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Seagate Announces First Hybrid Hard Drive

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the closer-to-instant-gratification dept.

243

writertype writes "Today, Seagate announced about a dozen new products, including its first hybrid laptop hard drive that includes a 256-Mbyte flash chip to save power and speed up the time a notebook recovers from hibernation. Interestingly, the new Momentus 5400 PSD has also exceeded earlier estimates of hybrid hard-drive performance, which said that such drives would add an extra hour to the typical battery life of a notebook PC."

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Tax deduction? (4, Funny)

Alex P Keaton in da (882660) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488682)

Will these qualify me for a tax deduction?

Re:Tax deduction? (1)

Iguru42 (530641) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488695)

Only if you are rich enough not to need one.

Re:Tax deduction? (1)

FuturePastNow (836765) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488700)

I'm looking forward to the first hydrogen hard drive.

Re:Tax deduction? (1)

eln (21727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488715)

Hydrogen is pie in the sky. The future of hard drives is switchgrass.

Re:Tax deduction? (1)

coaxeus (911103) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488719)

I'm waiting until they come with a flux capacitor tbh.

Re:Tax deduction? (2, Funny)

the jalapeno (876954) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488725)

Now I can park the heads for free!

Re:Tax deduction? (2, Funny)

fm6 (162816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488751)

And I thought the first lame joke would be about car pool lanes. Terribly Californiacentric of me.

OT: Hybrid Tax credit not deduction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15489205)

Don't be confused about the 2006 US tax benefit for buying a hybrid vehicle. It's a tax credit, not a tax deduction, which means it's subtracted from the tax you owe the government, not the amount of income you made. It's tax(income())-credit instead of tax(income()-deduction).

http://www.cnn.com/2005/AUTOS/tipsandadvice/12/21/ hybrid_tax_credits/index.html [cnn.com]

Yes, but how many LOC? (5, Funny)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488710)

> Seagate's pushbutton drive is capable of storing all of the following, combined: a 25-DVD movie collection, 15,000-song music collection, 15,00-photo image library, 50-hours worth of video, and 50 computer games, with 300GB left over

Bah, these measurements tell me nothing.
How many Libraries Of Congress can I store on this thing?! That's what I need to know!

Re:Yes, but how many LOC? (1, Redundant)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488759)

How many Libraries Of Congress can I store on this thing?! That's what I need to know!

With lossy compression one LOC per bit of available storage.

KFG

Re:Yes, but how many LOC? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488978)

You can do that with lossless compression too, as long as you store the dictionary file (i.e. one copy of the LoC) somewhere else.

Re:Yes, but how many LOC? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15489007)

Ah!
I see you are a LZip user! Good for you!
Too bad you can no longer find it at sourceforge!

Re:Yes, but how many LOC? (1)

poogl3 (980589) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488771)

I agree with you in that I am tired of seeing these things as units of measurement. Would it be unreasonable to advertise just the capacity in GB (or GiB for those linux-minded folks)?

Re:Yes, but how many LOC? (4, Interesting)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488867)

Seriously. 15,000 songs in midi format, 15,000 50x50 photos, 50 hours of low-bitrate video, and 50 text adventures don't take up much space at all.

I always wonder how they're counting the "DVD movies"...Raw and untranscoded? Transcoded to a 700MB avi? A direct copy of the DVD to your hard drive?

Re:Yes, but how many LOC? (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489172)

Likely, it's the legal correspondance regarding said DVDs with Warner Bros., FOX, et al and their lawyers that fill up the rest of the available space.

Mbytes? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15488713)

Who the hell says 'Mbytes'? How about Megabs?

Re:Mbytes? (3, Funny)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488748)

> How about Megabs?

Are those 6 minute MegaAbs?

Re:Mbytes? (5, Funny)

OneoFamillion (968420) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488895)

> Are those 6 minute MegaAbs?

No, not six minutes, SEVEN! No one could get a good workout in just six minutes, duh!

Hmm... MegaBS = 1000^2 people bullshitted? Could come in handy with all these RIAA topics.

Will it work? (4, Interesting)

Umbral Blot (737704) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488716)

Hibernation works by writing the contents of the RAM to the hard drive, so this would only work if you had = 256 MB RAM. I don't think too many new systems meet that requirement, and even less will after Vista comes out. Similarly if you want to save time on boot-up you would need to store all the necessary system files in that space, and few modern operating systems can cram themselves into that space.

Re:Will it work? (4, Informative)

ThisNukes4u (752508) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488768)

But if you have 512mb of RAM, and even if only half of that is in the flash memory after hibernation, you're still saving ~ half the ammount of data that would otherwise have to be written and read from the disk, which is more likely than not a very substantial speedup and power savings versus no flash memory at all.

Re:Will it work? (5, Interesting)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488873)

When you hibernate, much of the stuff in memory can be dumped to the swap partition rather than to the "hibernate file". This means that on resume it can be swapped back in at a later time when it's actually needed rather than swapping it all in at once. So it's very likley that all the stuff that actually needs to be loaded immediately at resume time can fit into the flash memory.

