in mainframes) come to personal computers. Basically the nuts and bolts of a particular file system in a FPGA (with some help from DSPs) and the only thing going in and out is data.

CNET who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211684)

Since when is CNET the keeper of bleeding edge trends and technologies? Hybrid drives? Did this guy look at prices of SSD drives recently?

Hybrid can actually be sometimes faster (1)

Eric Green (627) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211716)

The core problem with SSD's is write speed on workloads that have a large number of small updates. My testing on the older 500GB Momentus XT showed that in general it had better write speed doing, e.g., a Fedora install, than the 80GB Intel SSD that I benchmarked it against (same generations of product here, about a year ago), due to the large number of small updates that the non-SSD-aware EXT3/4 filesystems do during the course of installing oodles of RPM's. Because the Momentus only caches *read* requests in the SSD (write requests flow right through it, other than to invalidate anything in its internal cache that is getting written), writes went through at full 7200 rpm 2.5" hard drive speed. In general when I benchmarked writes on similar-generation 7200 rpm 2.5" hard drives and SSD's, the hard drives ended up faster for virtually all real-world workloads, so the end result of my benchmarking was that on real-world workloads the hybrid drive was faster at reads than a hard drive (primarily due to SSD-cached filesystem metadata) and faster at writes than an SSD.

Please not that I have *not* tested the current generation of SSD's and Momentus XT. Just that it's baffling that the Momentus XT never seemed to really get any traction in the marketplace, given the performance advantages of the approach for many real-world tasks.

Prices! (3, Interesting)

Shifty0x88 (1732980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211736)

Not only are SSD prices going down, but traditional hard drives are going UP! (At least for the short term)

Prices taken from Newegg.com:

Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB is $399.99 (used to be a lot cheaper)

Seagate Barracuda 1TB SATA III:

About a year ago: On sale for $60, regular $70

Now: $149.99

I think now is the time of the SSD and the hybrid drive is just not worth the price

And considering this drive is retailed at $239.99 and a regular mechanical 750GB drive is between $69.99(Hitachi Deskstar) and $179.99(Western Digital Black) there is no reason to buy it.

Just go buy a small SSD and a regular mechanical drive and do it manually

Cache hasn't helped that much has it? (1)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211760)

One lesson I've learnt over the years is that hard disk cache (in this case the traditional RAM based cache) doesn't matter all that much. Drives with 8Mb cache consistently show 99% of the performance as drives with 16Mb. And so on for the 128Mb vs 64Mb vs 32Mb varieties of hard disks.

I do realize there's a benchmark there. But i'm still skeptical given the history of how little on board hard disk cache matters.

Re:Cache hasn't helped that much has it? (5, Informative)

greg1104 (461138) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211848)

There are only two things drive cache can help with significantly. When rebooting, where memory is empty, you can get memory primed with the most common parts of the OS faster if most of that data can be read from the SSD. Optimizers that reorder the boot files will get you much of the same benefit if they can be used.

Disk cache used for writes is extremely helpful, because it allows write combining and elevator sorting to improve random write workloads, making them closer to sequential. However, you have to be careful, because things sitting in those caches can be lost if the power fails. That can be a corruption issue on things that expect writes to really be on disk, such as databases. Putting some flash to cache those writes, with a supercapacitor to ensure all pending writes complete on shutdown, is a reasonable replacement for the classic approach: using a larger battery-backed power source to retain the cache across power loss or similar temporary failures. The risk with the old way is that the server will be off-line long enough for the battery to discharge. Hybrid drives should be able to flush to SSD just with their capacitor buffer, so you're consistent with the filesystem state, only a moment after the server powers down.

As for why read caching doesn't normally help, the operating system filesystem cache is giant compared to any size it might be. When OS memory is gigabytes and drive ones megabytes, you'll almost always be in a double-buffer situation: whatever is in the drive's cache will also still be in the OS's cache, and therefore never be requested. The only way you're likely to get any real benefit from the drive cache is if the drive does read-ahead. Then it might only return the blocks requested to the OS, while caching ones it happened to pass over anyway. If you then ask for those next, you get them at cache speeds. On Linux at least, this is also a futile effort; the OS read-ahead is also smarter than any of the drive logic, and it may very well ask for things in that order in the first place.

