Apple’s Fusion Drive, Can You Roll Your Own?

Apple’s new Fusion Drive technology sounds interesting.  If you go strictly by the name and the brief description of the technology, you might be under the impression that Apple is using those old hybrid drives that never really took off.  The ones that were a conventional spinning disc with a SSD portion built into the same drive mechanism.  It was supposed to enhance the performance of the HDD but not require the price tag of the SSD.  Nice theory, but the drives never took off.  But, good news!  Apple’s Fusion Drive is something entirely different.

Apple’s Fusion Drive is a hardware/software solution that takes 2 disparate drive mechanisms inside the Mac and merges them together at an OS level.  The SSD is used for the OS, applications, and the most frequently used data.  Data that is not speed sensitive or frequently accessed is stored on the HDD.  But the creative bit that Apple has here, the “secret sause,” is that the operating system moves this data between the drives automatically.  No user intervention required.  In fact, even though there are two separate drives in the Mac, the user only sees one logical partition.

Since Apple has yet to ship a computer with Fusion Drive installed as an option, we really don’t know how well the technology will perform yet.  But it does sound interesting.  Unfortunately, Fusion Drive is only an option on the soon to be released iMac update and the upcoming Mac Mini.

Unfortunate for the rest of us.  But a blog post over on Tumblr.com has some interesting information explaining how users can kludge together their own Fusion Drive right now, today.  If your Mac has an SSD and a HDD (internally would be ideal), the Tumblr post explains how to use the Disk Utility to partition the drive and roll your own Fusion Drive.

Check out this link for more information.  I haven’t tested this first hand, but the instructions seem sound, and appear complete.  The post includes examples of test data illustrating how the configuration was moving data between the drives on the fly and optimizing content.  I am very tempted to try this myself…

Update 11/7/12 1:47pm:
The first benchmarks showing Fusion Drive scores have surfaced.  Admittedly these are scores from test run on “roll your own” hardware, but the numbers do prove interesting.  Apple has not yet shipped a system that has its Fusion Drive as a BTO (built to order) option.  But it is likely that the scores from Apple’s hardware will be comparable  possibly even slightly lower than the results of this test: http://www.barefeats.com/hard158.html

Update 11/13/12 2:38pm:
MacWorld had just posted an overview story that has some great first hand info based on a Fusion Drive powered Mac Mini that they BTO’d from Apple. 

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