What I want to know is what's the point in integrating the flash into the hard drive rather than just having it as an independent device that can be used how the software sees fit?

Re:Will it work? (1)

Umbral Blot (737704) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488951)

But I, and soon Vista users, have 1GB of RAM, and I doubt that I am using 256 of it (I usually have a lot of apps open when I hibernate, as this is the point of hibernation, that you don't have to stop what you are doing when you want to turn off the computer).

Re:Will it work? (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489106)

But if you have 512mb of RAM,
you can store a little more than half a maybe.

Re:Will it work? (1)

dorbabil (969458) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488784)

There's no reason why just the core stuff the operating system needs to function couldn't be loaded into the flash portion, and the rest could overflow onto the HDD proper. I suppose that might require some changes to the OS.

On the other hand, open up task manager some time when you're about to go into hibernation. I think it's pretty unlikely that you've got more than a few hundred MB used when you're idling. I suppose if the whole reason why you're hibernating is so you don't have to reopen all of your web browsers and excel spreadsheets and visual studio IDEs, then you might be using a bit more. But I thought most people just used hibernation to shorten shutdown and start up times.

Re:Will it work? (1)

ryanov (193048) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488944)

Part of the startup and shutdown time though is logging in and starting up all of your stuff. It's convenient not to have to do so because of hibernation (I know that I've been missing it since I switched to Linux -- only have just been tackling that now).

Re:Will it work? (3, Informative)

soleblaze (628864) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489029)

What distro are you using? Hibernation works pretty much out of the box in Ubuntu Dapper (if it will work at all) and I believe it's also the case for FC5

Re:Will it work? (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488797)

If the drive logic caches the most recent 256MB to flash, then that's 256MB that won't have to be read off the magnetic media. On a 768MB system, that's a third of the load time.

drives are faster, too (4, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488940)

Hibernation works by writing the contents of the RAM to the hard drive, so this would only work if you had = 256 MB RAM. I don't think too many new systems meet that requirement, and even less will after Vista comes out

Not to mention your average notebook hard drive these days is fully capable of pushing 20+MB/sec for the linear read a "resume" requires, unless the hibernation file is fragmented. Even fairly expensive media like Sandisk Compact Flash "Extreme III" cards for digital cameras can't hit that, and one of those (1GB) costs about the same as a 100GB hard drive. Silly.

My Macbook by default hibernates, but I found a setting to flip that off so that it "sleeps" like it should (involve the 'defaults' command, I forget exactly.) Now it takes about 2 seconds to 'wake up'. Ironically enough, hibernation takes longer than it takes to boot (about 25-30 seconds) and the scale has probably been tipped even further in favor of "booting" with another GB of ram I just added; by my rough calculation it'd take well over a minute if most memory was in use at time of hybernation (maybe the OS clears out all disk cache before doing it- you'd hope so.)

Hibernation is for when your battery is pretty much dead and the laptop wakes up to hibernate before it looses the contents of RAM due to battery failure...and can people REALLY not wait the time it takes to boot or wake up from hibernation and copy the data back into RAM? Yeesh.

This seems like an attempt to save themselves in a market they're just not competitive in. From all accounts I've seen (and personal experience), Seagate's ATA-drive reliability is in the trashcan these days; the 7200.8 was a fiasco, and the 7200.9 doesn't seem much better. IBM sold off their drive business (which was a market leader in almost all segments) after the Deskstar/Deathstar fiasco, but Hitachi seems to be doing fabulously. I had a 7200.9 300GB drive that died within 12 hours of operation. It's been RMA'd, and the replacement will be sold on Craigslist or similar. In the meantime, a shiny new, cheaper, cooler-running, quieter Samsung Spinpoint is sitting in its place.

I think Seagate has seen the writing on the wall- hence the merger with Maxtor. I would imagine you'll see them merge Seagate/Maxtor technology in their ATA line and sell exclusively under Maxtor, and Seagate will go back to being a mostly SCSI brand, as their reputation there seems intact.

Re:Will it work? (1)

HTL2001 (836298) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488971)

Exactly what I thought when I saw this. I think it might be better to have something like hybrid RAM if its just for doing hibernation, that way when you upgrade it still works. Hell, you can even save the whole state of your RAM from time to time if you want, to help recover from crashes.

It sounds like this would be very good though (as long as the size is enough to hibernate) so that when battery runs realy low the system has no chance of failing before the hibernation save is complete.

Re:Will it work? (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488981)

I don't know how they implemented this hybrid drive, and I don't know how much integration with the OS it does.

But I can say that if you did integrate with the OS, then you wouldn't necessarily need to cram all the system files into that space; you'd only need to cram all the system file pages that your system uses to boot. I have no idea how large this set is, except that it is bounded on the upper end by the total file size you thought would have to go in, but my intuition is that it's a lot smaller. (Windows "must" have IDE support in its system files to boot, but you wouldn't need the pages containing that code for a SCSI system.) I wouldn't be surprised either way that 256MB was sufficient.

