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WD Explains Its Windows-Only Software-Based SSHD Tech

timothy posted about a year ago | from the horse-before-the-cart dept.

Data Storage 286

crookedvulture writes "Seagate and Toshiba both offer hybrid hard drives that manage their built-in flash caches entirely in firmware. WD has taken a different approach with its Black SSHD, which instead uses driver software to govern its NAND cache. The driver works with the operating system to determine what to store in the flash. Unfortunately, it's Windows-only. You can choose between two drivers, though. WD has developed one of its own, and Intel will offer a separate driver attached to its upcoming Haswell platform. While WD remains tight-lipped on the speed of the Black's mechanical portion, it's confirmed that the flash is provided by a customized SanDisk iSSD embedded on the drive. The iSSD and mechanical drive connect to each other and to the host system through a Serial ATA bridge chip, making the SSHD look more like a highly integrated dual-drive solution than a single, standalone device. With Intel supporting this approach, the next generation of hybrid drives appears destined to be software-based."

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WHAT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43670625)

WINDOWS GOOD LUNIX BAD

Re:WHAT (5, Informative)

blackiner (2787381) | about a year ago | (#43670681)

Linux already supports SSD-HDD caching with normal drives so if anything, it will probably already work or work with little changes. Otherwise, just pick up a tiny SSD and ignore this solution. http://bcache.evilpiepirate.org/ [evilpiepirate.org]

Nice troll, btw.

Re:WHAT (1)

GioMac (862536) | about a year ago | (#43670863)

Yep, and flashcache (facebook).
But none of these are included in the kernel.

Picking up tiny SSD is not a solution for notebook or for the desktop - you need more ports, more money, more energy etc

Re:WHAT (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43670967)

The dm-cache [kernel.org] device mapper target was added to the kernel in Linux 3.9 [kernelnewbies.org] . bcache is apparently on track for 3.10 [lwn.net]

Re:WHAT (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#43671297)

Also other stuff (*BSD, solaris, etc) has had support SSD caching with ZFS for a few years now. Linux ZFS exists too but not built into distros yet, still it's very easy to install on many linux distros. I don't know what the current state of ZFS is on macs but they may be able to do this too.

Re:WHAT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671309)

shut the fuck up i'm not a troll, you're a fucking troll.

that software you linked to is not FREE as in speech.

Re:WHAT (2)

Wovel (964431) | about a year ago | (#43671579)

Since OSX and Linux already do this, maybe only Windows needed a driver.

Win modem (5, Insightful)

webnut77 (1326189) | about a year ago | (#43670645)

Yeah, that was a nightmare!

Re:Win modem (5, Funny)

KiloByte (825081) | about a year ago | (#43670705)

Here's [angband.pl] my dissertation on winmodems. Should apply well to windisks too, I guess.

Sweet! (1)

cultiv8 (1660093) | about a year ago | (#43671401)

Twice the productivity!

Re:Win modem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671725)

Here's [angband.pl] my dissertation on winmodems. Should apply well to windisks too, I guess.

oh man, that takes me back. Sportster externals were the way to go.

Re:Win modem (2)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#43671807)

I was fortunate enough to be able to avoid win-modems. I did almost get stuck with a win-printer, though. Since when does "optimized for Windows" mean "only works with Windows"?

Re:Win modem (4, Funny)

Mashiki (184564) | about a year ago | (#43670977)

Hey, it's right along the lines of a software raid controller that only works in Windows. Awesome...

Unclear whether this is a problem or not... (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43670695)

It isn't clear, exactly, from TFA what the drive will look like when you plug it in. Both components(the HDD and the SSD) apparently can function as SATA peripherals; but they are both behind some sort of bridge chip, type unspecified.

If the 'bridge chip' is just a reasonably generic SATA port multiplier, then an unsupported OS, or Windows without the driver, will just see two drives, the larger mechanical one and the smaller flash one. This would leave the way open for any OS with SATA and AHCI support to do whatever it prefers to get the best performance(on Linux, I assume that'd be at the filesystem level, with something like btrfs)

If the 'bridge chip' is some sort of proprietary oddity, and the vendor driver is required to even communicate with the flash portion(presumably at least some part of the drive will be visible as a normal SATA device, or booting without specific BIOS support would be a problem...), then that's pretty much worthless.

Re:Unclear whether this is a problem or not... (5, Interesting)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#43671013)

Unclear whether this is a problem or not...

IMO it's a problem either way. The Intel "Smart Response" stuff that they introduced as a chipset feature a year or two ago (you put a HDD and SSD in your computer and it will cache stuff on the SSD) works similar. A neat idea, but a non-starter for what I wanted. Why?

