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When hybrid drives make more sense than solid-state drives

Even though hybrid drives are growing in popularity, one analyst believes they still rank behind solid-state drives.

"I'm a big believer that if you can afford them and you have the need, go with solid state," says Greg Schulz of StorageIO. "Unfortunately, not everybody can afford them, or their budget's constrained."

Schulz says taking a bigger-picture view is often helpful. "If we take a step back, the key is not if, it's when, where, why and how much flash solid state you will have in your future," he says. "If you subscribe that flash should be everywhere -- not that everything should be 100% flash, but more flash in different locations to help things out -- that's where hybrid drives and more specifically, the new generation of solid-state hybrid drives come into play, which are a little different [from] the previous generation."

Schulz says finding compromise is helpful when you're trying to balance needs with budget. "Think of it this way: You can have solid state with all kind of performance, but it costs a lot. You want more space capacity but have to fit within a budget. You have to choose between the two. What if I said, 'Would you like something in between? Would that interest you?' Absolutely. That's where hybrid drives come into play." The new generation of hybrid drives are available in both enterprise class and desktop class, he says.

"I also hear from people who say, 'Oh, you have flash. That will wear out.' Not necessarily, because, depending on the implementation, some actually use [dynamic RAM] for writes. They back that up with nonvolatile memory that doesn't wear out like flash, and the flash is used for read caching."

The benefits of hybrid drives are readily apparent. "Think about a 4 TB drive with performance several times faster than you would expect out of that same spinning drive, but without the high price," Schulz says. "Without a doubt, if you can afford them, go with solid state, but if you have to find a compromise in between, that's where hybrid comes into play and how you can use them in new and different ways."

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