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Friday, August 27, 2010
Seagate Heralds the Second Coming of Hybrid Hard Drives

The failure of Solid State Drives (SSD) to catch on in mainstream PCs has spurred leading Hard Disk Drive (HDD) maker Seagate Technology LLC to once again to turn to the Hybrid Hard Drive (HHD) as a way to bring flash-memory-based storage to the notebook market.

But will Seagate?s second attempt at such a device strike a chord with the PC industry?

The new Seagate HHD may yield new opportunities for the PC industry to improve the performance of drives used in mainstream PCs while maintaining an affordable price, according to the market research firm iSuppli Corp. However, the HHD is likely to have minimal impact on the enterprise server segment, given that many systems in this area already are using SSDs and high-performance HDDs to achieve better performance than current HHDs available in the market.

A hybrid drive takes advantage of the fast performance of the SSD by combining it with the high capacity of an HDD. Frequently accessed data is stored on the SSD, while information less often used goes on the HDD.

iSuppli forecasts that by 2014, less than 8 percent of total PCs shipped will use solid state storage as their primary drive, due to high pricing. Obviously, this means that HDDs will remain the primarily storage device in PCs in the foreseeable future.

In terms of pricing, iSuppli believes the price of SSDs will not decline to the level of current HDD prices for at least another five years, based on current pricing for flash and the low cost of HDDs. During these five years, the HHD may find a unique sweet spot that bridges the gap for consumers between an expensive SSD and a cheap but slow HDD.

Seagate has already released the Momentus XT drive to OEM channels, the company's 2.5-inch laptop PC hard drive, combining SSD-like performance with the capacity of HDDs. The Momentus XT drive features Adaptive Memory - a new technology from Seagate that learns and optimizes the drive's performance to each user by moving frequently used information into the flash memory for faster access. The Momentus XT solid state hybrid drive boots up to 100 percent faster than traditional 5400RPM drives, the mainstream spin speed for laptop PCs, Seagate claims. The Momentus XT drive is a storage solution that combines a 7200RPM spin speed and 4GB of solid state memory.

Hitach-LG Data Storage (HLDS) is also expected to release HyDrive, a solid state drive (SSD) embedded ODD later this year. Although the device is not an SSD, it is a total storage solution on the PC using the advantages of three storage device types - conventional hard drives, solid state drives and optical drives - without added space on the motherboard and modification of system architecture limited to replacing the existing ODD. Hydrive combines the advantages of an SSD drive with those of an ODD. The 1st generation of the HyDrive will offer an SSD capacity of 32GB and 64GB. HLDS plans to release the 2nd generation of HyDrive next year, which will further boost the SSD capacity to 256GB and will have even faster SSD performance moving from SATA3.0Gbps to the SATA6.0Gbps interface.

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