Even if it works fine in Windows and works fine in Linux, it may still not really work if you want to dual boot. If you want to be able to use the SSD cache in both operating systems, they have to be able to not step on each others toes. If you want to be able to read data from the other OS, it has to be able to understand the format the other is in. (Potentially this could be "doesn't have to do anything in particular" if you make it a write-through cache, but write-back caches might have more stuff. And you still need to understand the format to write if you have a write-through cache.)

Obviously not everyone needs dual booting, but not everyone needs Linux support either. It's a bit selfish to say that it's a problem if there is only support in Windows, but it's not a problem if there is support in both OSs but the support isn't compatible. :-)

Re:Unclear whether this is a problem or not... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671021)

Assuming there aren't any patents what's to stop windows and Linux from doing the same with two physically separate drives??? Sounds like a better approach to me. I really don't want my movies on my SSD, so having linux store them automatically on the HHD would be nice. Of courss, I already do it through folders anyway.

Re:Unclear whether this is a problem or not... (1)

MF4218 (1320441) | about a year ago | (#43671143)

This would leave the way open for any OS with SATA and AHCI support to do whatever it prefers to get the best performance

Like a Fusion drive on the Mac OS.

It is a huge problem (for free software) (5, Insightful)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | about a year ago | (#43671151)

Think secure boot. If the 'bridge chip' has a key, that only the trusted driver can supply, then with UEFI and "secure boot", they have just locked down the machine to windows only.

Re:It is a huge problem (for free software) (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671463)

Think secure boot. If the 'bridge chip' has a key, that only the trusted driver can supply, then with UEFI and "secure boot", they have just locked down the machine to windows only.

1. Why would they do that? I know a conspiracy theory is appealing where somehow Microsoft controls Western Digital but the logical reason behind this would be that they are targeting something very similar to the Fusion Drive on Macs (of course those fusion drive features don't work in Linux or Windows).

2. Why would they need SecureBoot for that anyway? We have trusted drivers already, the trusted driver sends the key to the hardware bridge, you don't need UEFI to do this at all.

It's stupid though (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about a year ago | (#43671153)

The nice thing about Seagate HHDDs or SSHDs or whatever the companies what to call them now is that they just work. You drop it in a system, it works like a normal drive but faster. The flash works like cache on a RAID controller or the like. It just speeds things up.

With this, there's mucking about. Even if you could use it as separate drives, why would you want to? If I want to to just some small SSD storage and larger magnetic, I can. In fact I do. In my laptop I have a SSD for OS and apps and an HDD (actually one of Seagate's hybrids) for media and samples. My desktop is the same but more and larger drives.

It just seems silly to me. An all hardware approach seems much better and clearly doesn't cost that much as Seagate's drives are not expensive.

Re:It's stupid though (4, Funny)

SuperAlgae (953330) | about a year ago | (#43671441)

Don't you see? WD has invented the idea of having an SSD and an HDD show up as separate devices! It's ingenious! Next they're going to move beyond computers and re-invent the classic Swiss army knife. Instead of having all the tools inconveniently stuck together, they'll have a bunch of separate tools in a box!

Re:Unclear whether this is a problem or not... (1)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | about a year ago | (#43671457)

I suspect it's the proprietary oddity, as way way WAY too many systems out in the wild don't work with SATA port multipliers.

Re:Unclear whether this is a problem or not... (1)

Wovel (964431) | about a year ago | (#43671571)

If that is the case then a Mac would be able to use it as a fusion drive.

Stop. Hammer time. (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#43670699)

The iSSD and mechanical drive connect to

I believe I speak for the majority here when I say.... D'ARGH! KILL IT WITH FIRE NOW! This is yet another pathetic attempt by WD to marry it's crappy line of mechanical drives to SSDs in order to stretch their relevance out a little bit longer and keep them from having to retool their assembly lines and such to produce SSDs exclusively. Weeeell, good for you guys. But as my father would say: "Shit or get off the pot." Either switch to SSDs, and eat the cost, or stick with mechanical drives because they're cheap. But don't waffle and try to do both; You're getting the worst of both worlds then.

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (1)

Subject-17 (2790647) | about a year ago | (#43670865)

If WD makes crappy mechanical drives, who makes good ones? (Cue some smart ass replying with "nobody")

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year ago | (#43671237)

incorrect trick question.

WD makes great drives, for specific purposes only. These drives are not them.

The WD red drives are acceptable. aside from that, not much for hard drives..

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (2)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | about a year ago | (#43671469)

Other than the "nobody" smart-ass reply, how about WD? There's nothing stopping them from releasing some good and some crappy ones. Their "good" ones aren't cheap though.

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (4, Insightful)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#43670877)

>You're getting the worst of both worlds then.

No. With SSD caching you get all the capacity of rotating disks with > 80% of the speed of SSDs.
That is not the worst of boths worlds. It is the best of one and most of the other.

