Author Topic: Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)  (Read 6586 times)

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Offline Twiggy

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Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« on: December 09, 2013, 05:29:08 PM »
Wait a second, what the heck is an SSHD?
SSHD means solid-state hybrid drive, or hybrid disk drive.

Think of SSHDs as regular hard disk drives with integrated non-volatile flash memory areas that acts as a cache for "hot" data, that is, data that is frequently accessed in a non-sequential fashion. Think speed of SSDs for boots and application loads, and capacity (and most of the cost-per-GB) of HDDs.

What do they do for me?
As you use your computer, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, or Wii U*, SSHDs cache "hot data" over time. SSHDs only cache data that is random-access in nature, which benefit massively from the near-instant access times from the NAND flash. The NAND flash is sufficiently fast enough in sequential reads to be able to serve highly-random reads, such as boots and application loads, significantly quicker than a normal hard disk drive.

*You'll need to figure a way to power them properly as the Wii U doesn't have enough USB port power by itself on a single USB port connected to a bridge adapter, even on 2.5" drives.

What does that mean for me in the real world?
After a while, your boot times get cut massively, getting very close to SSD boot times. Application load times are also increased in general, and won't have to peg the slow spinning hard disk drive much. You can get more things done in the same time frame and won't have to endure waits.

It won't accelerate things like loading long video files, though, as video files and the like tend to be sequential in nature and very large. (It'll cut down the loading times on your video editing software, though.)

Why is my SSHD churning even though my OS is not reporting any reads, writes, or seeks on the drive?
Your SSHD is performing background caching that is transparent to the OS. All caching is done on the firmware level. This does mean that optimisations are OS and platform-agnostic.

What if I got a power cut on the disk?
Current-generations SSHDs contain capacitors with enough capacitance to flush all uncommitted written data in the DRAM cache and NAND flash to the HDD platters when the drive loses power unexpectedly, unlike some SSDs.

What if the NAND flash area fails?
You will get a normal HDD if the NAND flash area fails for whatever reason; your data is still safe, and you can back up the data before sending it for repairs or replacement.

8 GB doesn't sound like there's a lot of flash memory to play around with.
The NAND flash area caches only random-access data and rapid small writes. This helps to minimize the amount of space used for caching, since long sequential reads and writes are better served by directly hitting the platters. 64 MB of DRAM cache also helps in minimizing writes to the NAND, as it can be used as a buffer before writing to either portion. According to Seagate's own research, about 95% of workloads can be accelerated significantly with only about 2.1 GB of actual data on the NAND flash memory area.

I prefer full control over the NAND flash area.
Western Digital sells the WD BlackĀ², which is an SSHD capable of displaying as two separate drives within Windows. The SSD portion is 120 GB, while the HDD portion is 1 TB. Be warned that the SSD cannot be reconfigured as a pure cache, the SSD portion is slower than expected in writes, and the HDD portion is inaccessible without the right drivers. You lose all data on the SSD portion if it fails.

I'm a bit concerned about the NAND flash area being MLC flash memory in the latest SSHDs, since they have lower endurance than SLC flash memory. Should I be worried?
It is estimated that with normal use, the HDD portion of the SSHD is more likely to begin to fail than the NAND flash area due to mechanical wear and tear. Due to the limited amount of writes hitting the NAND flash area, the MLC flash memory area should also last a long time even if neither component truly fails.

All writes are written to SLC flash memory areas only, which is also faster compared to writing to MLC flash memory.

I use HDD shock protection software on my hard disk drive in my laptop. Will it stop working?
Toshiba's HDD Protection service is brand-agnostic. It'll stay working even if you switch to a completely different brand's SSHD.
I haven't tested other laptop manufacturers' protection software.

Is a 7200 RPM standard HDD faster than a 5400 RPM SSHD?
Unless you perform frequent long sequential reads/writes (things like file copies, for example), no. Even then, advances in areal density have cancelled out the difference between 7200 and 5400 RPM HDDs in terms of sequential reads and writes.

A 7200 RPM HDD will still be faster than a 5400 RPM SSHD in random access in the event of a cache miss, which is difficult to achieve if the SSHD is used normally, since a cache miss would have to miss these things before hitting the platters:

  • The OS's file cache in RAM
  • Any attached ReadyBoost devices
  • DRAM cache
  • SLC NAND
  • MLC NAND, if exists
Where can I get one?
Seagate, Western Digital, and Toshiba all make single-drive SSHDs. You can purchase these SSHDs from online retail stores and your local computer hardware store. Both desktop (3.5") and laptop (2.5", both full-size (9.5mm) for normal laptops and thin (7mm) for Ultrabooks) variants are available from Seagate.

---

I've actually gotten an SSHD to replace my bog-standard laptop HDD that's starting to be the major bottleneck in my laptop's day-to-day performance. To be exact, I got Seagate's Laptop SSHD. Seeing as it's the full-height variant, it came as a 1 TB 5400 RPM SSHD with 8 GB of MLC flash, and 64 MB of DRAM.

