Hybrid drive options roll in

OCZ introduced a hybrid hard drive, featuring 60 GB of solid state storage caching a 500 GB conventional hard drive, priced at around $350 and due in July. It’s on a plug-in PCI Express x4 card.

The idea has some merit.

I’m happy storing my operating system and applications on an SSD, and storing media files, which don’t benefit from high speed access, on an old-fashioned hard drive. And that’s a fine arrangement for someone who’s willing to sort that out.

I can see throwing a hybrid solution at someone who doesn’t want to sort it out. Then it all goes on the hard drive, and the caching mechanism can figure out what needs to stay in the solid-state memory.

OCZ’s RevoDrive Hybrid uses a pair of Sandforce controllers for the cache, which gives a good price/performance ratio.

Intel offers SSD caching with its upcoming Ivy Bridge chipset. That works too, unless you buy an AMD-based system. Which probably has something to do with why Diskeeper demonstrated a technology similar to Intel’s, not tied to any particular chipset or vendor, that uses an SSD to cache a conventional hard drive. What isn’t clear is whether it’s going to be a piece of software that’s bundled with an SSD, or if you’ll be able to just buy it off the shelf, plug whatever SSD and platter drive you want into your motherboard, then install the software and have a hybrid drive.

I think eventually SSD caching will be built into the operating system, like disk caching is. Before DOS 5, you had to buy a separate disk caching product if you wanted one. That’s probably what will happen again. But until it does, we have to look at aftermarket solutions.

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