Could Hybrid SSDs Shake Up The Storage Market? - InformationWeek

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6/1/2010
05:58 PM
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Could Hybrid SSDs Shake Up The Storage Market?

What do you get when you cross traditional hard disk and solid-state disk technology? One of the most interesting desktop storage innovations in a long time.

What do you get when you cross traditional hard disk and solid-state disk technology? One of the most interesting desktop storage innovations in a long time.When this hybrid approach first appeared a few years ago, it was basically a Frankendisk -- a slapped-together invention that was a lot less than the sum of its parts. These early models had serious performance issues, and many users struggled to make the device drivers work on their systems.

But Seagate kept working on the concept, and it has finally paid off. The company's new Momentus XT is a 7,200 RPM SATA drive that incorporates 4GB of SSD storage, as well as a sizable memory cache. The drivers are stable, and the performance for the price is truly impressive.

How impressive? For starters, the 500GB model costs around $150. That's about three times as much per GB than a standard SATA drive, but it's much less per GB than pure SSD.

What makes that amazing is the fact that independent speed tests show the Momentus holding its own against pure SSD drives. And it blew past the Western Digital Velociraptor hard disk, which thanks to its 15,000RPM speeds (and hefty price premium) is the fastest traditional SATA drive on the market.

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All of this is likely to put a fascinating twist on the evolving competition between traditional spinning disks and SSD storage. The latter is clearly far superior in terms of performance, but over the past year it really hasn't gotten any cheaper. Even if SSD prices start to drop again later this year, nobody expects it to be a viable short-term alternative for most storage applications.

But thanks to the growth of viable hybrid disk technology, all bets are off. While Seagate has some proprietary technology powering the Momentus, you can be sure that other vendors will be quick to follow with hybrids of their own. And if hybrid drives continue to show the kind of cost-versus-performance gains that the Momentus is demonstrating, pure SSD technology just might find itself stuck in a permanent niche-market rut.

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