Electronic Design

Hybrid Drive Blends Flash and Magnetic Technologies

Samsung Electronics unveiled this week what it bills as the first commercial hybrid hard disk drive (HHD) to incorporate flash memory with standard magnetic disc storage.

Both 128- and 256-Mybte prototypes of the combination drive were shown at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Seattle on Monday. A hybrid HHD combines the speed of NAND flash technology with the high density of magnetic storage. According to Samsung, the HHD saves between eight and 25 seconds of boot-up time and extends battery life by about 8-10 percent—depending on the model of computer.

The hybrid architecture uses Samsung’s OneNAND flash as cache. OneNAND has 108-Mbyte/s read and 18-Mbyte/s write data rates. As a result, the hybrid eliminates the need for the hard disk to constantly spin whenever a computer is operating on battery power, and is less susceptible to damage from jarring or being dropped since it is idle most of the time. Every time the cache is filled, the rotating drive spins to "flush out" or transfer data from the cache, spinning only a few seconds every 10-20 minutes.

Samsung will sample its HHD with customers beginning next quarter. It will ship in large quantities by January in conjunction with the Windows Vista rollout.

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