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (5, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#43670909)

No. With SSD caching you get all the capacity of rotating disks with > 80% of the speed of SSDs.
That is not the worst of boths worlds. It is the best of one and most of the other.

No; You can achieve that with a separate SSD and a mechanical drive; That's what most people are doing now anyway.

By putting the two together, what you're basically getting is a mechanical drive with a massively large cache. And because you now have two drives married behind a single logical interface, you've decreased the life expectancy further -- if either fails, it's a boat anchor.

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (2)

Atzanteol (99067) | about a year ago | (#43670969)

Boat anchor? How large do you think these drives are?

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (4, Funny)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about a year ago | (#43671017)

Boat anchor? How large do you think these drives are?

Have you considered he might have a really, really small boat?

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#43670987)

Yes. The only thing that is different is that the SSD and drive is not separable.

I would not choose this product. I choose mirrored rotating disks and one SSD cache.

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (0)

Dahamma (304068) | about a year ago | (#43671067)

By putting the two together, what you're basically getting is a mechanical drive with a massively large cache. And because you now have two drives married behind a single logical interface, you've decreased the life expectancy further -- if either fails, it's a boat anchor.

That's not how "life expectancy" works. It all depends on the failure rate of the two parts. If the MTBF of one is significantly longer than the other the total MTBF doesn't really change.

It's chance of failure and multiplier effect (2)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#43671375)

It's probability because there is no set life just a chance of failure. For example, with tossing one coin you have a 50% chance of getting one head and with two coins you have a greater chance of getting at least one head. With two components the low risk of failure per year gives a very long time for each separately for the time when half are expected to fail. Combine them and the chance for either of them to fail is combined so the time when 50% of the complete systems are expected to have some sort of failure is reduced to a lower time than either of the parts.
That's what you get for saying "that's not how it works" without stopping to think about it :)

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#43671071)

No; You can achieve that with a separate SSD and a mechanical drive; That's what most people are doing now anyway.

I have a separate SSD and HDD, but I also don't think that you're being entirely fair to the hybrid drives. You can set up software (bcache) or hybrid (Intel Smart Response) caching, but near as I can tell that will greatly hamper dual booting [slashdot.org] . You can keep the file systems separate (as I'm doing), but now you have to worry about manual adjustment of what data is on what drive where an automatic solution may well do better and would certainly be less work.

I'm not sure how the hybrid drive performance compares, but the Smart Response benchmarks I've seen were reasonably decent. If the hybrid drives are somewhat similar and if dual booting or something like it is important to you, it very well could be that a hybrid drive with hardware support offers the best tradeoffs.

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43671073)

No; You can achieve that with a separate SSD and a mechanical drive.

I can't do that. My laptop only has one drive bay.

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (2)

chmod a+x mojo (965286) | about a year ago | (#43671181)

Then you don't want spinning platters in your laptop draining your battery, you want a full on SSD that just barely sips power with no speed loss.

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (2)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#43671229)

Then you don't want spinning platters in your laptop draining your battery, you want a full on SSD that just barely sips power with no speed loss.

What if you have need for a hefty amount of storage without paying through the nose? You can get a 1 TB hybrid laptop drive for much less than the cost of a full SSD that's a quarter of the size. Or a 500 GB hybrid for just a little bit more than a 128 GB SSD.

Obviously not everyone needs that space, but I certainly would if my main computer were a laptop.

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671721)

Traditional HDDs don't use that much more power than many SSDs. eg

Toshiba 750GB 2.5" HDD
Spin Up (Start) Power 4.5 Watts
Seek Power 1.85 Watts
Read/Write Power 1.5 Watts
Low Power Idle 0.55 Watts
Standby Power 0.18 Watts
Sleep Power 0.15 Watts

Kingston SSDNow V+200
Power consumption
0.565 W (TYP) idle / 1.795 W (TYP) read / 2.065 W (TYP) write

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43671471)

My Lenovo E530 (E for economy/edge) has two bays, so long as one is a caseless SSD. It also has a quad-core i7 and 2GB descrete graphics, and 16 GB system RAM. And was under $1000, though the Lenovo outlet has refurb and dented ones for sale for more than I paid for mine, but I got it about a year ago in an opening of the line sale. So either the outlet store really sucks, or they've gone up in price significantly since I bought mine.

Though I have to remove the 3G card to put in the drive, but I don't use the 3G and paid for it only because it was a requirement of the screen upgrade.

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#43671117)

I have to disagree with you here on a couple of points.

First, the SSD-HDD concept has proven itself, IF it's done right. When the Seagate Momentus XT was new, its write performance was better than many other SSDs it was compared to in benchmarks at the time, with read performace that comparable. (Of course, since then Seagate said they would stop making 7200 rpm drives, which means that isn't likely to happen again.)