In fact booting should already work this way in terms of what is actually read off of the disk (libraries are typically "mapped" and paged in, rather than being "loaded", for just this reason), so it's not even necessarily a lot of extra code, it's just that the hard drive would need to work with the system.

However, thinking about it this way points out a problem with the marketting spiel. The globally optimal behavior will be to treat it exactly as I highlight above; as basically another layer of swap between "in memory" and "on the physical hard disk", perhaps with a healthy dollop of space reserved for write-behind caching to catch the case where you save a file and don't want to spin up the harddrive for it. However, in that case, you'll want to use existing swap selection algorithms, which will eventually (and correctly!) flush the OS bits that aren't in continuous use out of the swap area. If you want to maintain those bits on purpose, you can special-case them in, but at the cost that you'll degrade the value of the flash memory whenever you aren't booting.

If we were talking 5GB of flash, I might be willing to make that trade, but at 256MB, I doubt I'd want to throw it away for that. Booting up may be annoying but it is still something you do fairly rarely.

Well, the more I think about it, the more interesting possibilities arise, but I gotta post this sometime. Anyhow, the upshot is that you definitely do not necessarily need to all of the files the OS uses to boot, just the bits it actually uses.

Re:Will it work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15489000)

Well, I don't know anything about how windows' kernel works, but I wouldn't implement hibernation by dumping ram to the harddrive. I would implement hibernate by dumping DATA pages to the harddrive. All program code (ie pages marked read only) can be reloaded from disk -- no sense writing it.

Does window even implement pages like this? I'm pretty sure Linux and OSX do, but I wouldn't be surprised if windows did something different (ie stupid).

Re:Will it work? (1)

ltwally (313043) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489095)

"Similarly if you want to save time on boot-up you would need to store all the necessary system files in that space, and few modern operating systems can cram themselves into that space."
Not true. Flash memory is faster than hard drives (both in "seek times" and in raw transfer speed), so this would allow the core operating system files to be transfered quicker. As well, hard drives typically take a few seconds to "spin up" before being available to load data off of -- so this could also have the added benefit of being able to allow the OS to start booting while the hard drive is still spinning up.

Further, the 256mb model is only the beginning. This is the 1st generation product. In the future, we'll be able to purchase hard drives with 4+ gb of solid-state memory on-board, which will allow you to store pretty much all of your "core" OS files and such on it. Not even Windows Vista is going to be so large that the actually running OS couldn't fit on that.

Re:Will it work? (1)

brarrr (99867) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489135)

I don't see why computers should write the RAM to swap/hd. Why not simply keep the ram powered and the data retained, but turn off all other system and sub-system components? Is there a technical limitation to doing this? I'm sure there is a break point where the time spent writing to disk uses less battery than powering the ram, but couldn't there then be two types of sleep?

Re:Will it work? (1)

ltwally (313043) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489144)

"Hibernation works by writing the contents of the RAM to the hard drive, so this would only work if you had = 256 MB RAM. "
True, 256mb isn't enough to hibernate off of... however, what if the hibernation method were revised a little? If the OS were to clean out it memory caches (modern OS's cache just about everything -- disk, network, applications, etc.) and then only use as much hibernation space as is actually being used in memory? My workstation has 2 gigs of memory, but rarely am I actively using more than 512mb... so, theoretically, if hibernation mode were optimised for this technology, we could actually use this flash memory for hibernating.

Just an idea. Comes with its own advantages and drawbacks, like most things in life.

Re:Will it work? (5, Insightful)

LnxAddct (679316) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489150)

That is kind of like saying L2 cache is pointless because you can't fit 4 gigs of memory into it. Used wisely, this 256MB could be very useful.
Regards,
Steve

too small (1)

Blissett Luther (977272) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488721)

Only 256 MB? It's too small for a memory dump even on a notebook. I guess it's not "upgradable" so what's the point?

Any benefit to existing laptops? (4, Interesting)

WoTG (610710) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488730)

The PR blurb is a little light on the details. Does anyone know if there will be speed benefits (or, IMHO, less likely power benefits) for existing laptops? I.e. should I look forward to giving my laptop a bit of a boost with one of these drives? I know that Vista is supposed to have a lot of code to really benefit from hybrid drives... but I imagine that at least some benefits might be available to XP or Linux.

Does anyone smarter than me know more about these drives?

Why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15488741)

What advantages does this have over using a separate flash drive? Can it tell when the OS is writing to the disk in order to hibernate? Will the flash last as long as the magnetic part of the drive? Longer?

I don't see the point of combining these two available technologies, but I'm still very curious.

What about maximum read/writes for flash? (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488750)

don't some flash memories have limited read/writes far below platter hard drives? something like in the range of a couple thousand I thought... does this mean your hard drive will die even quicker, or will they make these drives eventually have removable and replacable flash cards, such as SD or something?

Re:What about maximum read/writes for flash? (4, Informative)

flooey (695860) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488806)

don't some flash memories have limited read/writes far below platter hard drives? something like in the range of a couple thousand I thought... does this mean your hard drive will die even quicker, or will they make these drives eventually have removable and replacable flash cards, such as SD or something?

