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The State of Solid State Storage

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the see-get-it-i-repeated-the-word-to-give-the-title-a-punch dept.

Data Storage 481

carlmenezes writes "Pretty much every time a faster CPU is released, there are always a few that are marveled by the rate at which CPUs get faster but loathe the sluggish rate that storage evolves. Recognizing the allure of solid state storage, especially to performance-conscious enthusiast users, Gigabyte went about creating the first affordable solid state storage device, and they called it i-RAM. Would you pay $100 for a 4GB Solid State Drive that is up to 6x faster than a WD Raptor?"

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Gentoo?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13164986)

I use Gentoo; how does this affect me?

Re:Gentoo?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165127)

You will justhave to recompile...


Re:Gentoo?? (1)

jusdisgi (617863) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165252)

I use Gentoo; how does this affect me?

Uh, why wouldn't it? To the system it's just a SATA drive. I've got a gentoo system that's taking up 1.8GB and doing useful stuff. It's not very performance intensive right now, as I've only got 5 phones attached to it (it's an asterisk PBX), but should I go and attach another 100 or so, I can see how this would be pretty cool. I could store the voicemail off on some big disk, and the rest of everything would be perfectly happy on this drive.

Of course, I do wonder whether the reliability would be good. The battery in particular bothers me. On the other hand, while TFA says there's no disk-backup system, I disagree....seems like dd should work ok, right?

No Way! (2)

daviq (888445) | more than 9 years ago | (#13164992)

I would rather have more storage-->not more speed. I see the need for the faster processor for calculations and video editing. These industries need space and 4gigs isn't gonna cut it.

Re:No Way! (2, Interesting)

Bimo_Dude (178966) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165051)

Agreed. It seems to me that there is still a loooooong way to go with SS storage. IMHO, the people who would need this kind of speed are likely to be editing a lot of video (or some other system-intensive stuff), so therefore would also need tons of storage.

That being said, I do like the idea, and when they have something that's 300GB+ and solid state, I'd be happy to pay a few hundred dollars for it. It would be quite useful for a media system.

Re:No Way! (1)

Dagny Taggert (785517) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165110)

Agreed. Storage is the future, with speed a distant second, IMHO. I put a Raptor in my machine with a second drive for multimedia stuff and I didn't notice a huge difference. I'm running an Athlon64 3000+ and a gig of RAM. However, I understand that there are uses for which a super-speedy drive is a godsend. I just don't think most users need speed over storage.

Re:No Way! (5, Interesting)

peculiarmethod (301094) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165130)

I don't agree. I record music on at least 8 tracks at a time into a single cpu. I NEED higher transfer rates. If it's 4 gigs, thats enough to keep it recording without a drop in an entire days worth of recording. Then I can dump all that data to a slower, larger drive. It may not fit everyone's needs.. but this is PERFECT for me.

RAH (-1, Troll)

Armadni General (869957) | more than 9 years ago | (#13164993)


Sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13164994)

I know I would!

Sad news Japanese astronaut dead at 54 (1)

CreamOfWheat (593775) | more than 9 years ago | (#13164995)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio: Japanese astronaut Keichi Nokamoto died this morning at 10:39 AM in Florida. Apparantly there was some sort of explosion, but no further details are available. Even if you did not admire his work, there is no denying his contributions to hardcore gangsta rap. Truly a Japanese icon!

history repeats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13164996)

hell, they did it a few years ago for much slower drives

Let me think. (5, Interesting)

gandell (827178) | more than 9 years ago | (#13164997)

Would you pay $100 for a 4GB Solid State Drive that is up to 6x faster than a WD Raptor?

Nope. I'd rather wait longer and have more capacity for less money. After all, I use Windows as my primary OS. I'm used to waiting.

Truthfully, though, if the price came down, I'd be interested in this for a Windows install, and then install all my apps and save all my docs to an external IDE.

Re:Let me think. (3, Insightful)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165039)

Speaking of Windows, I would only want this if the OS used it intelligently for caching, hybernation, etc. automatically. If I had to manually juggle files between the magnetic drives and the fast storage, I wouldn't bother.

Re:Let me think. (1)

LiquidMind (150126) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165073)

"... if the price came down, I'd be interested in this for a Windows install..."

why not try this now? i agree that the price vs. space ratio isn't exactly great, but if you're just gonna use it for the OS install, it oughta be enough.

anyone have any idea how much quicker paging, program launch, defrag, etc would work on one of these?

on that note, they could use the speed as their sales pitch. "Formats Windows partitions 6 times faster!!!" *ducks*

Try reading the post next time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165196)

Because, if you had RTFPP (parent post) which you even quoted yourself, he wasn't complaining about the size but rather the price.

Re:Try reading the post next time (1)

LiquidMind (150126) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165260)


Re:Let me think. (2, Insightful)

Enigma_Man (756516) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165078)

And this thing is only 6x faster than spinning media? That seems much slower than it ought to be, considering that it is solid-state. I suppose if that's only continuous throughput, and doesn't take latency into effect it might be okay, but still. How about 100x faster?