I don't know whether the "two disks with a bridge" idea is "done right", though. I guess we'll see.

But the other thing is WD-bashing. I've had very good experience with WD. To the point that when I was managing systems, I bought only WD when I had a choice. I have NEVER had one fail on me. (Though I know of others who have.)

WD reliability and performance have been just great for me. Your mileage may vary.

Re:Stop. Hammer time. (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#43671407)

They had a few bad designs that gave them the reputation that tarnished the rest of their drives. I've seen a lot of dead Green 1.5TB WD drives and a few years back they had some 200GB IDE drives that ran very hot and caused a few people problems (I lost three drives in an array but slowly enough that I got everything since the last backup off in time - the failing disk cooked the two on either side). Recently I seem to have a lot of Seagates dying on me so it's not just WD.

the current intel rapid storage drivers (0)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year ago | (#43670709)

that uses features in the chipset is windows only, so should anyone be surprised that hardware or software these hybrid solutions are geared to the everyday PC user?

osx? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43670711)

Sounds like Apple's Fusion drive.

Perhaps WD is releasing this with Windows support and hoping people can upgrade to their drives in OSX?

Re:osx? (-1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about a year ago | (#43670901)

Fusion Drive is just Intel S.R.T with an apple brand on it.

Re:osx? (5, Informative)

Smurf (7981) | about a year ago | (#43671023)

I see that you don't really understand what Apple's Fusion Drive really is. In Intel's SRT the SSD drive acts like a cache for the HDD [anandtech.com] . I hope I don't need to explain what a disk cache [wikipedia.org] is and how it works. In the Fusion Drive [arstechnica.com] on the other hand both drives appear as a single logical volume with the space of both drives combined and the OS decides which files get stored on the SSD and which on the HDD. From the Ars Technica article I quoted:

In a caching solution, like Intel's, files live on the hard disk drive and are temporarily mirrored to the SSD cache as needed. In an enterprise auto-tiering situation, and with Fusion Drive, the data is actually moved from one tier to another, rather than only being temporarily cached there.

Those are two very different approaches.

Re:osx? (2)

spire3661 (1038968) | about a year ago | (#43671155)

Honestly i never looked too deep into it. I saw Fusion, saw what it did on the surface, on Intel hardware and assumed it was SRT. Thats what i get for assuming. thanks.

Re:osx? (2)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | about a year ago | (#43671487)

No, they're quite different. Fusion Drive gives you the capacity of both drives, doesn't have a 64GB SSD size limit but you are guaranteed to lose data if the SSD dies. Intel SRT in enhanced mode protects data against SSD failure but not HDD failure. Fusion Drive isn't a cache, it's a tier.

Winmodems? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43670717)

is this the 90s again?

That'll be a winner... (2)

mrsam (12205) | about a year ago | (#43670769)

... in all the big Fortune double-digits, that have their data centers overflowing with Linux servers.

The worst part of this, is that when WD goes bankrupt, as a result of this brilliant business strategy, there'll be even less competition in the HD market, which always means higher prices.

Re:That'll be a winner... (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43671789)

No the worst part will be bringing flaky driver issues to hard drives. What's to say the next version of Windows will even work with the thing. Hell, I can't even trust MFGs to put out drivers that actually work with Win7 for something as simple as a USB interface. I downgraded to Win7 from Win8 on new hardware and wound up having to use a Linux Live CD on that system because the open source WIFI and USB drivers worked out of the box (the same chipset was in a different piece of hardware that had an open source driver already). Put the files on the Win7 partition with Linux, rebooted, Win7 USB drivers installed, but the USB ports still don't work. Now, imagine that's a hard drive. I wouldn't have been able to use Linux to help make the damn thing work... I'd have just had to stick with the OS that came with the hardware: Windows8. What if the driver is discontinued by the time I want to install Windows Blue (or whatever)? Nothing doing.

Nope, less competition isn't the worst part. The worst part is opening the door for shitty drivers and planned obsolescence to prevent you from using your hardware, and this time it's your data -- The only thing you put in a computer that actually matters.

I don't care how much cheaper it is to offload the hardware's job into the software driver. If it doesn't have support for Linux, then I don't want it in my Windows either. It's like no one's heard of "Plan B" -- which is the only reason that "Plan A" got the go ahead in the first place.

I like WD drives (had good luck with 'em) but... (5, Interesting)

Chas (5144) | about a year ago | (#43670775)

As an end-user, I'm NOT going to put up with a solution like this.

Even if it somehow performs better than current hybrid drives.
Even though most of my work is done on a Windows platform.

Hybrid drives are already a big compromise for minute gains.
Tying it to an OS choice?

NO FUCKING THANKS WESTERN DIGITAL!

