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Report: Software errors to delay hybrid drive takeoff

Posted: 26 Dec 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:hybrid hard drive? NAND flash? software glitch? notebook computer?

A report from market researcher Objective Analysis predicts that only about 13 million of the hybrid hard disks that incorporate NAND flash for caching key data will ship in 2008 due to software errors.

"Microsoft has a good concept with its ReadyDrive software, but they can't devote attention to it because they have diverted energy to fixing Vista bugs," said Jim Handy, principal of Objective Analysis.

Early benchmarks of the drives have given them mixed results so far, Handy said, indicating performance tuning is needed. "Some of the benchmarks suggest the hybrid drives run some software faster and other software slower," he said.

The new drives, aimed primarily at notebook computers, "will become significant but not next year, and their success is contingent on Microsoft putting adequate attention on the software issues," Handy said.

The firm estimates fewer than one million hybrid drives will ship this year and only about 13 million in 2008. However, shipments could rise to 90 million in 2009 and 220 million in 2010.

Only Samsung and Seagate current have shipping hybrid drives. Both companies have models with 256Mbyte NAND cache and drive capacity of 80-, 120- or 160Gbyte. Other drive makers are waiting for market demand to pick up before launching the products, he said.

Using software in Vista, the hybrid drives are geared to slash the time for booting a system or loading applications. The code can also cache frequently accessed data.

In addition, the hybrid drives may hamper the rise of solid-state drives (SSD) that use flash memory and aim to give a bigger boost in performance and reliability but at a steeper cost. Handy estimated a hybrid drive carries a premium of about $10 while a SSD carries a premium of as much as $300.

"Hybrids offer 80 percent of more of the performance of solid-state drives at a much lower cost," he said.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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