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Seagate hybrid drive delivers SSD performance at HDD price

Lucas Mearian | May 25, 2010
Seagate has announced a new hard-disk and solid-state combination drive with as much as 500GB of capacity, but with a 250GB model starting at US$113.

It also claimed the Pulsar was as much as 20% faster than standard 5400-rpm hard drive technology, cuts energy consumption by 50% and improves mean time between failure (MBTF) by 50 per cent compared with traditional drives.

Stuck on SLC SSD

The company has yet to produce a consumer-class SSD using less expensive multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash chip technology, however.

Like with the Pulsar SSD, Wojtasiak said Seagate stuck with SLD NAND flash for the Momentus XT. SLC NAND flash memory, which stores just one bit per cell, natively has higher performance and vastly better endurance than MLC NAND flash.

SLC typically can sustain 10 times the number of write-erase cycles as MLC NAND flash, even though newer wear-leveling software is helping to even that playing field.

"What's important to note about the SSD is that data is always written to disk first and then mirrored to the flash memory," Wojtasiak said. "So there is no risk of losing that data should something happen to the flash."

In its own tests, Seagate said it emulated writing 250GB of data to the Momentum XT over a five-year span, and "saw very little to no SSD degredation."

The Momentus XT uses USB 3.0 interconnect with up to 4.8 Gbit/sec. throughput and native command queuing (NCQ), and also has an eSATA port for use of the drive in an external enclosure.

While Baker was impressed with changes made for the Momentum XT, he said the biggest hurdle facing its uptake is building a market for such a product.

"It's about the value proposition as they try to take over more of the 2.5-in drive market because 2.5-in. drives are not as popular a product as 3.5-in. drives for your specialty users who like to build their own systems," Baker said.

"The key is to develop a culture of buying big and cheap drives for capacity and then supplementing them with products like [the Momentus XT] to boost the performance," he said.

Also today, Seagate announced two new versions of its 5400-rpmand 7200-rpm Momentus traditional hard drive, with up to 750GB of capacity.


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