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Samsung, Microsoft Prototype Disk Drive With Flash Buffer

A flash memory from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has been used as a buffer within a prototype rotating disk drive developed with Microsoft Corp. to support the Longhorn operating system, Samsung said.

InformationWeek Staff

April 25, 2005

2 Min Read

LONDON — A 1-Gbit flash memory from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has been used as a buffer within a prototype rotating disk drive developed with Microsoft Corp., Samsung said Monday (April 25).

The two companies have been working together on the hybrid disk drive since late 2003 with a view to deployment in notebook computers and to support the the next version of the Windows operating system, code-named Longhorn, Samsung said. The Hybrid Hard Drive (HHD) is the first fully functional disk drive to combine NAND-based flash memory with rotating storage media, Samsung claimed.

The hybrid drive is being exhibited for the first time at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle at the Washington State Convention Center from April 25 to April 27, Samsung added.

The hybrid disk drives are expected to cost more than conventional disk drives, but provide benefits in terms of power consumption and reliability, Samsung said. The Samsung-Microsoft prototype is to be converted into products to be manufactured by Samsung's disk drive division as well as other disk drive makers. Samsung expects notebook computers equipped with the hybrid disk drives to begin shipping in large quantities in late 2006.

Flash memory buffer

The hybrid hard disk drive architecture includes a 1-Gbit OneNAND flash memory as a buffer so that the drive can combine the density of magnetic storage with low-power and fast read and write access times of NAND flash memory, Samsung said.

The architecture allows the hybrid hard disk drive to cease spinning for large periods while the computer is on, with the computers processor provided with data from the non-volatile flash memory. In addition the use of a solid-state memory as a front-end to the drive should allow the Longhorn operating system to boot significantly faster, Samsung said.

The hybrid hard drive prototype uses the flash memory as both the write buffer and boot buffer. In the hybrid write mode, the mechanical drive is spun down for the majority of the time, while data is written to the flash write buffer. When the write buffer is filled, the rotating drive spins and the data from the write buffer is written to the hard drive.

"Hybrid drive architecture is extremely important to the future design of mobile computers. It is an advancement that will improve the performance and reliability of any computer using the Windows "Longhorn" operating system. We are delighted with the performance in our initial testing of the Samsung hybrid hard drive prototype," said Tom Phillips, general manager of the Windows Hardware Experience Group for Microsoft, in a statement.

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