Apple's New 'Fusion Drive' Not a Typical Hybrid Drive

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Apr 12, 2001
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Amongst the many new products Apple introduced today, they also announced a new storage option called Fusion Drive. Apple's website describes how the drive works:
With Fusion Drive in your iMac, disk-intensive tasks -- from booting up to launching apps to importing photos -- are faster and more efficient. That's because frequently used items are kept at the ready on speedy flash storage, while infrequently accessed items go to the hard drive. The file transfers take place in the background, so you won't even notice.
Some thought the drive might be Apple's implementation of a Hybrid drive which uses SSD as a caching system, but it appears that Apple's system is distinct. The MacObserver digs into some details and clarifies:
To be clear, this is not a caching concept, at least not in the current use of the word. Cache would imply that the data on the SSD is duplicated, and it's not. If you have a 1TB mechanical drive paired with the 128GB SSD, you have a 1.12 TB storage platform. This truly is the fusion of all the space on two separate disks.
Ars Technica compares it to an enterprise feature called Automated Tiered Storage.
In a caching solution, like Intel's, files live on the hard disk drive and are temporarily mirrored to the SSD cache as needed. In an enterprise auto-tiering situation, and with Fusion Drive, the data is actually moved from one tier to another, rather than only being temporarily cached there.
The Mac Observer reports that there are two separate drives that appear as one logical partition. As a result, if your Hard Drive fails, it could be replaced with a 3rd party drive and reconfigured as a Fusion Drive.

Meanwhile, they note that all writes take place on the SSD drive, and are later moved to the mechanical drive if needed, resulting in faster initial writes. The Fusion will be available for the new iMac and new Mac mini models announced today.

Article Link: Apple's New 'Fusion Drive' Not a Typical Hybrid Drive
 
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gregwyattjr

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Oct 17, 2008
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This feature is perfect during this HD to SDD transitional period. It'll keep things affordable while still supplying great performance.
 

JesterJJZ

macrumors 68020
Jul 21, 2004
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Personally, an SSD boot drive and separate large HD seems more practical. No need to "fuse" them into one volume. Just seems like asking for trouble.
 

HiRez

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Jan 6, 2004
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The way I see it, this is a variation of what OS X has been using for a long time: moving frequently used files to the faster "hot zone" on the outside of the drive (faster rotational speed). But here, the "hot zone" is a separate flash storage drive instead of being on the same hard disk. But sounds like cool technology. Is it all contained in a single unit? Can it be replaced easily, or as a single unit?

Unfortunately, where I need speed is for my ~150 GB of RAW photos, and it looks like the flash storage component is too small to fully benefit me there. The hard drive on my 2011 iMac is deathly slow, my MacBook Air is WAY faster, despite technically being much lower-specced. That SSD makes all the difference in the world.
 
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praetorian909

macrumors regular
Aug 4, 2004
240
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Very interesting, though I'm wondering what if one of those drives fail. Is your data retrievable from the other one?
 

munkery

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Dec 18, 2006
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The higher end 21.5 iMac can be configured with a 1 TB fusion drive as well.
 

diamond3

macrumors 6502a
Oct 6, 2005
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I really hope this feature becomes available to other macs that have an SSD and HDD already installed. Even the previous generation iMacs you could have an SSD and HDD installed by Apple. If they open it up to other computers, I'll look forward to installing it on my Macbook Pro with the dual drives instead of the optical drive.
 

Stetrain

macrumors 68040
Feb 6, 2009
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Personally, an SSD boot drive and separate large HD seems more practical. No need to "fuse" them into one volume. Just seems like asking for trouble.
The fusion drive is just software to automatically handle that. Most consumers probably don't want to have to deal with having a boot drive and a data drive. Some things can be tricky to get onto an external drive, like iTunes and iPhoto libraries.
 

btbeme

macrumors regular
Jul 29, 2010
233
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Way cool technology aside, is anyone else curious how VMWare feels about the name?
 

gaximus

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Oct 11, 2011
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The way I see it, this is a variation of what OS X has been using for a long time: moving frequently used files to the faster "hot zone" on the inside of the drive (faster rotational speed). But here, the "hot zone" is a separate flash storage drive instead of being on the same hard disk. But sounds like cool technology. Is it all contained in a single unit? Can it be replaced easily, or as a single unit?

Unfortunately, where I need speed is for my ~150 GB of RAW photos, and it looks like the flash storage component is too small to fully benefit me there. The hard drive on my 2011 iMac is deathly slow.
Outside of the drive spins faster, but I know what you mean.
 

Roller

macrumors 68030
Jun 25, 2003
2,562
1,033
Wonder why no larger SSD option, especially since you can get a much bigger SSD alone. There must be some sort of balance between the SSD and HDD components in the Fusion configuration.
 

gaximus

macrumors 6502a
Oct 11, 2011
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I hope they make this available for existing products. I'd love to replace the drive in my 2012 mac mini. It sounded like it was mountain lion doing all the work and not new hardware, other than the drive. Does anybody know if this is the case.
 

Rudy69

macrumors 6502a
Mar 30, 2009
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I'm not too happy with the current price for the fusion upgrade ($250 for the mac mini). I hope it will be less for the 27" iMac...but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Will I get the upgrade? Yes... Getting the stand alone SSD is not enough space for what I need and this seems like a good solution for the time being.
 

Man9z0r

macrumors regular
Feb 25, 2011
136
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SLO, CA
Excited to see some benchmarks about this! I currently use a drive like this and wonder if this one is any better! :cool:
 

lilo777

macrumors 603
Nov 25, 2009
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It looks like Intel's Smart Response Technology (SRT)

and most likely that's exactly what it is. It has been available on PCs for a while.
 

azentropy

macrumors 68020
Jul 19, 2002
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Surprise
It does seem to be more of a software solution then. Wonder if it will be something that is added to Disk Utility to be able to do on other systems with dual drives. Nah... This is Apple so probably not :)
 
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