Western Digital Debuts 2.5-Inch Hybrid Hard Drive

WD's hybrid hard drive combines MLC NAND flash storage with magnetic disks, along with tiered data technology.

Western Digital subsidiary and storage specialist WD unveiled what it claims to be the world's thinnest 2.5-inch hybrid hard drive, designed to provide high-capacity storage while featuring instant-on and application performance similar to today's client solid state drives (SSDs). The company noted it is sampling the 5mm-thin hard disk drive and will showcase the technology at an investor's conference later this week.

The technology pairs multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash storage for SSD-like data throughput and instant-on responsiveness with magnetic disks for high-capacity storage. The drives also use data tiering, whereby data accessed most frequently (known as "hot" data) is managed using NAND flash for fast response times, "cold" data-- data accessed less often--resides on the robust magnetic disks.

"Mobile devices are becoming smaller, thinner, lighter and more responsive," Matt Rutledge, vice president of client storage solutions at WD, said in a prepared statement. "Working with our technology partners, WD has developed new 5 mm hard drives that enable high capacity storage along with excellent performance and superior economics to allow our customers to expand their thin offerings."

The tiered design in WD hybrid hard drives, which works in conjunction with the PC operating system, also provides users with a data redundancy, as the magnetic disk backs up all files residing in the NAND, protecting the user from wear and preserving NAND for the more hot data handling. The single-unit design also provides benefits such as lower power consumption, greater operating shock tolerance, and data protection. The company counts computer manufacturers Acer and Asus as partners supporting the drive.

"Acer is partnering with WD to bring advanced notebook performance and capacity in the smallest form factor," David Lee, associate vice president of mobile computing product business unit at Acer, said in a press statement. "It's a part of our ongoing commitment to present leading technology that ultimately improves the total user experience of our customers."

The release comes as WD wraps up a busy summer where the company launched or updated a slew of storage solutions, starting with the July debut of the Red line of network-attached storage (NAS) hard drives for small office/home office applications. In August, the company released the My Book VelociRaptor Duo dual-drive storage system, supported by the Mac OS X operating system and aimed at creative professionals, and added the USB 3.0 interface to its line of My Passport for Mac portable hard drives, increasing capacity for Mac computer users up to 2TB.

Earlier this month, WD announced the latest version of My Passport line of portable hard drives for PC and Mac, My Passport Edge, with drives featuring 500GB of storage and a USB 3.0 interface for improved read/write speeds, and a variety of security features to protect the drive's content from unauthorized access. Security features allow users to set password protection and hardware encryption and protect files from unauthorized use or access, while the company's SmartWare automatic continuous backup software helps protect data using minimal PC resources.