In one fell swoop, I got upgrades in terms of capacity (1000 GB vs. 750 GB), areal density (related to capacity vs. platters), DRAM cache (64 MB vs. 8 MB), and the presence of really fast NAND.

It actually took a while for things to get really going, but after seeing the drive in action, I was left amazed by what it actually did.

I was actually looking at the Windows desktop getting ready in about 15 seconds and the entire thing being "done" by the 37th second. Internet Explorer stopped pegging the hard disk drive. Icons on the desktop and taskbar no longer blank out for a long time. Microsoft Office applications' splash screens flash instead of staying on.

It's like I'm cheating. I think I would probably suggest getting an SSHD to laptop users with a single drive bay. I wasn't a believer when I read benchmarks, but as it turns out, sometimes, benchmarks aren't everything, as owners of SSHDs and Seagate themselves say. What matters is the end-user experience.

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Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« on: December 09, 2013, 05:29:08 PM »

Offline Lisbon Virgo

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Re: Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2013, 06:45:48 PM »
What kind of price is attached to these drives? I'd love something like this for my PS3, and maybe my laptop.
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Offline Balding

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Re: Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2013, 11:38:06 PM »
I saw one at Best Buy a year or two ago, the price was a bit higher than a regular HDD but less than a pure SSD.  It seems like a good option.

Offline Jay Chan

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Re: Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2013, 02:35:56 AM »
Having used a Seagate SSHD in the past, I recommend getting a WD drive.
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Offline Twiggy

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Re: Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2013, 09:44:16 AM »
What kind of price is attached to these drives? I'd love something like this for my PS3, and maybe my laptop.

If you live in the United States of America, you should be able to get a 1 TB Laptop SSHD for $99 a pop, shipping and taxes not included. The 500 GB Laptop SSHD is slightly cheaper; the 3.5" variants start at 1 TB for $99 and go up from there, logically.

I saw one at Best Buy a year or two ago, the price was a bit higher than a regular HDD but less than a pure SSD.  It seems like a good option.

They've gotten significantly cheaper since the days of the Momentus XT - now that laptop SSHDs are running off 5400 RPM disk drives and using MLC memory, they've gotten really cheap. Still, with advances in both the flash memory and platter tech, it should still last a long time before you really need to replace the disks.

Having used a Seagate SSHD in the past, I recommend getting a WD drive.

What SSHD?

Offline Jay Chan

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Re: Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2013, 10:16:26 AM »
What SSHD?
I don't remember off the top of my head (the name barracuda sticks in my head, but that may have been different drive altogether). I do remember having issues with it, and finding the firmware update log on Seagate's website had entries every few days going back weeks and weeks. We decided to use a conventional drive until Seagate could sort themselves out. Granted this was a couple years ago, so their firmware and their hardware has probably improved by now. But I still have better track record with WD drives in general.
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Offline Balding

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Re: Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2013, 03:11:44 AM »
Either way, I'm not jumping for a new drive for a while, unless I get to really using the trash PC I built.  All told, I've got about 5TB of storage laying around the house from a crashed motherboard, upgrading other devices and straight instability.  Wish I coud find a USB to ethernet hub that would let me convert them all to network storage. 

Another perk of switching to SSD would be that you can then disassemble your old HDDs.  They have some crazy strong magnets and the drive platters are like chrome on steroids. 

Offline MeepSire

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Re: Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2013, 06:24:57 AM »
Personally I prefer a RAID0 (x2) pure SSD for the OS and a RAID0 (x2) HDDs for everything else. The hybrid drives are neat and quite effective for mobile applications where space is a premium but for a home tower, I like the separation. Another thing is that SSHDs are not all that cheap either...
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Offline Wraa

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Re: Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2014, 07:58:03 PM »
Have you heard about the new helium filled drives?
http://www.technologyreview.com/news/521011/fast-and-spacious-helium-filled-hard-drives-ready-for-liftoff/

Increased space, lower power consumption, cooler operating temps.
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Offline Lisbon Virgo

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Re: Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2014, 08:33:58 PM »
And space saving, since they float on air! Just make sure it's properly tethered to something. :)
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Offline Wraa

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Re: Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2014, 08:38:29 PM »
Well, it isn't quite that lightweight, the helium just reduces drag/friction on the platters of the drive, making them run cooler and use less power to operate. That would be funny if every drive had to be shipped in a weighted box with a warning label that said: Do not unbox in open air spaces.
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Offline Lisbon Virgo

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Re: Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2014, 02:11:17 AM »
*watches as the bad joke goes over Wraa's head*
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Offline Wraa

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Re: Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2014, 02:13:53 AM »
It's not over my head. I'm just very literal when it comes to tech, and I do think having to have a warning label would be funny in and of itself.
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Offline Twiggy

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Re: Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD)
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2014, 09:01:33 AM »
What if someone decided to combine them both?

(Also, comparing the price of an SSHD to an SSD is an interesting proposal, but you also have to factor in prices of a standard HDD. Or things will look skewed. Usually, one compares storage devices of the same capacity to get price-per-GB.)