It's unlimited reads, but limited writes, so assuming you're using it to store OS code, the limited writes probably won't be a major problem. The limitation is usually in the low millions as well.

Re:What about maximum read/writes for flash? (1)

epiphani (254981) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489006)

assuming you're using it to store OS code

Thats exactly what I want to do with it. In fact, thats all I want the system to do AT ALL. Hybrid drives are nice and all, but why isnt there one damn SATA/EIDE/ATA/whatever 4GB+ flash-only drive?

This would be invaluble to us in a server environment. All our storage is remote already, for gods' sake just give me a puny little solid-state drive that will rarely fail. Drives are the biggest thing we loose. It would drop costs for us all over the place.

I'd even use a bigger one at home. A pair of 6GB flash chips would be plenty for me and my desktop. I'll put all my storage on one big machine, and hide it in the basement.

Why isnt anyone selling this?

Re:What about maximum read/writes for flash? (1)

scrod (136965) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489114)


Why isnt anyone selling this?

They [pcengines.ch] are. [newegg.com]

Re:What about maximum read/writes for flash? (1)

bishiraver (707931) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488828)

Most commercially available flash memory has a limitation of about 1 million rewrites. A better solution to this, rather than putting the flash memory in the hard drive: Put a flash card, removable and upgradable similar to how RAM is on a laptop, and mount it as your Suspend To Disk partition. Except, well, that doesn't work well on windows, I don't think... Then again, I've never used Windows on a laptop. Something else that would benefit from Flash rather than hard drive, is virtual memory.... reduce seek time, allow read from flash at the same time as read from hard drive, etc. Would significantly improve the performance of virtual memory.

Re:What about maximum read/writes for flash? (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488853)

Provided that one could get a flash drive to show up as a regular IDE drive in BIOS, could one not mount /root or /lib/modules/ there to greatly speed up boot times without the hassle of making a bootable USB flash stick?

Re:What about maximum read/writes for flash? (3, Informative)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488954)

Considering that an adapter exists to connect CompactFlash media to an IDE interface cable, I'd say that you can get a flash drive to show up as a regular IDE drive. There are even existing products that do the same thing prepackaged as IDE devices. To save you some time, here is a link to the Google search: Keywords: Non-Volatile Solid State IDE Drive [google.com]

Re:What about maximum read/writes for flash? (1)

creepynut (933825) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489014)

That's not an issue with the BIOS not recognizing the Flash drive, that's an issue with the BIOS seeing it as a USB device, rather than a regular IDE or SATA device.

Some BIOS's are more than cabable of booting from a USB device, so who's saying you couldn't do this already?

Re:What about maximum read/writes for flash? (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488994)

I would use this space as a write cache. When the hard drive is spun down, you write the data to the flash instead of to the disk. When the flash is full, you spin up the drive, do a 256MB write, and spin it down again. Operating systems tend to be quite good at read caching, but spinning up the drive for small writes really hurts battery life a lot.

Re:What about maximum read/writes for flash? (3, Informative)

cyngus (753668) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488921)

Its true that there are a limited number of writes, but its also not necessarily a fatal probelm. As bits in the flash memory fail, you can mark them as unavailable. This will shrink your solid state cache over time, but it will allow you to keep working until the physical disk fails. Very graceful degredation.

Re:What about maximum read/writes for flash? (1)

LnxAddct (679316) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489165)

No, for years now flash memory from every major vendor has been certified with a *minium* of one million writes, which is more than competitive with your standard harddrive.
Regards,
Stev

Old objects of lust (5, Funny)

also-rr (980579) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488757)

This brings back a memory of a very, very, very long time ago when I was fortunate enough to get to touch a computer that had its root filesystem on a 250mb solid state disk, so that it only had to touch the much slower mechanical drives infrequently. For it's day the thing was a monster with speed that made my own systems seem inadequate in every way. So what did we do with all of that raw, untamed power? Played nethack.

Re:Old objects of lust (1)

radish (98371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488856)

Sounds like my PDA....

lifetime of flash? (2, Insightful)

Chirs (87576) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488758)


I'm a bit worried about how long that flash memory is going to last. It's got a limited number of write cycles, and presumably everything going to the drive goes through the flash cache.

Re:lifetime of flash? (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488945)

"presumably everything going to the drive goes through the flash cache."

Doubtful, given the wear-and-tear issue you point out.

I rather think the flash cache is to store the RAM data when the machine goes into hibernation, and to load back in quickly when the machine comes out of hibernation. Without flash, you would have to wait for the hard drive to spin up before it can retrieve the RAM store.

Re:lifetime of flash? (4, Informative)

fredistheking (464407) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488959)

With defect management it shouldn't matter. There is no way the average number of writes per sector is going to get anywhere near the limit. If a particular sector is getting close, simply switch its address with one that isn't used very often.

Since Seagate is already defect managing the disk with their firmware, I don't see it being a big challange to have it defect manage the flash as well.