Re:Let me think. (3, Informative)

archen (447353) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165250)

I was thinking the same thing, but keep in mind that this thing is actually acting like a SATA drive. I'm sure they're hitting the limitations of SATA, not the limitations of ram. Until they come up with a _standard_ configuration for this type of memory disk that talks as fast as the ram allows instead of following ide/scsi/sata standards, we're stuck with these speeds for compatibility reasons I'm thinking.

Would I pay... (1)

MaestroSartori (146297) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165003)

...NO! :)

I'd use Raid (2, Informative)

ttown (669945) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165004)

Having disk in parallel will speed up your storage much cheaper. 6x faster is not significant.

Re:I'd use Raid (4, Informative)

MasterC (70492) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165090)

Having disks in parallel doesn't solve the latency problem, only increases the throughput.

More than $100... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165008)

The card itself goes for $150, not including any RAM. So add 4 1GB sticks of RAM and you are looking at $500+ for the whole setup. So that is about $125 per GB...ouch!

Re:More than $100... (1)

Tx (96709) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165056)

I was just going to say the same thing. If the $100 had included the RAM, it'd have been a huge bargain. As it is, no thanks.

Re:More than $100... (2, Insightful)

Jonsey (593310) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165343)

Actually, the card only addresses the RAM at 100MHz (I think that's considered PC1600, I may be wrong here though).

That means this card uses your old chump-RAM, or very very cheap to buy RAM. It's a good deal, just in that it gives me something to do with all the PC2100 I've got laying around.

Re:More than $100... (1)

CdBee (742846) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165197)

I read the header and thought "yes I'll order one today" - and would have even if it had been $150

Then I read this posting, followed by reading TFA. No. Not buying that today !

$100? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165009)

It's more like $500 considering you have to buy the RAM aswell....

Shuttle Launch Success (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165010)


Am I getting old? (5, Insightful)

iguana (8083) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165016)

I remember seeing this sort of thing way back in the DOS days. Battery backed RAM on an ISA card. Product died out because RAM was more expensive than HD.

Re:Am I getting old? (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165084)

Sill exists. Saw some PCI cards that take up to 8 pc-133 dimms when I was doing some online shopping not too long ago.

Not Compatible with Linux (0, Troll)

repruhsent (672799) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165018)

I'm sure you'll all want to know that this device will NOT be compatible with Linux.

This is because the disk subsystem of Linux relies on some delay being present in between a piece of code triggering a write opearation and the write actually going to disk. This is why that whole sync() thing is required.

To combat this problem, Linux will have to be written from the ground up to take this into account. I think it'll take several years for support for these devices to make it into the kernel, and probably a few years after that for the bugs to get worked out.

If you would like to run this right now, though, I suggest you try Microsoft's line of products. They're much more stable and secure than Linux, and much less expensive. Feel free to read some information about these products here [] .

Re:Not Compatible with Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165104)

can anyone say FUD?

Re:Not Compatible with Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165183)


Re:Not Compatible with Linux (1)

Dagny Taggert (785517) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165210)

This is incredibly sad. How many converts, exactly, are you hoping to land? This /., after all. I, for one, am still running AIX 4.3 on my home machine. GUIs make my skin crawl.

Re:Not Compatible with Linux (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165234)

GUIs make my skin crawl

Thats interesting.. Does the sun also make your skin crawl?

Re:Not Compatible with Linux (3, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165251)

Nice troll.
It's called "lazy writes", i.e. the OS waits until all the disk buffers are full, or a time limit expires before it writes a buffer to disk. It's a pretty standard operating system optimization - Windows uses it too. "The whole sync() thing" flushes all the buffers and updates the superblock, telling the OS that the file system is "clean". Windows does this also, this is why you see CHKDSK (the Windows version of fsck) running after a rare Windows system crash.

Not 4 gig.. (1)

pickyouupatnine (901260) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165019)

... But I might just pay $100 for a 10 gig drive. Have my OS and other Server and Site files on their for quick access. It wasn't too long ago when an 10 gig hard drive cost $100. And one for this much speed is definately something a site admin would look at.

Re:Not 4 gig.. (1)

parasonic (699907) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165199)

Think for a minute what you're saying. Sure you could have your OS stuff on there, but why would you want to waste the money to put network content on it? You might be saving wear and tear on your HDD's, but there is a more affordable way.

Just upgrade your RAM. Run a ramdisk, a virtual HDD off the ram, and be done with it! Load an image off the HDD at boot time, and you just had to pay for RAM (assuming that you weren't already maxed out). Halting the system backs it back up to HDD, so there's your "nv" ram aspect as well. For minus $150 the cost.

probably not (1)

tont0r (868535) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165021)

4 gigs is REALLY pushing it. i think the lowest i would expect for $100 is 15-20 gigs. I think the only reason why I would spend that money is to help their sales and hope they come out with better things down the road.