One relevant number for improving read speeds is command queue depth. You can get better throughput by ordering reads better, so they seek around the mechanical drive less. There's a latency issue here though--requests at the opposite edge can starve if the queue gets too big--so excessive tuning in that direction isn't useful either.

Larger SSD caches do have advantages (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211882)

On disk caches in the MB range have little effect because in most cases anything in the disks cached will already be cached closer to where it is needed, ie in the OS cache using spare system memory. I suspect in that case the on disk cache is probably used more as a buffer than a cache.

Larger SSD caches bring two advantages, the cache persists across restarts assisting boot time and may also be larger than the amount of memory the OS allocates to its own cache.

Already here... sorta. (2)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211764)

If you're willing to make a bit of effort, that is.

Just yesterday I was just investigating the Highpoint Rocket 1220 and 1222 HBAs, which imbues its possessor with the power of Creation... the power to create hybrid magnetic-flash storage devices. Hook up an SSD and a good old moving-platter drive to it, and the HBA does the heavy lifting to create a virtual hybrid drive that will appear as a single device to the host system. It's similar to what is being done with some RAID enclosures of the last couple years, using chipsets like the JMicron JMB393 to create singular virtual drives that are really RAID arrays. I have no doubt there will be other brand HBAs of a similar sort joining these Highpoint ones soon enough.

With products like this Highpoint HBA, it's not necessary to be a lady-in-waiting to to some royal manufacturer's whim. You can pick and choose an SSD and disk drive of prices and capacities and characteristics that suit your specific needs, rather than waiting breathlessly for some one-size-fits-all solution that benefits the maker more than the buyer.

Write back cache (2)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211776)

I would buy one now if they would implement it as a write-back cache. It wouldn't be hard to do. Take a GB of flash, structure it as a ring buffer. That eliminates the "small random writes" problem - you're just writing a linear journal, and the places you're writing are pre-erased and ready to go. If the power fails the drive just plays back the cache when the power comes back on.

That would let you have massive improvements in write performance. Metadata updates leave you seeking all over the disk. BTRFS is currently very slow to fsync because of this. But if it could just blast it to a big flash cache, and the drive could confirm that as committed to disk immediately, it'd scream.

Unfortunately all the manufacturers seem to just want to use it as a big persistent read cache to make Windows boot faster.

I think there's a place for these. (2, Insightful)

Sitnalta (1051230) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211790)

A hybrid drive would be great in my laptop. It doesn't have room for "storage" drives and a 600GB SSD would be heinously expensive. You could also put one in a USB 3.0 external enclosure (I assume they can work like that.) That would give you a nice trade off between speed, capacity and, most importantly, portability.

That seems to be what Seagate is thinking too. Since the drive is in the 2.5" form factor.

First hand (3, Informative)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211824)

I have one. It works great, but "chirps" occasionally which I think is the sound of the motor spinning down. None of the firmware updates i've applied that claim to fix the chirp actually fix it.

It runs much faster than my previous drive, but i'm also comparing a 7200RPM drive to a 5400RPM drive so the speed increase isn't just because it's a hybrid.

I guess the advantage of the SSD cache is that if you use it in a circular fashion you can avoid a lot of the 'read-erase-rewrite' cycles... but I don't know how the cache is organised for sure.

Realize the limitations... (4, Insightful)

jafo (11982) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211858)

Hybrid drives, and even all of the hybrid RAID controllers I've looked at, only use the SSD for read acceleration. They aren't used for writes, from what I could tell from their specs. So you're almost certainly better off upgrading your system to the next larger amount of RAM rather than getting a hybrid drive.

Personally, I looked at my storage usage and realized that if I didn't keep *EVERYTHING* on my laptop (every photo I'd taken for 10+ years, 4 or 5 Linux ISOs, etc) and instead put those on a server at home, I could go from a 500GB spinning disc to an 80GB SSD. So I did and there's been no looking back. The first gen Intel X-25M drives had some performance issues, but since then I've been happy with the performance of them.

The worst of both worlds (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211892)

So it is big and prone to shocks ? Servers may have their own particular needs but for consumers, the advantage of SSD are size and resistance to shocks. Speed is only a slight advantage.