In a budget situation I'd rather just put up with a competitor's hybrid or a plain old mechanical disk.
In a performance situation I'd rather just spring the extra cash for a real SSD. Better returns and more flexible.

Re:I like WD drives (had good luck with 'em) but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671113)

Hybrid drives really are only good for laptops but SSD size is too small. I just use mount points which are even available under xp (i think) and later windows installs to map out the bigger files.

Re:I like WD drives (had good luck with 'em) but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671483)

Also, considering the choices MS has been making lately with windows, and the way they are treating OEM's it seems to be a very stupid choice for any OEM to hitch anything to windows. Putting you companies success in the hands of Balmer is a good way to destroy a company.

Wait, a hard drive with SSHD? (4, Funny)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#43670781)

WD has taken a different approach with its Black SSHD

They'll have a lot more explaining to do, once some hacker, cracks the SSH password, starts pwning WD disk drives, and they begin to spew forth spam... :)

Re:Wait, a hard drive with SSHD? (2)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about a year ago | (#43670855)

It's a feature. Once they hack it they start using it as cloud storage for their porn. Saves you the effort of finding and catalogueing the porn yourself. Just log in and browse around, every day will be an adventure!

RAM (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43670787)

And its worth reminding people, that Windows already caches stuff in RAM, if you had 24GB of ram then it would be a lot faster cached, and the only gain with these drives is on startup and then not by much (since Windows arranges the disk so the common items are close together ready for boot).

So WD simply remind everyone why hard disk makers are struggling to remain relevant.

Re:RAM (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43670933)

This part probably doesn't help WD as much as they would like(since they had to buy the SSD silicon from a different vendor, who presumably is eating a nontrivial percentage of the profit on the drive); but one of the reasons why Flash-based solid state storage is popular is that it is faster than mechanical; but a lot cheaper than RAM. Even assuming your system isn't socket-limited or 32-bit non PAE, 24GB of RAM(basic DDR3, no ECC or other fancy stuff) is ~$200. 24GB of SLC Flash, from Intel, is ~$120, and if you are willing to deal with MLC, $200 puts you in the 240GB bracket, even from reputable brands.

Undeniably, there are applications for which in-RAM performance is simply essential; but using RAM as HDD cache if you can use flash as HDD cache isn't going to save you any money(though the greater maturity of driver/OS support is certainly nice).

Re:RAM (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#43671141)

Any idea what made memory prices jump so high? Just a few months ago, I upgraded two of my computers to 16GB for $80 each.

24GB RAM is $60 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671301)

1. No, 24GB RAM is $60, not $200. I just bought 4GB sticks of DDR3 for 300 baht retail, = 6*$10 = $60.
2. RAM is a lot faster than flash, and if you're buying these for speed then you want RAM because its faster.
3. The RAM cache is there anyway, if you have the RAM the HD with flash is cached in RAM regardless and the flash cache adds nothing.
4. The RAM can be used for other things by the OS.

So it comes down to, do you have a boot time problem and does that boot time take a LONG time, yet somehow fits into a small 8GB-24GB of flash?!

" but using RAM as HDD cache if you can use flash as HDD cache isn't going to save you any money"
It *both* saves you money *and* is faster *and* renders the flash in the HDD largely redundant if you have a decent amount anyway.

So I have 8GB RAM, I can see from Task manager I'm using 800Mb of it, the rest is all file cache. If I'm only using 800MB data+program, then my programs are LESS than 800MB and the files fit easily into the 7GB cache.

So the only thing it speeds up is boot time, and then only by the read difference between Flash and HDD, once Windows has optimized the disk so the boot files are close together.

Re:24GB RAM is $60 (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#43671391)

No, 24GB RAM is $60, not $200. I just bought 4GB sticks of DDR3 for 300 baht retail, = 6*$10 = $60.

Where the heck did you find that?

Newegg's cheapest price for 2x4GB is $53. ...if you have the RAM the HD with flash is cached in RAM regardless and the flash cache adds nothing.

Not true.

1) The SSD cache will persist through reboots. That helps not just boot time but also stuff that you do for the first time after booting. I keep my Windows computer hibernated when not using it, and see a noticeable speed boost from SSD.

2) I'm not sure if the hardware hybrid drives do this, but at least Intel's Smart Response claims to be intelligent about what it caches. For instance, if you do a long sequential read from the HDD, it won't cache the whole read, just the start. In some sense this makes the cache seem larger. I'm not sure if OS buffer caches do this, but I kind of doubt it because they are made for a separate purpose.

3) You're ignoring writes.

Pantip Plaza (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671661)

me: ".if you have the RAM the HD with flash is cached in RAM regardless and the flash cache adds nothing"
you "not true"

If the file is in RAM, then the cache on the HD adds nothing. I already pointed out the boot scenario is the only difference there, you're defining reboots as somehow not boots!? Your suspend data is not frequent data and thus not in the cache anyway.