New Tech (2, Insightful)

pcmanjon (735165) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165022)

Well this tech will never catch on if they can't make it affordable. Then again, it won't ever catch on if it is affordable but not worth the price.

15,000 for a 500gb solid state drive isn't affordable
100 for a 4gb solid state drive is affordable, but not worth the price.

What they need to do is make the tech better, yet affordable. What makes it so expensive to competetivly price large solid state storage devices?

On a sidenote, is anyone going to buy this drive that is 4gb and costs 100 bucks? I don't think it's much use to anyone.

Re:New Tech (1)

JonN (895435) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165067)

The biggest use for it would be install an OS on the 4GB and the rest of your data on a larger drive.

Re:New Tech (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165303)

A better use would be to put your primary swap partition on it. Faster than platters.

New Tech-Old Economics. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165114)

" Well this tech will never catch on if they can't make it affordable. Then again, it won't ever catch on if it is affordable but not worth the price."

"A few years ago the first Linux-based Zaurus, the SL-5500, was released for some $600 by Sharp. Today, it only costs $140 in some places online. []

There must be some word for this economic principle.

The "are you a script" word for today is trapped.

Umm more then that... (4, Insightful)

thebdj (768618) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165026)

$150 + (4x$90) = $510 for 4 GB of solid state storage. Definitely not worth it.

interesting name... (1)

0110011001110101 (881374) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165027)

i-Ram... I think I've visited their website..

OH! wait.. hehe that WAS a solid-state website.. but not the kind this article talks about...

well, maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165036)

I spent about $250 in 6 gigs of RAM in anticipation of this thing (RAIDing it)

Nope (2, Interesting)

Asicath (522428) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165037)

Not if its called an iRam.

RamDrive, FlashDrive, etc. are all appropriate names, but iRam? Could the product name be any less descriptive?

Like duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165040)

"Would you pay $100 for a 4GB Solid State Drive that is up to 6x faster than a WD Raptor?"

Yes, yessir, I would.

Interface? (1)

UltimateZer0 (610695) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165042)

Can someone tell me why this thing uses PCI and SATA for interfacing? It seems the embedded chipset could handle the interpretation of SATA commands to that of DRAM. I'm guessing the PCI is for using the system's power? Idunno. Somebody clear this up for me.

Would you pay $100 for a 4GB Solid State Drive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165043)

Fuck No!

Eh (5, Informative)

Tranquilus (877563) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165045)

The performance numbers Anand came up with on this are a little disappointing, in my view. It's nice, of course, to get a few seconds quicker startup of apps or level loads, but I doubt this is really worth it to most of us at this stage (aside from the coolness factor). Once capacity of these rises enough to make them capable of replacing HDs, though, they might be really nifty in the entertainment/HTPC space due to that silent operation. Basically, an interesting concept, still not quite ready for prime time, but getting a lot closer. Worth a quick read, anyway...

Enough for a distro (1)

jlebrech (810586) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165048)

4gb is enough for a distro. you can use the conventional drives for the data.

I'll take it! (1, Interesting)

freeze128 (544774) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165052)

I have several machines around the office that are just fine, but have defective hard drives. This is because Dell ships the crappiest hard drives they can find (Quantum). The machines are NOT new and fast, but they run the applications that I need them to just fine. When a hard disk goes bad, I find it difficult to install a 40GB hard disk, when all I need is a couple of gigs. Some of these machines won't even support a hard drive > 30GB.

A small capacity flash drive is just what I need in this application. I would prefer that the price for a 4GB model come down a bit though. With the solid-state hard drives, these machines could last another 5-6 years!

Re:I'll take it! (1)

IoN_PuLse (788965) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165101)

Quantum drives haven't been available new for some time, they were bought by Maxtor years ago...

nm (1)

IoN_PuLse (788965) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165140)

Nevermind, I see you're talking about old machines...

Sure... (1)

spywhere (824072) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165053)

Would you pay $100 for a 4GB Solid State Drive that is up to 6x faster than a WD Raptor?

Yes. It's big enough to let me run my OS and key programs from it... that surpasses more RAM as the biggest $100 speed boost that can be had.

Would I pay? (0)

Armadni General (869957) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165054)

No. I wouldn't pay for that. Too little GBs, too much $$. But, consider: now that it's in production by a major company, we may be on the way to practically affordable solid-state storage.

Full Article Text follows:

For years now motherboard manufacturers have been struggling to find other markets to branch out to, in an attempt to diversify themselves, preparing for inevitable consolidation in the market. Every year at Computex, we'd hear more and more about how the motherboard business was getting tougher and we'd see more and more non-motherboard products from these manufacturers. For the most part, the non-motherboard products weren't anything special. Everyone got into making servers, then multimedia products, then cases, networking, security, water cooling; the list goes on and on.

