Egg Freckles
Notes from my Newton

May 2013 | Fast Times & Short Life of Fusion Drive

Fast Times & Short Life of Fusion Drive

Fusion Drive, we barely knew you. Announced as part of an Apple event held on October 23rd, 2012, Fusion Drive combined the large capacity of a conventional hard drive with the speed of a 128 GB flash storage to create a single logical volume with the space of both drives combined. The operating system automatically managed the contents of the Fusion Drive so the most frequently accessed applications, documents, photos, and other data are stored on the faster flash storage, while infrequently used items moved or stayed on the hard drive. Users benefited from the affordable large-capacity data storage Fusion Drive provided, while still experiencing the quick boot times and fast application launch speeds of an SSD.

Unfortunately many of Apple’s most popular Macs could not accommodate Fusion Drive due to a lack of space. Fusion Drive required space for a conventional 2.5 inch hard drive as well separate flash storage, and only the 2013 iMac and Mac mini could include one as a build-to-order option. Even the Mac Pro, with its boxy design and removable hard drive modules, could not take advantage of Fusion Drive. In a time when Macs were getting thinner and lighter, Fusion Drive was pushed out of the nest before it could ever take flight.

There was also the problem of price. At $250 for 128 GBs of flash memory, Fusion Drive came at a premium compared to other third-party SSDs. The people most likely to take advantage of Fusion Drive’s simplicity were the ones least likely to pay for it. And shortly after Fusion Drive’s release, large capacity solid state drives dropped in price, giving power users other options.

Let’s not forget that most users no longer need the high-capacity storage the Fusion Drive provided. The Mac is no longer the digital hub is once was. As more and more content moves to the cloud, Flickr, Pandora, and Netflix have taken away the importance of having high-capacity hard drives on modern Macs. Users of today’s popular personal computer, the iPad, make due with storage capacities half the size of affordable SSDs. Why would they need eight times the storage a Fusion Drive provided? Fusion Drive tried to solve a problem most people really didn’t have.

Fusion Drive, no one needs your fragile combination of storage technologies anymore. If Apple had really believed in you, they would have made you the default storage system on a Mac, any Mac. Instead you were neglected to a build-to-order-option. Even the top-of-the-line 27 inch iMac never shipped with a Fusion Drive standard. Fusion Drive, we will always remember you for the fast plentiful storage you promised. A great idea whose time came too late.