Want some cheese? (1)

Inoshiro (71693) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489087)

Worry away, but I don't think you're going to lose any precious data any time soon. I can give you two reasons why:

1) "When compared to a hard disk drive, a further limitation is the fact that flash memory has a finite number of erase-write cycles (most commercially available flash products are guaranteed to withstand 1 million programming cycles)" (Flash memory limitations [wikipedia.org] ).

2) 4 years of 24/7 operations is 35,040 hours of use. That's about 28.5 writes/hour, or a write every other minute for 4 years. Chances are you'll upgrade before 4 years.

And, let's face it, people making HDs aren't stupid. If they detect NAND failure, they will write through to the HD itself and disable that part :p

Re:lifetime of flash? (1)

athakur999 (44340) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489093)

The write speed of the fastest flash cards isn't that much different from a good hard drive. It doesn't make too much sense to use it as a cache for this purpose. However, since I can't RTFA I don't know if they're using a different type of flash memory than what is common used on flash memory cards.

Re:lifetime of flash? (1)

archen (447353) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489101)

Well assuming Seagate isn't stupid, they would probably put more robust flash into the drive, so I'd assume about 100,000 writes. Assuming you did a hybernation every 10 minutes all day, it would last about 694 days. That's pretty extreme and still lasting nearly two years. With average use I'd say it wouldn't even be a factor for most people.

Re:lifetime of flash? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489142)

So you thought of it, but you don't think that people who make hard drives for a living are going to think of it? Really?

It would seem much more likely that the drive looks for files that are read often and stores them in the flash.

software side (1)

Fanro (130986) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488764)

This seems to be something that could be done just as well on the software side by combining a harddrive and a flash card reader.

Are there drivers that can do this?

Re:software side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15488845)

Flash cards are slower than most hard drives. This memory is much more similar to RAM.

Re:software side (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15488907)

I don't know of any that will work on existing system; however, Windows Vista is supported to allow this with thumbdrives.

Call me a cretin, but... (2, Interesting)

one-eye-johnson (911152) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488765)

What's the difference between a 'hybrid' drive and a drive with a really big cache?

Re:Call me a cretin, but... (1)

XMyth (266414) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488804)

Cretin. :)

The flash on hybrid hard drives is used to store data (say a copy of system RAM when hibernating) after the machine is off...think solid state storage like a USB drive, not solid state like system RAM.

Re:Call me a cretin, but... (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488820)

What's the difference between a 'hybrid' drive and a drive with a really big cache?

The article highlights faster resume times from hibernation. In that case the power has been off, which would empty the cache.

Re:Call me a cretin, but... (2, Informative)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488824)

What's the difference between a 'hybrid' drive and a drive with a really big cache?

Cache is volatile, flash memory in a hybrid drive isn't. Thus a hybrid drive could save time when you boot, while a large cache won't.

Re:Call me a cretin, but... (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488910)

Hybrid drives have a petrol engine that starts up whenever you need to actually use them, and draw power the rest of the time. :)

Death of Harddrives? (4, Interesting)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488782)

The Momentus 5400 PSD is Seagate's first hybrid hard drive, incorporating 256 Mbytes of flash memory that serves as a fast cache for booting and saving data. When booting the PC, the operating system loads data from the flash memory first, speeding bootup times and negating the need to quickly spin up the drive, a power-consuming process.

Given the rapid pace of development of flash memory, how long until hard drives are gone altogether? It would seem the breakout of flash memory in the marketplace is bringing us one step closer to relaible instant-on systems, with none of the tedious waiting for drives to spin up.

Re:Death of Harddrives? (4, Insightful)

flooey (695860) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488900)

Given the rapid pace of development of flash memory, how long until hard drives are gone altogether? It would seem the breakout of flash memory in the marketplace is bringing us one step closer to relaible instant-on systems, with none of the tedious waiting for drives to spin up.

I'd imagine that hard drives will go away only once they find something akin to flash that isn't limited in the number of writes. Having a limit of a million writes is completely reasonable for iPods, cameras, and other devices where you do infrequent large writes. Having /tmp, home directories, or so forth on flash memory could burn it out pretty fast, though.

Having a flash device for the OS and programs and a hard drive for general purpose storage, though, that I could see being feasible in not too long.

Re:Death of Harddrives? (5, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489153)

Some flash is up to about 3 million writes already. At 10 million writes the problem is effectively solved, they'll be able to warranty their flash for continuous writes for about 5 years at that point, matching the warranty on your hard drive.

The write limit is not going to be the barrier to replacing hard drives for nearly as long as price and size are going to be.

Probably a good while yet (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488917)

Flash is getting better at an amazing rate but it's got a looooong way to go to catch HDs. You need more capacity, much less cost, and also higher speeds. While flash has faster random access, it can't hit the sustained transfer rates of HDs, at least not the normal flash RAM you find for sale everywhere.

