Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. has incorporated its OneNAND Flash memory into the design of Microsoft Corp.'s prototype Hybrid Hard Drive (HHD), a disk drive combining NAND-based Flash with rotating storage media. The hybrid drive, designed to work with the next version of the Windows operating system, code-named "Longhorn," is being exhibited for the first time at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference 2005.
Instead of replacing the HDD, the hybrid hard drive architecture incorporates a small OneNAND device from Samsung that works within the hard disk's architecture. The hybrid device promises to leverage the benefits of magnetic storage and solid state storage without compromising the cost of the computer housing it.
The hybrid hard drive prototype uses 1 Gigabit OneNAND Flash as both the write buffer and boot buffer. In the hybrid write mode, the mechanical drive is spun down for the majority of the time, while data is written to the Flash write buffer. When the write buffer is filled, the rotating drive spins and the data from the write buffer is written to the hard drive.
The hybrid drive saves power by keeping the spindle motor in idle mode almost all the time, while the operating system writes to the OneNAND write buffer. By using OneNAND Flash with hard disk drive technology, disk drive performance is not compromised relative to conventional disk drives. This is due, in large part, to OneNAND's fast read speeds, which can be fully leveraged during the flushing of the contents of OneNAND's write buffer to the rotating drive. In addition, since the Samsung hybrid disk drive operates at a lower temperature than traditional rotating media, it reduces the possibility of shock and impact damage, improving the overall reliability of the disk subsystem.
The company says that while the cost of hybrid disk drives may slightly increase with the addition of OneNAND, any increase will be mitigated by several factors, including lower maintenance costs, 95 percent power savings when the disk is not spinning, faster boot time and substantially increased reliability. All of these changes are crucial to the ever increasing needs of today's mobile customer, making it likely that hybrid hard drive technology will enjoy rapid market adoption.
Since late 2003, Microsoft has been working closely with Samsung to develop the next generation of ultra-low-power disk drives for notebook computers. The hybrid hard drive will eliminate costly inefficiencies caused by the need for the hard disk drive to continue to spin whenever the computer is on. Additionally, the hybrid drive design also can provide significantly faster boot times when a computer running "Longhorn" computer starts up.
The HHD prototype will be converted into products manufactured and marketed by Samsung's HDD division as well as other HDD OEMs. Samsung's OneNAND will integrate with the HHD SOC via its NOR interface as a standalone memory device or in a multi-chip package. Samsung and Microsoft have worked together developing a robust set of ATA (advanced technology attachment) commands that will be used to fine-tune the efficiency with which HHD supportive software controls the Longhorn-based computer in which it is used.
Samsung expects HHD-enabled notebooks to begin shipping in large quantities in late 2006.