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The $70 Solid State Drive

Gigabyte announced a neat little device called the iRAM. Basically it is a PCI card with an external power connector and 4 DIMM slots. It looks and acts (to the BIOS and Operating system) like a hard drive, but is a completely solid state storage device. The user provides four memory sticks to populate the card with 4-8GB of memory which can then be loaded with your favorite OS or as a D: drive for Windows’ scatch disk.

That is not so exciting unless you are a performance freak and know than all current solid state devices (based on DIMMs) cost thousands of dollars and have specific purposes for database cacheing. In most cases they are not bootable nor are the recognized as a disk without installing special software.

The iRam is intended to be either a boot drive or a Windows pagefile so that disk-intensive operations like booting to the Windows desktop or loading large files are accelerated by orders of magnitude faster than traditional disk-based storage systems. (I’m talking 10x or better here).

My last experience with a ramdrive was back in the 80′s when I used my 8MB system card to install and run the OS off it. It only lasted a few hours because everything dissapated after the power was cut when shutting down the system. Working with a ramdrive is like driving versus flying. Ram is fluid and all I/O operations are instantaneous, so the computing experience is raised to the next level. Computers respond instantly and file operations which used to take several seconds are reduced to milliseconds. Imagine sorting images and opening large directories in Windows XP without waiting. Or booting in a couple of seconds, just like turning on a light switch. Very cool. I regularly work with multi-terabyte Ultra320 SCSI fileservers (in optimum multi-channel configurations where the drives are load balanced and grouped according to theoretical BUS saturation) and the computing experience is still far from “realtime”. So let’s hope that this iRam device lives up to its claims. I’d like to see it bundled with some kind of a Ram-to-disk agent so whenever you shutdown Windows, it does a full image dump to a 2.5″ hard drive or CF card. I’ve had my fair share of disks going bad and the thought of trying to extract corrupt data from a failed RAMdisk is quite frightning to say the least.

Here are some images of the iRam from a Chinese website. The Computex coverage all over the web has been regurgitated to death so I though this might be more refreshing.

[Edit: 07/27/2005]
Based on the review over at anandtech.com regarding the iRAM (summary: bleh, wait for version 2) I think a better solution would be the Solid State Drive from Samsung. Since it is aimed at laptops and designed to replace hard drives wherever durable storage is needed, I would imagine it is priced accordingly (in other words, close to high performace hard drive prices and not astronomically high like current SSDs).

posted by Khuong in [Computers] and have No Comments

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