I imagine the hybrid HDs will be the first step. Try and get the best of both worlds. A small flash store for frequently accessed thigns to get lightning fast random access, a large magnetic disk so you don't compramise on storage. Windows Vista is apparantly going to be pushing this rather hard. MS notes support for it as one of the features, and even if you lack a hybrid HD, you can get something similar by giving it a USB flash drive and instructiong Vista to use it as an app cache. Parts of programs are then put on the flash to speed load times.

I think that's the kind of thing we'l see for a number of years here until flash gets cheaper.

How long...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15489041)

Very long.

Re:Death of Harddrives? (1)

vijayiyer (728590) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489057)

Hard drives aren't going away soon, the same way that tapes aren't. Instant on isn't necessary for a lot of people, a lot of people never boot or shutdown their machines. Flash will instead take a certain segment of the hard drive market, where portability and power draw are more important than capacity.

Re:Death of Harddrives? (1)

geobeck (924637) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489158)

...relaible instant-on systems, with none of the tedious waiting for drives to spin up.

Good question, but not quite the right one. Most of the time you wait for your computer isn't the hard drive spinning up, but the OS transferring information from the hard drive to RAM (and to other parts of the hard drive). Flash RAM will do this faster because it won't have to wait for the HD's heads to access a particular part of the spinning drive, but it will still take time.

We'll never have the same instant-on response that we had with our Commodore 64's!

I'm not surprised (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15488796)

I've been playing with Damn Small Linux using a 633 MHz pentium motherboard (attic-ware) with a 12 volt power supply and a 256 MB flash card. It uses an average of 1.5 amps. (monitor not included) When my ancient Thinkpad is accessing the hard drive, it draws about 4 amps. Some of the current is driving the LCD but my guess is that when the hard drive is being used, it soaks up about half the power. If you could avoid using the hard drive, you could just about double your battery life compared to what you would get if you were using it all the time.

Having said the above, it occurs to me that you could use some of the techniques on a regular laptop that Damn Small Linux (DSL) uses. Flash memory can only be written to a finite number of times. In order not to kill the flash memory, DSL runs entirely in memory. (If you want to write to the flash memory, you have to explicitly mount it.) So, if you were to tailor your operating system to avoid using the hard drive the same way DSL avoids using the flash, you should be able to significantly increase your battery life without special hardware.

flash memory lifetime? (2, Interesting)

techmuse (160085) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488837)

It used to be that flash memory only worked reliably for a limited number of write cycles. Is this still the case. If not, will this greatly limit the life span of these drives?

Re:flash memory lifetime? (3, Interesting)

swv3752 (187722) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489200)

Old flash like that in my Zaurus SL550 PDA and older Compact Flash cards have ~100,000 writes. Newer Flash has something on the order of ~1,000,000 writes. As it is used to cache seldom updated things like OS files or hibernate files, it shouldn't be an issue. Mind you, it should have been 1-4Gb instead of 256mb, so that the OS and other useful things could be cached entirely.

Mirror? (1)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488839)

Anyone happen to get a mirror of the links? They are completely dead at this moment.

Re:Mirror? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15488870)

well that's what happens to a server when it uses flash memory

Does this matter when you have a smart OS? (3, Interesting)

mary_will_grow (466638) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488848)

If you look at "top" closely, you'll see even if only half of your ram is stuffed with porn and chat programs, the kernel is still making use of that remaining RAM. It would be moronic to just leave RAM sitting unoccupied. A lot of it is used for IO buffering, including your hard drive. So why not just use this mechanism? Why is it, from an IO-buffering-OS-user's perspectiive, any different having that info sitting in flash on the hard drive, instead of in your ram?

OK I guess I can think of a few reasons...

The flash wont need refresh cycles to keep its data intact, so that gives you a power reduction...
The flash can still retain its state even when you shut down, so "wakeups" should be faster..
The hard drive is in charge of the caching, taking some thinky think load off of the CPU.

but from a performance perspective, it seems that Linux would do better with 256MB of faster, closer, shinier RAM instead of a wad of flash.. Plus your caching mechanism can be improved without having to buy a new hard drive.

Re:Does this matter when you have a smart OS? (1)

Zemplar (764598) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488986)

"Does this matter when you have a smart OS?"

You missed the point, this idea was introduced at the "2004 Windows Hardware Engineering Conference".

Perhaps Microsoft will use this memory space to load such advanced technologies as anti-virus, anti-spyware, defrag, or other useful novel ideas...at least to the Windows-world?

Basically what this boils down to is if you have dumb software, you need smart hardware.

Seperate battery backing for RAM? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489004)

I guess I don't see why they're using flash. You'd think that they could accomplish it with some RAM module with its own seperate battery backing (like a RAID card), and then have the disk writes delayed to some optimum amount to minimize power consumption as well as being used as a pre-fetched RAM cache with the same optimization, with the read/write split dynamically reallocated as needed.