" For instance, if you do a long sequential read from the HDD, it won't cache the whole read"
It's a bit of a moot point, since the long read is going into *RAM* anyway, so there's enough ram for it, even if there isn't enough flash.

You're paying a lot at $26/4GB, but even so its still worthwhile, based on GGP comment "24GB of SLC Flash, from Intel, is ~$120", you pay an extra $30 for a faster cache that's more flexible. I assume you get it cheaper if buy more in bulk?

"You're ignoring writes."
Writes are done in the background anyway. They don't slow down the user.

Re:Pantip Plaza (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#43671777)

If the file is in RAM, then the cache on the HD adds nothing. I already pointed out the boot scenario is the only difference there, you're defining reboots as somehow not boots!? Your suspend data is not frequent data and thus not in the cache anyway.

I'm not talking about suspend data.

I'm talking about after the system boots, and I start Opera, or I start HL2. That data isn't going to be cached. It's not even going to be cached if it was in the buffer cache before shutting down.

(I use HL2 because it, and especially the episodes, benefit tremendously from being located on an SSD. The "loading" times are cut tremendously, which helps a lot with one of that series's big immersion breakers. (I am comparing HDD to full SSD -- not hybrid/cached -- but benchmarks for hybrid setups show a lot of the benefits.))

It's a bit of a moot point, since the long read is going into *RAM* anyway, so there's enough ram for it, even if there isn't enough flash.

First, that long read will take a lot longer to go from HDD -> RAM than from SSD -> RAM.

But mainly, you missed my point. If your working set (defined loosely) is more than RAM size, it won't all fit into RAM. If I cycle through a couple different data-heavy games then go back to the first one, that will no longer be in the buffer cache because it will have been flushed. It will, however, likely see a speed boost from part of it being in the SSD cache.

Writes are done in the background anyway. They don't slow down the user.

Lots of writes are synchronous, you know.

Heck, there's even a substantial difference on the Smart Response benchmarks (that's Intel's northbridge-based, hybrid-hardware/software SSD caching scheme) between using the SSD as a write-through and write-back cache.

Anyway, I'm not saying all workloads will benefit. But I've found that the SSD has helped, and many others (e.g. Linus) have said that going from a HDD to SSD is by far the most cost-effective upgrade for many people. Saying that it only helps boot times is just flat out wrong.

Re:RAM (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43671505)

Using the RAM as a RAMdisk, not cache works well. I would boot DOS 3.3 into a RAMdisk, and it was the fastest OS I've used. Running a 386 with 2MB RAM with DOS 3.3 would not let you use more than 1 MB as RAM, so use the rest as a RAMdrive, and put the OS on it.

I have 16 GB on my laptop, and rarely pass 8GB in use. Making an 8GB RAM drive and loading the OS into that partition would make a huge difference in system performance.

Re:RAM (1)

GioMac (862536) | about a year ago | (#43670941)

Not really only with startup only and windows doesn't arrange data effectively enough, nor linux does.

I've got 32 GB RAM on my desktop and I'm using green drives. It's terribly slow, always - when loading applications, when using virtualization etc. On both Linux and Windows. It's effective for some things (Read only and if it was read before), but not for everything.

For servers - it's even worse, some people bypass RAM and write data directly to the disk, reason - safety.

Re:RAM (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#43671255)

the only gain with these drives is on startup and then not by much

That's not quite fair. Assuming it's a write-through cache you could still see a significant write boost compared to just an SSD. And there's other data which would be beneficial to have fast access to but isn't in the OS buffer cache, for instance because you've recently turned the computer back on. For instance, I see substantially better load times in many games than I did with a HDD, even though I should have enough of a buffer cache. And while this isn't a fair comparison because I have a full SSD instead of hybrid, the benchmarks I've seen of other SSD caching solutions have looked reasonably good; from what I can tell, a lot of those improvements would translate over.

Flash is slow to write (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671811)

"Assuming it's a write-through cache you could still see a significant write boost compared to just an SSD."

Except flash is very slow to write, so slow that Android won't let you write to flash on the foreground thread. On Windows writes are done async the call returns before the write has completed and it doesn't slow you down as a result. Given the slow flash is to write that's a good thing.

" the benchmarks I've seen of other SSD caching solutions have looked reasonably good"

Point me to them, I've never seen anything real world other than a boot demo, and then they compare it with an unoptimized boot. The benchmarks I've seen treat the read times in isolation, but of course if its in RAM already, the read never happens, so the real world read time is zero and there's no much optimization possible on zero.

choice? (1)

pbjones (315127) | about a year ago | (#43670805)

only in black?

Re:choice? (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43671219)

Well, you can have any color you like, so long as it's black.

