Or, the solid state drives (SSDs) which are blazingly fast and notably expensive. A few years ago, Apple, a pioneer in pushing SSDs into the mainstream, introduced Fusion Drive, a new way to improve performance and reduce cost per gigabyte. Now it’s going mainstream.
Apple’s Way Today, Tomorrow
The way Apple designed and implemented the Fusion Drive in Macs has more benefits than drawbacks. Basically, Fusion Drive marries an SSD for performance with a traditional HD for lower storage cost.
My desk has a new iMac with 5k Retina display and a Fusion Drive. It’s not as fast as a Mac with an SSD, but it’s close, and it has more storage for less money than an SSD-only Mac.
Apple can do such wizardry because it owns the designs for hardware and software in OS X, so, for the most part, it just works. Faster SSD-like performance, but lower HDD-like cost per gigabyte.
As usual, Apple leads, others follow. Hard disk giant Western Digital, now known as WD, announced a 4TB hybrid drive (think ‘fusion drive’ with extras) that combines a hard disk drive of immense proportions with a speedy 128GB SSD with a SATA Express PCI-e interface– in a single package.
Take a look.
WD’s techspeak folks say it’s a new way to make a combo of hard disk drive and flash storage look just like a single volume to the user. Hmmm. Isn’t that exactly what Apple does with the Mac’s Fusion Drive product? That was introduced back in 2012.
Typical Apple. The company doesn’t say much about how Fusion Drive works, and getting it to work on older Macs, even those with both an SSD and hard disk drive installed is somewhat problematic.
Basically, it works this way. OS X and critical documents are cached on the SSD for faster performance. Applications used frequently may be stored on SSD, too. Otherwise, less critical (for performance) files remain on the hard disk drive.
You can see why Apple pushed SSDs to the forefront on notebooks, and incorporate SSDs in the iMac line. Performance is remarkably improved over HDDs. Yet, SSDs remain expensive for much smaller storage. For example, a 1TB SSD can cost about $500 while a 1TB SATA HDD is available for just over $50. 10 times as fast for 10 times the price. But together, a hybrid system such as Fusion Drive delivers greater performance than an HDD and lower cost per gigabyte than an SSD.
And Apple did this back in 2012 and it’s about ready to become mainstream among PCs later this year or next.