This year's Computex wasn't very different, except for one thing - when Gigabyte showed us their collection of goodies for the new year, we were actually quite interested in one of them. And after we posted about it, we found that quite a few of you all were very interested in it too. Gigabyte's i-RAM was an immediate success and it wasn't so much that the product was a success, but it was the idea that piqued everyone's interests.

Pretty much every time a faster CPU is released, we always hear from a group of users that are marveled by the rate at which CPUs get faster but loathe the sluggish rate that storage evolves. We've been stuck with hard disks for decades now, and although the thought of eventually migrating to solid state storage has always been there, it's always been so very distant. These days you can easily get a multi-gigabyte solid state drive if you're willing to spend the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to get one; prices actually vary from the low $1000s to the $100K range for solid state devices, obviously making them impractical for desktop users.

The performance benefits of solid state storage have always been tempting. With no moving parts, reliability is improved tremendously, and at the same time, random accesses are no longer limited by slow and difficult to position read/write heads. While sequential transfer rates have improved tremendously over the past 5 years thanks to ever increasing platter densities among other improvements, it is the incredibly high latency that makes random accesses very expensive from a performance standpoint for conventional hard disks. A huge reduction in random access latency and increase in peak bandwidth are clear performance advantages to solid state storage, but until now they both came at a very high price.

The other issue with solid state storage is that DRAM is volatile, meaning that as soon as power is removed from the drive all of your data would be lost. More expensive solutions get around this by using a combination of a battery backup as well as a hard disk that keeps a backup of all data written to the solid state drive, just in case the battery or main power should fail.

Recognizing the allure of solid state storage, especially to performance-conscious enthusiast users, Gigabyte went about creating the first affordable solid state storage device, and they called it i-RAM.

By utilizing conventional DDR memory modules, Gigabyte's i-RAM is a lot cheaper to implement than more conventional solid state devices. Gigabyte sells you the card, and it's up to you to populate it with memory - a definite plus for those of us who happen to have a lot of older memory laying around, especially after next year's transition to DDR2 for AMD platforms.

The backup issue is solved by the use of a battery pack that is charged by your system on the fly, although there is no disk backup available for the i-RAM.

Through some custom logic, the i-RAM works and acts just like a regular SATA hard drive. But how much of a performance increase is there for desktop users? And is the i-RAM worth its still fairly high cost of entry? We've spent the past week trying to find out...

Gigabyte sent us the first production version of their i-RAM card, marked as revision 1.0 on the PCB.

There were some obvious changes between the i-RAM we received and what we saw at Computex.

First, the battery pack is now mounted in a rigid holder on the PCB. The contacts are on the battery itself, so there's no external wire to deliver power to the card.

Contrary to what has been said in the past, the i-RAM still uses a Xilinx FPGA, which gets the job done but is most likely slower and more expensive than a custom made chip.

A Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) is literally an array of gates that can be programmed and reprogrammed to behave in virtually any fashion; the benefit of using a FPGA over a conventional integrated circuit is that a company like Gigabyte can just purchase a FPGA that is suitable for their application, rather than having to send their own IC design to a fab which takes much more time and costs a lot more than just purchasing FPGAs for their initial product run. FPGAs are often chosen because of their quick time to market, although they are more expensive to mass produce than ICs.

The Xilinx FPGA has three primary functions: it acts as a 64-bit DDR memory controller, a SATA controller and a bridge chip between the memory and SATA controllers. The chip takes requests over the SATA bus, translates them and then sends them off to its DDR controller to write/read the data to/from memory.

Gigabyte has told us that the initial production run of the i-RAM will only be a quantity of 1000 cards, available in the month of August, at a street price of around $150. We would expect that price to drop over time, and it's definitely a lot higher than what we were told at Computex ($50).

The i-RAM is outfitted with 4 184-pin DIMM slots that will accept any DDR DIMM. The memory controller in the Xilinx FPGA operates at 100MHz (DDR200) and can actually support up to 8GB of memory, however Gigabyte says that the i-RAM card itself only supports 4GB of DDR SDRAM. We didn't have any 2GB unbuffered DIMMs to try in the card to test its true limit, but Gigabyte tells us it is 4GB.

The Xilinx FPGA also won't support ECC memory, although we have mentioned to Gigabyte that a number of users have expressed interest in having ECC support in order to ensure greater data reliability.

Although the i-RAM plugs into a conventional 3.3V 32-bit PCI slot, it doesn't use the PCI connector for anything other than power. All data is transfered via the Xilinx chip and over the SATA connector directly to your motherboard's SATA controller, just like any regular SATA hard drive.

Armed with a 64-bit memory controller and DDR200 memory, the i-RAM should be capable of transferring data at up to 1.6GB/s to the Xilinx chip, however the actual transfer rate to your system is bottlenecked by the SATA bus. The i-RAM currently implements the SATA150 spec, giving it a maximum transfer rate of 150MB/s.

With SATA as the only data interface, Gigabyte made the i-RAM infinitely more useful than software based RAM drives, because to the OS and the rest of your system, the i-RAM appears to be no different than a regular hard drive. You can install an OS, applications or games on it, you can boot from it and you can interact with it just like you would any other hard drive. The difference is that it is going to be a lot faster and also a lot smaller than a conventional hard drive.

