Apple’s new iMac’s Fusion Drive a turning point for hybrid drives

“When Apple Inc marketing head Phil Schiller launched the new iMac in October he enthused about its “Fusion Drive”, a storage option combining the cost and capacity benefits of hard drives with the speed of flash memory,” Himank Sharma reports for Reuters.

“Apple’s adoption of a technology that has been around for years, without really catching on, looks likely to finally bring ‘hybrid’ drives into the mainstream.,” Sharma reports. “The outlook has also suddenly brightened for makers of hard disk drives (HDDs), whose share of the $45 billion storage drive market is being eroded by makers of more modern solid state drives (SSDs) that are faster, more reliable but also pricier.”

Sharma reports, “Now, both Seagate and rival HDD maker Western Digital Corp are banking on hybrids to get a leg up in a crowded SSD market, where they compete with more than 100 other firms… To be sure, Apple’s solution is not strictly speaking a hybrid drive. It is software-based, relying on a huge chunk of flash memory linked to a standard HDD. Still, the underlying rationale puts it in the same category as a hybrid. ‘We’ve certainly been getting more calls from OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) since Apple’s announcement,’ Scott Horn, Seagate’s vice president of marketing, told Reuters… “It is important to note that Apple is validating the value of hybrid technologies,’ Western Digital President Steve Milligan said.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Please stop the madness: Apple Mac’s Fusion Drive is not about caching – November 29, 2012
Apple’s new Fusion Drive technology also works on older Macs – October 31, 2012
Apple’s new patented Fusion Drive is more advanced than you might think – October 24, 2012


  1. @trondude: Did just that. Ordered iMac 27 with all upgrades except RAM. 3rd party RAM is here waiting for the iMac (status: preparing for shipping!) Went with a Drobo 5D for thunderbolt HDD and SSD storage. Can’t wait to see how this one performs…

    1. agreed but hey its a cool way to implement tiered storage!

      I’m not sure about the whole “SSD is more reliable than HD” argument either. Some SSD models from top tier manufacturers have had 25% failure rates within 12 months. makes me kind of jumpy trusting anything critical on that medium.

  2. @ Really: do you trust data storage to your iPhone? Then you already trust SSD.

    Let us hope that SSD pricing continues to fall such that Apple’s bridge technology is not required. Fusion will no longer be necessary when SSD production capacity & competition has ramped up.

    How hard is it to manage multiple volumes anyway?
    1) startup/working drive can be relatively small, SSD excels
    2) media drive(s) for photo, music, and video can be stored on drives appropriate to their use. multi-tasking is FAR better.
    3) separate cheap hard drives can back up the startup drive (Apple Time Machine) and less frequent media backups (using free or cheap 3rd party automated schedule-based tools) as necessary.

    Such a robust system requires at least 3 drives, but it will kick a Fusion drive’s performance out the door. Pricing depends on your preferences, but Apple’s $250 128MB + 1TB fusion drive combo ain’t cheap. A 120GB SSD over at OWC is only $130, if only one could stuff it in his iMac with his own hands. Still, the Thunderbolt solution starts at about $200, no more than Fusion.

    And without question local storage is faster and more secure choice than letting somebody else manage all your data storage on their server farm.

    Fusion may have its attraction, but if one can afford top-quality Mac hardware, it’s only a small step to add on drives as you need them for a superior solution.

  3. When did ignorance become acceptable?

    The article is correct that Apple’s FusionDrive is nothing new, it has been around for many, many years; not in the form of a HybridDrive though, but rather tiered storage, beginning on mainframes when disk drives were much more expensive (and had much less capacity) than tape drives.

    HybridDrives and tiered storage are in fact very different technologies to achieve the same goal: higher performance.

    HybridDrives are hard disks that use some form of solid state memory as a cache to boost performance. The data on the cache also exists on the hard disk, it is not additional storage.

    Tiered storage is combining two or more different storage devices into one logical volume and *moving* higher priority data to the fastest drive. This can happen across many different types of devices and storage media.

    Apple’s FusionDrive is mistaken as a HybridDrive because it happens to use solid state storage, but that’s where the similarities end. Calling it a HybridDrive is akin to calling it RAID 0.

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