Re:Does this matter when you have a smart OS? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489028)

Write caching. You don't want to leave data in your OS cache unwritten for very long. If the system crashes (hardware or software failure) then all of that data will be lost. If you start writing data while the drive is spun down, then it has to spin up (lots of power) and then write it, then spin down a bit later (using a fair bit of power all the time it is spinning). This design could, conceivably, write the little trickles of data (4K here, 16K there) that would otherwise keep the disk spun-up to the flash in a linear fashion. Once the flash is full, it could write the entire block to disk at once, and then spin down. Combined with good read caching in the OS, this could dramatically reduce the amount of power the disk uses in normal situations.

Of course, I have no idea if this is what it actually does. It's what I'd do though.

OS support? (1)

madnuke (948229) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488851)

Are there any OS's that support this yet, the only one I can think of is Vista but its only in Beta 2 so might not have it supported yet. Still great idea, move away from magnetic storage lets have everything flash.

Re:OS support? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489025)

I got the impression (via the summary - I never read the articles, of course) that this was internal to the HD, and therefore would be driver independent.

Me? I've got 2GB of RAM, so it won't speed up hibernation for me. Still, getting another half hour or more out of my laptop would be nice.

Regarding the other announcement, DB35 series... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15488872)

They also launched the DB35 series, supposed to be optimised for DVRs - quiet acoustics, capacities from 80GB-750GB, optimised for sequential streaming (and apparently up to ten simultaneous streams), long-haul reliability.

I might want to check those out for personal storage too. It sounds like they might make a nice, quiet, fileserver for my home, with the right case (I was thinking P180) and components.

There's this interesting snippet, though, which concerns me, in the DB35 series' product datasheet [seagate.com] (PDF, 2 pages, 122KB):

"Drive security tools enhance fair use of digital programming by helping manufacturers implement appropriate digital rights management technologies."

(To give context, the `manufacturers' it is referring to are DVR manufacturers, which in my case, would of course be me. Maybe I should try MythTV.)

I am, of course, one of those people that feels the only appropriate Digital Restriction Mechanism is none at all... does anyone, anywhere have the faintest idea what they're going on about with that? What on earth has a hard disk got to do with DRM? (In the Vista Home Premium/Media Center/East Fork/"ViiV" stuff they might mean when they say that stuff, it'll all be encrypted before hitting the hard disk anyway, because it's a form of the WM-DRM, and wouldn't be allowed unencrypted across the SATA/PATA bus, so it's none of the hard disk's business there either...)

Is that, perhaps, pure marketing fluff that means "You can password-lock or encrypt the drive", or something more sinister? Anyone know? (And you've gotta love the way they justify it by using the phrase "enhance fair use", which is of course, the exact opposite of what any DRM is designed to allow.)

Mod this up, please (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489086)

These are good questions.

Flashy Mobiles (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488887)

I've got an Dell notebook with only 10GB (IDE) HD. I'd love to replace it with Flash cards. They're about $45:2GB up to 4GB, in multiple formats. A bank of CF/SDIO/USB slots, or just an IDE/whatever adapter, plus the cards, would fit inside the current drive's slot. And offer much better power, weight and heat loads. With hotswappable filesystems, upgradeable in small chunks and pluggable into other devices, carryable in pockets.

I don't see how <20GB HDs have any place in the portable market anymore (outside of tiny niche multimedia producers), as even $35 80GB HDs are overkill for most people who network, as most everyone does. If every notebook, handheld, iPod, phone and other mobile device used Flash instead of HDs, Flash prices at that industry scale would drop, capacities would multiply, and $5:GB up to 32 or 64GB would be common. While much of the rest of the cost of the device would be lower without extreme measures to accommodate the hungry, inefficient HD.

Re:Flashy Mobiles (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489103)

If you want a Flash drive..... buy one ;-)

http://www.bitmicro.com/products_edisk_25_ide.php [bitmicro.com]

I'm not 100% certain where you can purchase them, but when I looked into it ~6 months ago I did find some avaliable for online ordering.

Re:Flashy Mobiles (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489221)

Those high-capacity industrial drives are way overkill for what I was talking about. They cost way more than the $20:GB Flash cards I mentioned, and aren't available in small capacities (and therefore low prices). And their capacities are large enough that they don't save enough on weight or power.

Let me know when you find a simple IDE/Flash adapter that I can plug the cheap commodity Flash stuff into, to replace my 10GB IDE HD.

Bad idea (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488888)

Does the drive automatically know and manage which files to put into flash(i.e. like a smart cache), or is this down to the OS to explicitly add/delete files in the flash?

If its the drive, then that sucks because the drive would need to know about the filesystems in use, and chances are it would only support Microsoft filesystems.

If its the OS that manages which files to put there, then it still sucks, as the drive and flash are combined.
It would be much better to have the flash as a separate component. Apart from the obvious benefit of being able to have it on a faster bus (such as PCI-E), flash memory is limited to about 100k rewrite ops, so when the flash is dead you have to throw away/replace an otherwise perfectly working hard drive too.

I guess if the only time the flash is written to is to update the boot files (e.g. as a result of an occasional OS reinstall or patch) 100k rewrite ops is not much of a limitation. However we all know Microsoft can't avoid filling up every little space with bloat files, so if it gets written to a few times every windows session the life of your hard drive will be pretty short.