The size limitations are pretty obvious, but the performance benefits really come from the nature of DRAM as a storage medium vs. magnetic hard disks. We have long known that modern day hard disks can attain fairly high sequential transfer rates of upwards of 60MB/s, however as soon as the data stops being sequential and is more random in nature, performance can drop to as little as 1MB/s. The reason for the significant drop in performance is the simple fact that repositioning the read/write heads on a hard disk takes time as does searching for the correct location on a platter to position them. The mechanical elements of hard disks are what make them slow, and it is exactly those limitations that are removed with the i-RAM. Access time goes from milliseconds (1 x 10^-3) down to nanoseconds (1 x 10^-9), and transfer rate doesn't vary so it should be more consistent.

Since it acts as a regular hard drive you can also, theoretically arrange a couple of the i-RAM cards together in RAID if you've got a SATA RAID controller. The biggest benefit to a pair of i-RAM cards in RAID 0 isn't necessarily performance, but now you can get 2x the capacity of a single card. We are working on getting another i-RAM card in house to perform some RAID 0 tests, however Gigabyte has informed us that presently there are stability issues with running two i-RAM cards in RAID 0, so we wouldn't recommend pursuing that avenue until we know for sure that all bugs are worked out.

Since your data is stored on a volatile medium with the i-RAM, a loss of power could mean that everything stored on the card would be erased with no hopes for recovery. While a lot of users may keep their computers on 24/7, there are always occasional power outages that would spell certain doom for i-RAM owners; in order to combat this possibility, Gigabyte outfitted the i-RAM with its own rechargeable battery pack.

The battery pack takes 6 hours to charge completely and charges using the 3.3V power lines on its PCI connector. With a full charge, the i-RAM is supposed to be able to keep the i-RAM's data safe for up to 16 hours. Luckily, in most situations the i-RAM will simply keep itself powered from the PCI slot. As long as your power supply is still plugged in and turned on, regardless of whether or not your system is running, shutdown or in standby mode, the i-RAM will still be powered by the 3.3V line feeding it from the PCI slot.

There are only three conditions where the i-RAM runs off of battery power:

1) When the i-RAM is unplugged from the PCI slot
2) When the power cable is unplugged from your power supply (or the power supply is disconnected from your motherboard).
3) When the power button on your power supply is turned off.

For whatever reason, unplugging the i-RAM from the PCI slot causes its power consumption to go up considerably, and will actually drain its battery a lot quicker than the specified 16 hours. We originally did this to test how long the i-RAM would last on battery power, but then were later told by Gigabyte not to do this because it puts the i-RAM in a state of accelerated battery consumption.

For the most part, the i-RAM will always be powered. Your data is only at risk if you have a long-term power outage or you physically remove the i-RAM card.

If you run out of battery power you will lose all data and the i-RAM will stop appearing as a drive letter in Windows as soon as you power it back up. You'll have to re-create the partition data and copy/install all of your files and programs over again.

The card features four LEDs that indicate its status: PHY_READY, HD_LED, Full and Charging.

The PHY_READY indicator simply lets you know if the Xilinx FPGA and the card are working properly. The HD_LED is an activity indicator that is illuminated whenever you access the i-RAM. The Full indicator turns green when the battery is fully charged, and the Charging indicator is lit amber when the battery is charging. When the i-RAM is running on battery power none of the LEDs are illuminated. It would be nice if there was some way of knowing how much battery power you have remaining on the i-RAM, for those rare situations where the i-RAM isn't being charged. We have asked Gigabyte for some sort of battery life indicator in a future version of the i-RAM.

To begin our testing we loaded the i-RAM up with four 1GB DDR400 sticks. We didn't have any large DDR200 modules, so we unfortunately had to go with more modern DDR400. Using DDR500, DDR400 or DDR200 doesn't change performance at all, since the Xilinx controller runs them all at the same frequency.

With all four banks populated, we connected the i-RAM to our ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe with a regular SATA cable and plugged the card into an open PCI slot.

Powering the system on revealed the installation was a success; the BIOS reported the presence of the i-RAM as a regular storage device connected to our SATA controller:

Before Windows would recognize the drive we had to create a partition on it, the same way you would a hard drive that had no partition on it initially.

After doing so, the i-RAM was completely functional as a regular hard drive:

The biggest difference you notice with the i-RAM isn't necessarily its speed, but rather its sound - it's silent. There are no moving parts, it's silent when the drive is accessed and it obviously doesn't have to spin up or down when the computer starts up. These are all very obvious elements of the card, but they don't really sink in until you actually begin using it.

Also, all disk accesses are instantaneous; formatting the thing takes no time at all, and you can even "defragment" it (although you get no benefit from doing so).

With the setup done, it was time to evaluate the i-RAM as more than just a novelty silent hard drive.