Slightly OT, SSD for OS issues (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211920)

I was all set to buy a new laptop with the OS mounted on the SSD and a second HDD for mass storage. The obvious solution to me would've been to map the user directories to the HDD for file storage. Not a problem with Linux of course, but you can't do this with Windows! Can't recall the details, but there's some path info hard-coded somewhere that prevents you from moving your "My Documents" folder to a different drive. I never saw any workaround that didn't feel like a hack that would cause problems later.

Re:Slightly OT, SSD for OS issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38212000)

I, uh, did that exact thing on my ssd-upgraded rig. It wasn't very elegant or intuitive, but the folders in the win7 libraries thing all have a location element under properties, in which you can specify it's location. Manually moved each folder, documents, pictures, videos etc, from the ssd to hdd. Savegames, user specific files and such all have seemed to go when they should.

Re:Slightly OT, SSD for OS issues (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212030)

If My Documents is still "My Documents", you'll have to symlink, otherwise there's a registry setting you can change to specify the /user/ folder. See below for more details I guess.

This Drive is CRAP (4, Informative)

rdebath (884132) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211998)

This Drive is CRAP
ASSUMING that it still only does read caching.

I bought one of the Gen-1 drives and was very underwhelmed. I wanted write caching; 4GB of non-volatile memory with the performance of SLC flash could allow windows (or whatever) to write to the drive flat out for up many seconds without a single choke due to the drive.

In addition 4G of write-back cache is enough to give a significant performance boost for continuous random writes across the drive and even more so across a small extent such as a database or a DotNET native image cache.

But for reading it's insignificant compared to the 3-16Gbytes of (so much faster) main memory that most systems contain, except at boot time when, unlike RAM, it will already contain some data. The problem with this is that it will contain the most recently read data, whereas the boot files can quite reasonably be described as least recently read.

So in the real world it's useless for anything except a machine that's rebooted every five minutes ...

Re:This Drive is CRAP (1)

shitzu (931108) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212314)

Considering the price of ram and flash i do not really understand these hybrid drives. Wouldn't it be cheaper and make more sense to just put 8GB (or 16GB, or more) battery protected RAM cache inside the hard disk rather than flash memory?

P.S. i chose to go an SSD route anyway, hybrid drives never entered my mind as an alternative.

Pointless, & here's why (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212020)

A dual-volume setup gets you better speed at a fraction of the cost. You put the OS on the cheapest SSD you can find & your user/home partition on a HDD. On Windows you can do this with a simple registry tweak & most other OSes support it out-of-the-box. The only problem I can find is the SSD filling up &/or killing off sectors thanks to Windows' shit temporary file management & organization, with the 12 or whatever temporary folders everywhere, as well as all the hotfix uninstallers, system restore points (this is a nasty chunk of wasted space), etc. At least M$ has a real opportunity to fix this with what I assume will be their first cross-platform & cross-architecture OS...

Re:Pointless, & here's why (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212042)

Incidentally, I was doing some maintenance on a client's old DDR XP machine-- I substituted actual RAM upgrades with moving the pagefile over to a $15 CF card & fixing its size at max capacity. I guess this KINDA counts...I don't know why M$ thought it a good idea to have this on USB sticks though...

Seagate slashvertisement? (3, Informative)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212022)

They may be slower than SSDs, but not by much

That's horribly incorrect. I liked the sound of hybrid drives as well when I saw the price... The 500GB laptop hard drives with 4GB Flash for $150, should be awesome... But I, not being an idiot, did some research, and sure enough, the reviews say it's not remotely comparable to a real SSD.

eg. http://www.storagereview.com/seagate_momentus_xt_review [storagereview.com]

It's faster than a drive without such a cache, and it might be a good option for a laptop, but even there I'd say a 32GB SD card would be cheaper, and will work wonders on FreeBSD with ZFS configured for L2ARC...

I have no particular interest in what anyone buys, but the comparison to real SSDs is a massively dishonest.

Great... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38212088)

A drive with the disadvantages of both technologies rolled into one!

Roll on memristor SSDs...

How much faster is fsync? (1)

sco08y (615665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212136)

That's the real question with a hybrid drive. If you're running any kind of database, your performance is limited by how quickly you can fsync. A hybrid ought to be instant, which would be a major speed and reliability win.