Why all the hate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43670821)

Seriously, if you don't want to use Windows, just don't buy this drive and buy yourself an SSD. No one is forcing you here.

It's effective. Where is flashcache, bcache? (1)

GioMac (862536) | about a year ago | (#43670845)

That's correct. Non-fw cache will be more effective.
We don't know (yet), how WD drives work - will we see one whole block device or maybe it will have two SATA ports with two separate drives. I'm not sure they will support access to SSD to the some encapsulated stream.

There are Linux solutions like bcache and flashcache that can deal with cache. So, maybe it's time to use it and include into kernel?

Re:It's effective. Where is flashcache, bcache? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671187)

There are FreeBSD and Solaris solutions like ZIL that have been integrated with the kernel for years.

Windows only? (3, Informative)

swillden (191260) | about a year ago | (#43670891)

Uh, okay, whatever.

Guess I won't be buying one. Best of luck to those that do.

If they're looking for names (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43670907)

they might call this the Western Digital 8.

tit for tat: I got God's operating system (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43670913)

You play dirty, I pull the God card.

God says...

5:5 Thus saith the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the
midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.

5:6 And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than the
nations, and my statutes more than the countries that are round about
her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes, they have not
walked in them.

5:7 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye multiplied more than
the nations that are round about you, and have not walked in my
statutes, neither have kept my judgments, neither have done according
to the judgments of the nations that are round about you; 5:8
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, am against thee,
and will execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of the
nations.

WD is finished (1)

Cherubim1 (2501030) | about a year ago | (#43670951)

WD just shot themselves in the foot .. many times over! People should boycott this company and their proprietary SSD technology.

Re:WD is finished (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671455)

WD just shot themselves in the foot .. many times over! People should boycott this company and their proprietary SSD technology.

Party at Seagate HQ in 3...2....1.......

Why bother? (2)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about a year ago | (#43670961)

At under $250 for a 256 Gig SSD, why would anyone buy a combination drive anymore? This would be like GM announcing that their next flagship green vehicle is powered by 150 horses.

Re:Why bother? (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#43671105)

At under $250 for a 256 Gig SSD, why would anyone buy a combination drive anymore?

Depending on what you do on your computer, space. For instance, I have well over 256 GB of data that would benefit substantially from SSD speeds. (For instance, games often see significantly decreased level loading times; particularly important with things like HL2 where the loads break the flow. My Steam directory alone is 132 GB.)

I don't churn through all of it regularly, but rather it'll be more like I use 20 GB for a few weeks, then switch to another 20 GB for another few weeks. This is the kind of usage that I suspect might actually benefit quite a bit from automatic caching.

I get good performance by manually copying around whatever game it is that I want to play at the moment, but deciding data should live on the HDD and what should be on the SSD is a bit of annoying work and I'm almost certainly not making the best decisions.

Re:Why bother? (1)

tibman (623933) | about a year ago | (#43671245)

I use SteamMover to copy over games that have loading problems to the SSD. http://www.traynier.com/software/steammover [traynier.com]
It's "ancient" now but still works great : )

Re:Why bother? (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#43671341)

I remember checking it out and deciding it didn't do what I wanted. Looking at the page, I think it was the last con: "So unfortunately it will not help with the massive .gcf files in the steamapps folder itself (mostly Valve games such as Counter-Strike and the Half-Life series)."

So I've pretty much just done it manually. (If I were smart I'd use steammover for the things it works for and do other things manually, but I'm not. :-))

Re:Why bother? (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#43671347)

Thanks for the recommendation though, and it's definitely relevant.

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671197)

Laptops usually only take have single harddrive bay only the larger 17+ take two from my experience. Also, not many windows users are comfortable setting up a two drive system. On a side note, I had come into some money and came close to buying an mx18 refurbished off ebay. But the two Crucial M500 960GB(raid0, baby), I wanted to buy where already sold out. So, I thought logically after a bit of soul searching and decided pay off student loans instead.

Re:Why bother? (1)

loosescrews (1916996) | about a year ago | (#43671281)

Many new laptops support a mSATA drive. Even my current-gen 12.5" Thinkpad supports one in addition to a normal 2.5" drive. While these are not usually extremely high performance or capacity, you can get a ~250GB model that operates at around SATA 3gbps speeds without looking too hard. In any case, a mSATA SSD plus a normal hard drive will likely be better for most users.

Re:Why bother? (1)

Falkentyne (760418) | about a year ago | (#43671779)

You can also buy a caddy that fits in the optical bay if it takes a standard sata optical drive. My laptop was a barebones that I bought around 2008/2009 and moved components to. I dropped it too many times and killed the optical drive and never replaced it.. thinking of adding a second drive. Newegg sells the caddy/adapter for $20.