[ot] You've saved Anand some Ad revenue! (1)

wild_berry (448019) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165177)

Would I be out of line to ask if you are farming your Karma?

Surely! (4, Interesting)

Bin_jammin (684517) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165057)

I'd consider buying it if I were building a system that needed some fast write speed... maybe video capture. Be neato if I could get a few and stripe 'em.

Audio (1)

bsd4me (759597) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165265)

This is what I was thinking. Most of my audio and projects would fit on a 4G drive (4G would be tight for video). A drive like this would get used while I was working on the project, and then finished projects would get moved to to my online and offline storage.

Yes, for the OS (2, Interesting)

mindaktiviti (630001) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165058)

I'd love to have a super quick HD for the OS because it's accessed more frequently than, say, some old data file you haven't touched in over a year.

Music, movies, documents, pictures - I don't think these need to be on solid state drives, because they're accessed just fine (except moving GB's of files still needs to be faster), but things like the OS and applications would seem to run a lot quicker if they would all be in ram-like storage.

Re:Yes, for the OS (1)

Laurance (872708) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165160)

Do you think that 4 GB would be enough space for the OS?

I do not know about Windows XP,but I think that OS X is over 4 GB. Does anybody know if this would work alright? I would be willing to try. I could always use some more speed.

Re:Yes, for the OS (1)

mindaktiviti (630001) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165328)

Actually no it wouldn't, but 8GB would be enough for an OS with a typical set of applications installed (minus games, which can be close to 4GB themselves).

Swap Drive (3, Insightful)

smelroy (40796) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165059)

If you use this to hold your swap and your main partition, I think the speed improvement would be well worth it! Then buy a 300GB drive for your MP3 collection and all the other junk that that doesn't need such access speed and you are set.

Re:Swap Drive (1)

andyross (48228) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165202)

Er, no. If you want to pay for 4G more memory, then you use it for memory so you don't have to swap. Your suggestion is analagous to trying to reduce your gasoline consumption by buying an extra car.

Swap? Just put the RAM in the motherboard (1)

ColourlessGreenIdeas (711076) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165271)

The reason why this product is, er, of rather limited use is because you'll get better performance if you don't put a SATA interface between your memory and the processor for no good reason. Just put your 'Swap RAM' into the motherboard. If you don't load that many apps, the spare memory will get used for cacheing all your recently used files and you get even faster load times. Initial boot isn't as fast as all the data does have to come off the disk to start with, so all you're really gaining here is a faster boot.

OK. Some motherboards don't have space for 4GB more RAM, but if you spend $150 more than usual, they probably do.

Deja-Vu all over again (2, Insightful)

BrK (39585) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165060)

Wow, this thing looks almost EXACTLY like the RAM add-in cards we stuck into ISA slots in the mid/late 80's for our zippy '286 and '386 based machines.

Looks like they dug up an old PCB screen, added a battery backup and changed the connectors to work with modern RAM :)

Among other things, I handle the physical hardware design spec for my companies product (the product is software which is loaded onto a hardware to make an "appliance"). I've received emails from quite a few vendors recently offering this sort of solid-state NV storage. I think this market sector is really starting to creep forward, and these might be the kinds of "disks" we see as the norm in the not-so-distant future.

I think first off, though, these will be like caching drives - holding only the data that is most seek-time sensitive to a particular application.

for a 2nd drive (1)

Laurance (872708) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165061)

I would consider using it for a 2nd drive in my G5. Perhaps, I could put one or two large apps on there and have a fast start up time for Photoshop or Final Cut Pro?

If they are able to get some more GB in to them, I would like to have one in my Powerbook to aid in power useage.

Don't forget the RAM in i-RAM (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165062)

Would you pay $100 for a 4GB Solid State Drive that is up to 6x faster than a WD Raptor?

Maybe. But I can't get it. According to the article, the i-RAM costs $150 and that only gets you the card -- you still have to populate the DIMM slots. So the price of that fast solid state drive is about $400 unless you happen to have lots of spare RAM lying around unused.

If you happen to have some DDR 2200 DIMMs that can't be used in your current machine(s), then perhaps you can spend $150 to get some use out of them. Otherwise, this drive is very expensive, and not all that fast -- since it's limited to 150MBps by the SATA bus, you'd get much better performance out of the same RAM by putting it on your motherboard (assuming you can).

Darn straight I would/will! (5, Interesting)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165065)

FreeBSD allows you to allocate a dynamically resizable filesystem out of swap (see: md, mfs). I'm thinking of mounting the whole thing as a super-fast swap partition - basically, as a giant L4 cache - and mounting /tmp and a few other speed-critical filesystems out of there.

Mmmm, hyper-fast builds that don't depend on the latency of moving parts...

Swap Drive (2, Funny)

DotDavid (554558) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165082)

Yes, I would buy one. It would make a great swap partition!