Re:Bad idea (1)

pla (258480) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489003)

Does the drive automatically know and manage which files to put into flash(i.e. like a smart cache), or is this down to the OS to explicitly add/delete files in the flash?

From the links (which don't give much detail), it sounds like the drive "looks" like a normal HDD to the machine. It just happens to have a nonvolatile cache built in, which means it can start serving files even before it spins up (which most likely explains the faster booting and restoring from hibernation); and for certain types of annoying "whack the disc twice per second" activity that Windows seems so very fond of doing, the drive doesn't need to spin up at all (thus the huge power savings).



If its the drive, then that sucks because the drive would need to know about the filesystems in use, and chances are it would only support Microsoft filesystems.

Not necessarily, for the same reason having 16MB of RAM cache on modern drives gives a pretty big performance boost - The drive itself just caches sectors, rather than whole files. Not only does it not need to "speak" NTFS that way, but if you have a 100MB file of which only a handful of sectors get used 99% of the time, it can just keep track of what actually gets used. With a RAM cache, the big boost comes from not needing to seek as often; with these hybrid drives, you get that same perk along with not needing to spin up the drive so often.

Flash vs traditional materials (1)

porkface (562081) | more than 8 years ago | (#15488911)

Does modern flash memory degrade more quickly per write than hard drives?

How much faster is flash storage memory than hard drives?

While 256MB would still speed boots for hibernate files larger than 256MB, current boot speed of a 256MB hibernate file from a hard drive is nearly instantaneous anyway, negating any real value to this. The real value would only kick in for systems with more than a gig of memory.

The best hybrid option out there (1)

RyanXP (979906) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489017)

I'm really looking forward to trying this out in a notebook... my cousin Phil tried putting a hybrid in his mini tower, but the whole plan backfired and he ended up horribly disfigured. Apparently Grolar Bears [wikipedia.org] are SATA, and when he tried plugging it into his older moboard it got pissed.

Hydrogen? (2)

edmicman (830206) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489024)

When can I get a hydrogen fuel cell hard drive? Or does it use regernative kinetic energy from the platters spinning to generate power?

Flash lifetime? (1)

JensR (12975) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489051)

Using flash chips as harddrive replacement comes up now and then, even if in this case it would be just a cache. But what about flash lifetime? Last time I checked a flash chip could only be erased something like 200.000 times, which could be used up quickly in normal operation. Or would the flash area show up separately?
In that case it may be easier to get one of those IDE/compact flash adaptors and have the flash as a separate device.

How to do this with Linux (5, Interesting)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489181)

1. Acquire Flash memory. USB or whatever, it doesn't matter.
2. Insure you have the correct interface connections to the computer (USB port, USB cable, CF/SD drive, weird built-in hybrid device).
3. Boot Linux
4. Find location of Flash device. A modern distro will point this out to you on the desktop.
5. Use your GUI partitioner to define the flash device as your swap space. Be sure you purchased a flash device with size > system ram.
6. Suspend2Disk really, really fast.

Also, given a reasonably long up-time, enjoy the perks of a system with high-speed swap space. Applications, data, kernel; whatever! It all gets faster! Be sure to crank up your swappiness value for maximum effect; this'll have Linux swapping out just about everything it can get its hands on.

Given a modern flash device, with 1 million or so read/write cycles, and defect balancing, even under very high-usage you should get years of use.

Benefit for linux? (1)

Japi (57412) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489196)

I don't see this device being all that useful for hibernate wake-up, but it is interesting if the 256MB just acts as a persistent write-cache. Often in linux the hard drive never spins down, because things are constantly being written (log files, atime updates on the FS, etc). This can be reduced by using laptop-mode (and mounting -o noatime ) for the filesystem, but then you run the risk of losing data if the system dies and nothing has been synced with disk for a long time. And the last thing you want to do is spin up the disk every 10-15 mintues(because of the wait, power, and wear from this), but you need to to keep the filesystem consistent. But with 256MB of write space, that doesn't require the disk to be spun up, that is synced with the "real" disk when it *is* spun up (for reading uncached stuff probably) would make for a large power savings on systems that have enough RAM to keep everything in memory. I guess linux can take advantage of that immediately, with no special tweaks, if the drive is doing everything. But I have read other articles that say that you need Vista to take advantage of this drive.

Where does it say it exceeded esitimates (1)

lapagecp (914156) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489228)

"Interestingly, the new Momentus 5400 PSD has also exceeded earlier estimates of hybrid hard-drive performance, which said that such drives would add an extra hour to the typical battery life of a notebook PC." Read carefully people. The article says that seagate excpected a 9% reduction in overall power use. They then said that what was observed was a 50% reduction in harddrive power use. Unless they specifically compare hardrive power use to overall power use all we can infer from this is that a 50% reduction in harddrive power use reduces the total use of the system by 9%. Lets not forget the bright shiny candy like screen and whirly DVD rom and flashing lights and sounds that laptops make.
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