Might not be the best solution but you can have a 1TB mechanical drive and a smaller SSD to speed things up.

Oh boy Winmodems (1)

istartedi (132515) | about a year ago | (#43671115)

Wonderful idea. I can't wait to run right out and buy that. /sarcasm

Suprise suprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671121)

WD cheaping out and calling it a 'feature'.

I'll pass.. And stick with real ssd drives. they're cheap enough now for everything but bulk storage of shit i'll hardly ever touch.

Do Not Want (2)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about a year ago | (#43671183)

Do it in OS-agnostic firmware, you lazy shits.

Re:Do Not Want (3, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#43671191)

It's not "lazy shits," it's "bean counters" that say software is cheaper than hardware always.

It's also the Intel-Microsoft cartel trying an end run around anti-trust laws to lock out competitive operating systems.

Will the world implode? (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about a year ago | (#43671223)

If I run sshd on my sshd? What if I have a virtual machine that runs sshd on a virtual sshd on a computer with an sshd that also runs sshd?

Friends don't let friends use hybrids (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671307)

Any time someone mentions the word "hybrid" I immediately think "hack." Hybrid solutions exist between an ideal approach and current technology, with the disadvantages of both and not enough benefits from either. They primarily exist so that early adopters can say they own something based on emerging technology "x" without spending money "y" required to do it right.

I'm sure this will offend someone, but the same applies to hybrid models offered by major car manufacturers. Ideal technologies are all-electric, hydrogen fuel cell, liquid gas, nuclear, etc. but they are not affordable, safe, reliable, or efficient; therefore hybrids exist for the masses. Given a few years, the cost of ideal engine technologies will drop and current hybrid owners will find themselves left with replacement battery cost (offset by fuel cost savings).

The same is true for drive technology - incorporate flash memory technologies *where appropriate* today, take advantage of modern mechanical hard drives with wicked low latency today, or simply wait until market forces drive down the cost. Hybrid drives are just not worth it.

Now if only we could pre-populate the buffer cache (1)

Marrow (195242) | about a year ago | (#43671335)

Like make the OS learn what stuff we usually read from the drive, and keep that stuff handy. That would be so cool!

No one ever got fired for buying IBM.... (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about a year ago | (#43671445)

Maybe that phrase needs to be updated a bit. In more ways than one.

This is all a bunch of stupid shit (2)

SpaceManFlip (2720507) | about a year ago | (#43671467)

This is stupid shit for people who don't want to learn how to control their own computers.

In my computer, I have a Crucial M4 SSD for the boot drive and the more speed fasterness "crucial" apps. Then I have a WD Black terabyte drive for all the shit that doesn't need to be maximum possible speed.

Sometimes, I change my mind what needs to be faster than what is not at the forefront of my mission anymore. That's when I move my files around manually. Mind you, these are usually 8 - 20 GB of files or whatnot. This type of operation I do not want an un-brained background process to be performing at random times. If it picked the wrong time, I might drop FPS in an online match that was worth so many imaginary dollars to nobody at that precise moment...

History will repeat itself. (2)

Annorax (242484) | about a year ago | (#43671485)

Remember those great Intel software-based modems back in 1993 that Intel had for Windows 3.1 that weren't supported by any operating system afterwards?

Remember how Intel sold that line of business and left us all hanging? Yeah.

Software based hardware like this is destined to be a one-trick pony. Use it in one system, and then it's stuck on that operating system for the duration. You'll be left in the lurch when the next version of you OS is released.

Go ahead and line-up to get screwed by WD and Intel. I'll skip this round of fleecing.

How much space you need... (1)

gspec (2710477) | about a year ago | (#43671495)

in your Ultrabook? Is there a research/poll out there that shows people buying Ultrabook and they want 500GB to 1TB of storage? Unless you have a lot of videos, I think 256GB is sufficient. Are there many people carry around their movies library?

Re:How much space you need... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671595)

500GB on my ASUS UX32VD with 24GB SSD ExpressCache is not sufficient. If I could, I would buy 4TB 2.5" 7mm HDD or SSD. I travel around the world and make timelapse movies, and have to carry two external HDDs with me to store all the imagery (2.5TB), and even that runs out pretty quickly. Conversely, my MacBook Pro Retina has only 256GB Flash storage, which is only sufficient for development.

Meh (3, Insightful)

WedgeTalon (823522) | about a year ago | (#43671547)

With how much straight SSD prices have dropped over the past few years, I don't even really see much need for a hybrid drive. In 2011 I bought a 60gb ssd for $95 ($1.58/gb). Today, I can buy a better performing 500gb ssd for $350 ($0.7/gb).

nice article (1)

Biolomans (2918375) | about a year ago | (#43671553)

Wow.. thanks FYI.

mod Do3n (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43671619)

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