Re:Swap Drive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165272)

You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

Are you intending to use RAM via a disk interface as virtual memory? How about adding the same amount of memory to your computer and disabling virtual memory altogether? Apart from motherboard constraints and insanely memory hungry apps that'd be a much saner approach.

Yes (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165088)

I would buy it in an instant...
But what the summary should ask: Do you want to spend 500$ for the SSD-Card plus 4*1GB Dimms... and then the answer would be a clear no (thats more than a decent budget computer in total, and i would rather put the Dimms into my motherboard than into the card (if i feel the need, i can create a ramdisk at any point later, anyway, and with 6GByte/s and 100ns , not 140MByte/s and 100us like this one)

Rip off. (1)

hazzey (679052) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165100)

That quote is straight off of the review on Anandtech. At least give credit for the quote when you are sending in a story.

OS Drive (1)

Dread Pirate Shanks (860203) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165108)

4GB is starting to approach being large enough to hold an entire OS and all the programs a lot of users have installed. Seems like $100 to have an OS that will boot and run faster than most RAID arrays would be worth it. Nonetheless, 4GB is still only just barely big enough. Until the size at least doubles, this is only practical for a select (rich) few.

triple setup (RAM + SSHD + HD) (2, Interesting)

cyclomedia (882859) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165116)

could be useful for a triple setup, use your ram and hd as you normally would but all the crap that windows usually sticks in the vcache and swap file could be stashed on the Solid State drive. you could then feasibly dump your ram state into it when doing a shutdown and have an instant "reboot" but as the standard HD still has everything on it if the battery backup fails then you can still do a standard boot. if you use it as a speedy ramdisk too you could build a redundancy setup on your standard HD that mirrors it, (albeit not in real time, obviously) keeping your frequently accessed documents and suchlike to hand but also safe from said power failures

Patent Pending? (1)

chill (34294) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165119)

The logo on the box says "patent pending". Good luck. Check out DKB's Battdisk for the Amiga, from 1987 or so. tdisk []

Copy Kickstart on to this, then use it to boot and you could boot an Amiga 3000 in 3-5 seconds. Wonderful device.

[Note: DKB = Dean K. Brown's company that did some real nice, and popular, hardware for the Amiga.]


Re:Patent Pending? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165257)

In post 9-11 world, prior art doesn't matter.

What about virtual memory (1)

cagle_.25 (715952) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165120)

So I'm mostly ignorant of the details of page-swapping, but ...

wouldn't this significantly (well, x6) enhance the performance of applications that require a lot of virtual memory?

That seems like it might be worth it for, say, large databases or graphics rendering.

Re:What about virtual memory (1)

badfish99 (826052) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165340)

How about adding the same amount of real memory? That would work even better.

Make it large enough to hold XP and Office (1)

MooseTick (895855) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165121)

If Microsoft could make one large enought to hold XP and Office they could sell a ton to businesses. It could start/restart faster, run faster, and possiblly be less vulnerable. You would want to be able to perform flash upgrades. The best part would be that it would be very difficult to pirate. MS would love that feature. I'm sure there would still be a hdd version but this could be big if they got Dell/Compaq/Gateway to integrate it into their systems.

What happened to Ramdrive? (2, Interesting)

El_Smack (267329) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165122)

Back in the DOS 5 and 6 days, I used to make an 8 meg ramdrive, copy the X-wing game files to that and run from there. No load times for the cut scenes or new missions, and I still had 8 meg to use for regular memory. X-wing only used 4 meg with all the options, so as long as I could get 620K free I was good to go.

Would I pay $100 for this? (2, Interesting)

Coocha (114826) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165124)

Before I RTFA, I would have said YES! But it looks like it uses PCI only for power; all data transfer is done over SATA-bus, which becomes the speed bottleneck at something around 150 Mbit/sec. Since that's the case, I don't see why they made it a PCI card at all... I assume the FPGA and the DDR memory require low-voltage power not offered by a normal hard-drive-style 12V molex connector. Meh.

It just seems to me that the card itself is very bulky, and a similarly-priced RAMdisk with greater storage and a better form-factor is just waiting to be implemented. Oh, and it's not 4GB RAMdisk for $100, b/c you have to purchase the DDR as well :/

Re:Would I pay $100 for this? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165267)

It's done because the PCI slot provides continuous power, even when the system is turned off.

YES! Imagine a 4gb solid state swap drive/ram disk (1)

voss (52565) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165128)

$100 to have 2gb set aside for ultrafast swap and 2gb set aside to load games into SS memory.

Probably. However comma... (1)

bechthros (714240) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165143)

The thing that makes solid-state, lightning-fast storage attractive to me is digital multitrack recording. In that world, the faster your drive the more tracks can be recorded at once. The thing is, when you're recording 18 tracks of 16/44.1 PCM, 1 gig lasts about ten seconds. The same can be said about digital video. I applaud the speed, and I probably will wind up buying one, but when the capacities get as high as standard drives are now PLUS that speed, then it'll be something I won't be able to live without.

