Hybrid drives, which combine NAND flash with spinning disk, may still be a nascent technology, but their lifespan could be cut short by a lack of interest from consumers and computer manufacturers.
A new report from IHS iSuppli shows that while sales of hybrid drives are expected to double over the next year, that increase is unremarkable compared with sales of pure solid-state drives (SSDs), which are expected to skyrocket 2,660%.
Hybird, SSD and Cache SSD sales (Graphic: IHS iSuppli)
Hybrid hard disk drives, which contain NAND flash memory for boosting the performance of OSes and key applications, do offer an advantage over pure hard drives and are increasingly popular in ultrabooks, but cache solid state drives (SSD) will remain the mainstream ultrabook storage solution, according IHS iSuppli.
Pure SSDs are currently the leading storage type in ultrabooks, but low-capacity (20GB to 40GB) cache SSDs, which run along side hard drives in notebooks, will see shipments rise even more this year to 23.9 million units, up an astounding 2,660% from just 864,000 units in 2011. Shipments will then jump to 67.7 million units next year, cross the hundred-million-unit mark in 2015, and hit 163 million units by 2016, according to IHS iSuppli.
An example of a cache SSD is the Intel 313 series, which comes in 20GB and 24GB capacities. A cache SSD is specifically used for boosting OS and application load times.
Higher capacity, pure SSDs (with 80GB to 512GB capacity) will reach 18 million units shipped this year and 69 million by 2016.
One factor behind SSD growth: Apple, which this week again pushed the SSD envelope, releasing a version of its MacBook Pro that only contains an SSD and no hard drive. Apple is the world's leading consumer of flash memory.
Apple currently uses NAND flash in its iPad, iPod, iPhone, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines.
In comparison to SSD shipments, hybrid drive shipments will reach just two million units this year, up from 1 million units in 2011. IHS iSuppli predicts hybrid drive shipments will reach 25 million units by 2016.
Hard drive sales still dwarf the sales of both hybrid drives and SSDs. Hard drive shipments rose by 18% to 145 million in the first quarter of this year compared to the prior quarter, and by another 10% to 159 million in the second quarter, according to IHS iSuppli.
Currently, the only company selling hybrid drives is Seagate. The company's Momentus XT hybrid drive has up to 8GB of single-level-cell (SLC) NAND flash and 750GB of capacity on two 2.5-in hard drive platters.
Seagate struggled with the first two iterations of its Momentus hybrid drive because they contained too little flash and ran into software issues. The first drive, the Momentus 5400 PSD, had only 256MB of flash. The second hybrid drive, the Momentus XT, bumped the flash memory to 4GB and added 32MB of DDR3 cache memory.
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