Yes, I have a momentus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38212144)

I replaced the HDD with a Momentus Hybrid drive. Really happy with the performance. If it dies all the data is on the disk - so I can recover it, unlike with an SSD, which currently have abysmal failure rates and for which you typically can't recover the data. For what I do I prefer reliability over speed. If you have to spend all your time doing extra backups because you know SSDs are not reliable where is the advantage? - trading speed for paranoid backups. No Thanks.

Also if you are using XP you can't use an SSD because the OS doesn't know about SSDs and will toast it with the paging mechanism. Hybrid drive gets around that issue.

Few seconds slower boot is half or a third. (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212154)

Its benchmarks for cold boots and application launches show the new drive to be just a few seconds slower than a SSD.

My Debian sid boots in a few (noticeably less than ten) seconds into kdm. A few seconds of ten seconds is about a third or more.

"Newfangled tech! Now at least 33% slower!"

Great slogan you got there.

Is the Time Finally Right For Hybrid Hard Drives? (1)

1s44c (552956) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212158)

Is the Time Finally Right For Hybrid Hard Drives?


I would like a simple hybrid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38212190)

this could be done in the fs in worst case. Set a limit 10mb 100mb and store all files smaller than the limit on ssd. Let all files larger than this limit stay on platters.

For really big files the ssd dosent give a big advantage so let them stay on the platter

They are the WORSED of both worlds (2)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212270)

The article seems to think hybrid drives are the best of both worlds, but they are not.

They have the unknown reliability of SSD/flash drives (they do fail) COMBINED with the failure rate of consumer grade HD's (not that good).

They are not as speedy as pure SSD and not as cheap as pure HD.

So, the people that want speed, spend the money for a real SSD and use cheap reliable HD's for mass storage in a nas.

The people that want cheap, buy regular old HD's and accept the lower performance or just whine about it without doing anything about it because they are cheap.

The middle market, the people to cheap to buy a SSD but willing to spend far more on a small HD... I guess it just ain't there. ESPECIALLY since this lower class of consumer tends to buy ready made machines. Notice how the consoles only increase the HD space at the same time netbooks do? When THAT size of laptop HD as reached rock-bottom prize and you actually would have to pay more to get a smaller sized one?

Well, same for budget PC's makers. They buy HD's in bulk and put the same size in everything to cut costs. They are NOT going to add several tenners worth of hardware in the faint hope that budget PC buyers will buy their more expensive model when its sits next to the cheaper models in the shop.

And the high-end PC makers? They simply buy cheap SSD's and charge a premium for them.

Budget and high-end markets are FAR easier to supply for then the mid range. Because the budget people think anything more expensive is a rip-off and the high-end people look down their noses at anything cheap.

How will it affect future prices when HDD cost dwn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38212272)

Bravo for finally putting the two together. I had been waiting for someone to do this as the benefits gained can result in a product that is superior to to both of the component pieces had they been assembled into their traditional form factor. Now 150 right now is ok, but when HDD drives drop again in the future what will the price differential be at that point in time? That is the question I would like to know. Congrats to Seagate for building a drive that will help out in the meantime while also providing a slight speed boost.

Intel's Z68 chipset negates the need for this driv (3, Informative)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 2 years ago | (#38212284)

and their upcoming Ivy Bridge chipset will take it even further. Both allow for the use of a small SSD drive as a cache against a larger traditional hard drive.

Per the wiki page on their chipsets, The Z68 also added support for transparently caching hard disk data onto solid-state drives (up to 64GB), a technology called Smart Response Technology

SRT link is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_Response_Technology [wikipedia.org]

Hybrid = 2 places to fail. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38212320)

Or, in other words, hell to the no.

If I wanted that speed, I'd get an SSD.
And even then, I can easily just mount that crap on a DRAM drive if I REALLY needed the speed.

Games like, say, Minecraft, or audio / video / picture temp caches that constantly change, you'd be better off just doing that. SSDs horribly fail. A DRAM drive would last you a lifetime unless you have constant brownouts or blackouts, or have a very noise powerline.
Even just making a virtual drive in RAM if you have enough of it would do fine.
The downside? It'd probably cost a few SSDs worth to buy, unless you DIY it.
Actually, I forgot Gigabyte made this. Not even sure what's happening or happened with it.
Gigabyte i-ram. [tweaktown.com]

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