Hard drive rivals team up on hybrid drives

The top five hard drive manufacturers have teamed up to promote a new technology that will improve system performance and reduce power usage.

The Hybrid Storage Alliance - formed by Fujitsu , Hitachi , Samsung , Seagate , and Toshiba - will promote hybrid disk technology. The alliance looks to incorporate flash memory into standard hard drives.

They say the initiative is aimed at 'communicating the benefits of hybrid hard drive technology to computer makers and end users'.

Hybrid hard disks have built-in flash memory that works as a buffer between the computer and the hard disk.

The flash memory is used for short-term storage both to and from the disk, meaning data can be accessed quicker. It reduces the amount of time the disk spins, which in turn reduces the power consumption.

Reading and writing data from flash memory is also considerably faster.

"It takes advantage of the capacity of the hard disk drive and the snappiness of solid-state technology," said Marc Noblitt, senior interface market development manager at Seagate.

"When the PC comes out of hibernate it has the correct data in the flash to come out much quicker," he said.

Hybrid technology in Vista

The hybrid technology is supported by Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system, to be released on 30 January.

Windows Vista has a built-in feature called ReadyDrive that writes data onto the quicker flash memory chip instead of the standard hard drive. This speeds up booting up after a notebook computer has been put into hibernation or standby modes.

The Hybrid Storage Alliance claims that flash memory chips are now cheap enough to be built into hybrid drives without a huge increase in price. However, SanDisk yesterday announced its new 32GB flash-based hard drive, which will initially add $600 (£309) onto the price of a notebook computer.

The hybrid drives are expected to come become available later in the first quarter of 2007. Members of the Hybrid Storage Alliance will be demonstrating the technology at CES in Las Vegas next week.