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Hybrid Hard Disk Drives

X-bit labs: Being one of the largest NAND flash maker in the world and with both SSDs and HDDs in the portfolio, isn't it logical for you to release hybrid disk drives that combine performance of SSDs with capacities of HDDs?

Joel Hagberg: Toshiba is very excited about the current storage technology environment. We see different approaches and innovations that will take advantage of both rotating media and solid state memory technologies. Because our storage technology portfolio includes NAND, HDD and SSD, Toshiba is very well positioned to service customer requirements across these storage technologies. Hybrid HDDs are another solution that Toshiba will add to its storage portfolio.

X-bit labs: When can we expect you to jump on the hybrid HHD bandwagon?

Joel Hagberg: Toshiba’s view on the Hybrid-HDD market is that while there is much promise to the hybrid concept, industry adoption has been fairly lackluster to date. Some of this may be due to early products not meeting market expectations and host applications not being able to take advantage of the technology. Toshiba’s approach is to launch new technologies when the market is ready to deploy and use that technology in ways that make a compelling difference to the user experience.

X-bit labs: Why do you think hybrids have not gained much traction on the storage market? Intel's caching solution also has not gained much success...

Joel Hagberg: There are a number of sophisticated elements that need to come together in order to realize the full potential of hybrid HDD technology in user applications. The level of responsiveness and performance that we would like to see associated with this upcoming generation of hybrid HDDs requires cooperation and collaboration from components in the ecosystem. Early caching solutions and hybrid drives have been waiting for the operating system providers to enable features that deliver performance value to the end customers.

X-bit labs: Do hybrid storage solutions actually wed performance of SSDs with capacities of HDDs? Or is it still a big compromise?

Joel Hagberg: Hybrid solutions increase the performance of the storage device in a manner that is still very cost effective for the consumer. I would not call this a compromise but rather one solution to improve I/O performance.

X-bit labs: There are two ways hybrid drives can be implemented. One way is to let NAND flash cache data from frequently used LBAs of hard drive, another way is to install plenty of NAND flash memory and simply install demanding apps onto the flash drive. Which one is better? Perhaps, there is a third way?

Joel Hagberg: This gets into the realm of technology integration and future design decisions. There are trade-offs involved, and a bigger amount of NAND Flash is not always the best way to achieve a desired result.

X-bit labs: Do hybrids make sense in enterprise or server environments?

Joel Hagberg: Toshiba continuously watches the market and see if a hybrid solution can benefit in the enterprise space. We do see some potential benefit for such a device, however, at this time Toshiba offers SSDs and HDDs for all required tiers in the enterprise segment. We do not see much demand for a hybrid enterprise HDD at this time.

X-bit labs: Thank you very much for the detailed answers, Joel!

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