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Manufacturers of hard disk drives (HDDs) have traditionally been very conservative in various ways due to the fact that their products are mission critical for many customers. As a result, companies like Hitachi, Seagate or Western Digital are working hard to make their drives as reliable as possible. However, the approach of leading edge HDD companies towards solid-state drives (SSDs) seems to be over-conservative.

Apart from Samsung Electronics and Toshiba Corp., which are the world's largest makers of flash memory, neither of leading-edge makers of hard disk drives - Hitachi, Seagate and Western Digital - have unveiled broad lineups of solid-state drives for consumers. By contrast, various suppliers of branded dynamic random access memory (DRAM) modules have already launched large families of own-brand SSDs. Apparently, Western Digital simply does not believe in SSDs for consumers, despite of the fact that many notebooks nowadays utilize solid-state drives instead of hard drives.

"We have taken a look at and in fact shipped product into the SSD, in the client environment, and we do not find a compelling value proposition there either for manufacturer or for customer because the economics do not work. The cost of the storage/performance is too high," said John Coyne, chief executive officer of Western Digital, during the most recent conference call with financial analysts.

Seagate Technologies has already introduced a so-called hybrid disk drive (HHD), which contains a rotating media as well as a large flash-based cache. The company believes that in five years up to 80% of its products will be HHDs. Western Digital is also evaluating feasibility of hybrid drives.

"We also continue to evaluate the opportunity to combine rotating magnetic storage with flash into hybrid solutions. [...] [At present] we look at client environment and look at what might be an attractive offering that combine the best of both worlds in terms of the performance of solid state with the capacity of rotating media, [...] which [would] provide an accessible price point," said Mr. Coyne.

Apparently, in order to ensure high performance of HHDs, support from operating system is needed to provide truly high performance.

"We look out into the future where such a device would be supported by operating system capability, which it is not really supported well today. As we look at that over the next couple of years, we see an emerging opportunity for such a device family to offer performance capacity and value," concluded Mr. Coyne.

Tags: WD, Western Digital, HDD, SSD


Comments currently: 8
Discussion started: 01/21/11 02:02:10 PM
Latest comment: 01/24/11 12:13:52 PM
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Companies like OCZ are converting their entire business model to the sale of SSDs and WD is still living in denial saying no one wants them yet.

Wake up WD. You half-assedly jumped into the SSD market and can't figure out why you're getting your ass handed to you by OCZ, Intel, Samsung, Crucial and the rest that have already been at it several years with superior products. Did you think you could just throw some money at this problem and make it go away?

This does not bode well for your future. Reminds me of Kodak in a lot ways. It's easy to put on the blinders when you're at the top of your game and ignore the up-and-coming contenders. You've already got heavyweights like Intel and Samsung in the opposite corner ready to take a swing at you and your prize fighter is looking a bit frail and winded.
0 0 [Posted by: Astral Abyss  | Date: 01/21/11 02:02:10 PM]

Supercache with 512-1GB worth of RAM can improve the read speeds on a SSD and HD by unreal amounts for ATTO Disk Benchmark. HD's still suffer from the problem of access times, but SSD's don't have that problem. Also write speeds can be improved a lot as well if you turn on differed-write mode and suspend lazy writes, but a UPS is pretty much required for that or you risk losing data if you have a power outage not sure if that applies for SSD's though since they are non volatile.

For the best results 128-256KB cache page size and 512MB-1024MB cache size is ideal on a HD. For SSD's I found 64KB cache page size to be optimal with 354MB cache size ideal on the 32GB SSD I tested.

Oddly it only seems to help ATTO Disk Benchmark, but HDTune it doesn't appear to effect, but I'm not sure why that is. It's peculiar since RAMDISK's work with HDTune and supercache is basically a hybrid of a HD/SSD and RAMDISK kind of like these WD HD's are a hybrid of a HD and SSD.
0 0 [Posted by: knowom  | Date: 01/21/11 09:24:05 PM]


Oh dear someone has compared OCZ a mouse to WD an elephant in size of companys.

WD realise that extreme speed acount for about 5% in (all HD)sales... family computers and business computers and general laptops have to keep the price down and as they say price to performance isn`t worth it. You can have a extreme HD with extreme DDR3 memory only to always wait for(including the new) graphics cards and again WD notice that the OS`s aren`t fully ready for them either.

This again is why they said they will try a compromise between more Ram Cache with rotating magnetic storage.

If the real world speed of HHD`S (not benchmarks) is the same for half the price then the squeaking company will have to follow suit.

OCZ is in a totally different market to WD anyway ... the very small computer extremest one.
0 0 [Posted by: efex  | Date: 01/22/11 11:44:23 AM]
- collapse thread

I realize it might seem like a joke now but it's no different than any other evolutionary step in the computer world. WD thinks they can ignore the SSD simply because they cost more right now, but you and I both know that won't be the case for many more years.

It's no different than the conversion from CRT to LCD. People laughed at LCDs at first and their small, ghosty screens. Then what happened? The technology improved at a drastic rate. In about 10 years time CRTs went from king to being laughed at. You can't even find them for sale.

I've been around long enough in the computer world to know a trend when I see one. The writing is on the wall for HDDs. I hope WD has a backup plan. They've got 6-7 more years, tops, before the SSD is on a level playing field. Shortly afterwards, sales of HDDs will bottom out or be sold at a loss to clear inventory.

HDDs only purpose afterwards will be for archiving data, and will slowly fade into irrelevence like the magnetic tape did.
0 0 [Posted by: Astral Abyss  | Date: 01/24/11 12:13:52 PM]

I have a 64GB boot SSD and my computer boots really fast but I have my applications on a HDD with the attendant normal lag. I intend to get another SSD for my applications and just use the HDD for data and see how that works.
0 0 [Posted by: bbo320  | Date: 01/23/11 01:09:42 PM]

WD, why just evaluate it? why not create a hybrid drive now. with a hybrid drive, you could lower performance difference between an SSD, thus, stressing their point that it has no value on end users.
i believe, that SSDs are too expensive just for making OS startup faster or game loading faster. they hold value for servers though.
0 0 [Posted by: zodiacfml  | Date: 01/24/11 04:54:10 AM]

I bet these WD execs have SSDs in their laptops
0 0 [Posted by: dragosmp  | Date: 01/24/11 06:47:39 AM]


I`m guessing WD isn`t instantly making Hybrid drives to evaluate if they can do it under their own patents.

Their not to worried tho they just shipped the most HD`s in the last quarter 52.2 million of them.
0 0 [Posted by: efex  | Date: 01/24/11 11:11:32 AM]


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