Western Digital "Evaluates" Feasibility of Hybrid Disk Drives

WD Still Claims SSDs Have No Value for End Users

by Anton Shilov
01/20/2011 | 11:47 PM

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.