YES!!! Hurry up and release it already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165146)

Any clue when this will be available?

Hackability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13165164)

Looks like this is driven by a Xilinx 1M gate FPGA. Wonder if it could be setup to act as a coprocessor for other applications.

Great idea but... (1)

Vernalex (565965) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165174)

I would love a solid state hard-drive. But, I don't want it to be volatile like this one is. I want it to be static and I want enough read/write cycles that it doesn't fall apart after a year of heavy use.

I personally want to have my operating system on a 10GB flash drive. But, I don't want to do it with RAM because then it won't be faster to boot.

And I've got the feeling this post was an advertisement anyhow.

The real question (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165184)

Ok, so it's faster than a disk drive. How reliable is it?

*IF* if were 4gb of very reliable and very fast storage, then yes, it would be worth $100.

Can you say ram disk? (1) (142825) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165205)

We already have most of that -- a ram disk. If power fails on this device, the contents are gone. The does make it a little more compatible, but why not let the system operator configure the 4gb of ram in an optimal way for their usIie -- cache v. ramdisk v. application space, etc. I have seen some ram disk/cache software that will reduce the cache space when more ram disk space is configured.

power use (1)

tkavanaugh (863507) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165214)

would power use in this drive be more or less then a conventional drive? wouldn't this be a good low power replacement for mp3 player HD's and even video polayers in the future?

productivity is worth $100 (1)

rcpitt (711863) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165241)

I've managed lots of programming staff and observe that every time a compile or other "large" process takes more than a couple of minutes with the CPU or some other critical system maxed out (i.e. can't do something else 'cause my system's too slow) the programmer will get up and go get a coffee or water or a stretch or whatever - and not get back until some time after the process has completed.

My partner Stuart, for instance, is addicted to capucino (has a $10,000 machine of his own at home where he does most of his work) and when he does a major kernel compile it takes his maxed-out system 5-10 minutes to complete. This is just long enough for him to go get a cup and mostly finish it off. If the compile took less than 2 minutes, he'd probably wait in his chair instead.

His recently purchased 15,000 RPM ultra 320 SCSI drives can mostly keep his current dual CPU system choked at the CPU, but if we put in one of the faster CPU quads or other system it will languish waiting for the disk.

The use of solid-state drives, even as small as 4 Gigs (although I'd probably go for 4-8 of them to increase the size and throughput by RAID0) would keep him in his chair more, and more than pay for the cost in increased productivity.

Of course if you look at this from the point of view of a server instead of a workstation, the economic reasoning may be easier.

Well... (1)

AxemRed (755470) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165242)

I know which drive I'll be putting my swap file on now.

Surely? (1)

samael (12612) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165259)

Surely you'd be better off investing the money in more RAM for your PC, which could then use it as a cache for whatever was actually in use at the time.

Solid-state has been used in industry for a while (1)

suitepotato (863945) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165269)

Would I buy something like this? Maybe in conjunction with a hardware encryption system, I'd have the ultimate in secure quick erase storage as well as being rugged for mobile usage.

It's a step in the right direction, but we need advances in memory size, cost, and MTBF...

No... (1)

Meumeu (848638) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165283)

Would you pay $100 for a 4GB Solid State Drive that is up to 6x faster than a WD Raptor?

No : $100 is just the card, you have to provide the memory, the battery only last 16 hours, and the benchmarks are not that impressive.

Drive speed not the limiter (2, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165284)

The i-RAM only uses SATA for data interface... if I recall, SATA is limited to about 150 MB/sec. Raptor speed is 72 MB/sec. Where is the 6x coming from?

Other bottlenecks are sure to limit this (CPU, etc).

Until I see a way to make this actually very useful (other than having one modern game on it to get better fps), there's no way I would buy at that price.

Volatility (2, Interesting)

acb (2797) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165308)

The main problem (other than the limited capacity and price) is the volatility. It has a battery pack, though if the power is out for more than 16 hours (or less, as the battery ages), it loses its entire contents. Which is somewhat precarious.

A better idea would have been to have a bank of Flash EEPROM built onto the card as a backup device, with loss of power triggering the automatic dumping of RAM contents to Flash, and resumption of power repopulating RAM from Flash on demand/during idle time. Given that it is now possible to fit 4Gb in a Compact Flash card, there is little excuse for not having such a backup subsystem.

In a heartbeat... (1)

ballpoint (192660) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165313)

...if that $100 would buy me a 4G flash based IDE drive instead.

I would use it to replace the 4G hard disk in my aging but faithful Libretto.

Not there yet (1)

Casandro (751346) | more than 9 years ago | (#13165325)

It's by no means there yet. It's still so much worse than it could actually be. For example this device probably does not support In Place Execution, a funktion avaliable to many OSes eliminating copying data around and into RAM.

A simple (software-)ramdisk might be considerably faster, and perhaps cheaper than this. And you can always boot from a clean state.

So essentially the main market for such a device are the few (32-bit) Windows-users wanting to have more speed at any cost.
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