A report on Ars Technica highlights DTS, a Japanese company that aims to create an efficient and affordable hybrid hard disk. Traditionally -- though the word is used lightly since this is all still recent technology -- hybrid hard disks consist of an ordinary platter-based hard disk combined with a module of NAND flash memory, similar to flash memory found in MP3 players.
This new effort is aimed at desktop computers, and is essentially an amalgam of a smaller laptop hard disk, and 1GB of ordinary DDR RAM like that found in all computers.
This is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, the 1GB of on-board memory significantly increases overall performance because it takes a massive strain off traditional disk drives, without significantly increasing cost; and secondly, because the processing power required to handle the operation of such a disk is provided by a dedicated CPU inside the drive itself.
There is however a third interesting point. DDR RAM is volatile memory, meaning, quite simply, when the power goes off, the data in the memory is lost. This eliminates any long-term storage of, for example, critical operating system components that are required during a system's initial boot -- one of the main reasons 'traditional' flash-based hybrid drives are so attractive.
Despite the volatility of the RAM inside this new type of hybrid drive, the advantages sit inside a niche different to that in which 'traditional' hybrids sit. Enthusiasts and system performance-geeks will appreciate the extensive usefulness of having a hard drive fitted with a dedicated gigabyte of RAM, especially as existing disks include an on-board cache measured in megabytes of double figures.
'Traditional' and 'RAM-based' hybrid disks sit in separate niches, so neither has to eat into the other's territory, and a true enthusiast or system professional will appreciate that these disks could exist together in a single system to create a truly tripped-out hybrid-fuelled machine.