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Dedicated RAM Disk Device

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I was trying to find if what I'm thinking of exists. Turns out, it does. It's called the i-RAM and apparently was not very successful. I think it needs a reboot of sorts. Something like:

-PCIe 3.0 x4+
The original was SATA I and it was a huge limitation. Zero latency was a great advantage, and the speeds were good for the time, but that isn't enough today. PCIe 3.0 is 985 MB/s in each direction per lane, and x4 is about five times SATA III speeds. I think x16 would allow speeds EIGHTY TIMES as fast as the i-RAM's SATA I.

-Back-up battery
Obviously. This is RAM. Also have an LED on the back plate to indicate battery status. Could be rechargeable Li-ion. I don't think those were commonplace in 2005 and we were still using NiMH.

-mSATA back-up drive (optional)
When idle or manually initiated, the drive is imaged to an SSD placed on the card. That's a double safety net right there.

-SO-DIMM slots
SO-DIMM is small. If it's x4, you could fit maybe 4 modules on it, but an x16 card could be the size of a small GPU and fit 8 or even 16 modules. DDR3 has capacities of up to 16 GB per module, though that would be prohibitively expensive for most people and unnecessary for those who can afford it. But the novelty of having 256 GB of a dedicated RAM disk may just be worth it.

I know, it probably won't happen, but every time I see somebody's AS-SSD benchmark on a RAM disk, I can't help but feel that this is a wasted opportunity. Ten plus times the speeds of any aspect of an SSD is awesome, but RAM disks go away whenever you shut down and the files need to be copied every single time. I'd certainly get one if they ever get made. I'd install all my games on my boot drive and then use Steam Mover to move whatever one I'm currently obsessed with to the RAM drive. 16 GB should be enough for that.

Does anybody know why this type of component never caught on? If it's because of speed, then that's an easily fixed design flaw. If it was the market, then why not try now? PCIe SSDs exist for consumers for raw speed, not capacity or affordability and more than one company sells them, so they can't be that niche. If it was marketing, then free samples to tech sites would be an easy solution.
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post #2 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by CynicalUnicorn View Post

I was trying to find if what I'm thinking of exists. Turns out, it does. It's called the i-RAM and apparently was not very successful. I think it needs a reboot of sorts. Something like:

-PCIe 3.0 x4+
The original was SATA I and it was a huge limitation. Zero latency was a great advantage, and the speeds were good for the time, but that isn't enough today. PCIe 3.0 is 985 MB/s in each direction per lane, and x4 is about five times SATA III speeds. I think x16 would allow speeds EIGHTY TIMES as fast as the i-RAM's SATA I.

-Back-up battery
Obviously. This is RAM. Also have an LED on the back plate to indicate battery status. Could be rechargeable Li-ion. I don't think those were commonplace in 2005 and we were still using NiMH.

-mSATA back-up drive (optional)
When idle or manually initiated, the drive is imaged to an SSD placed on the card. That's a double safety net right there.

-SO-DIMM slots
SO-DIMM is small. If it's x4, you could fit maybe 4 modules on it, but an x16 card could be the size of a small GPU and fit 8 or even 16 modules. DDR3 has capacities of up to 16 GB per module, though that would be prohibitively expensive for most people and unnecessary for those who can afford it. But the novelty of having 256 GB of a dedicated RAM disk may just be worth it.

I know, it probably won't happen, but every time I see somebody's AS-SSD benchmark on a RAM disk, I can't help but feel that this is a wasted opportunity. Ten plus times the speeds of any aspect of an SSD is awesome, but RAM disks go away whenever you shut down and the files need to be copied every single time. I'd certainly get one if they ever get made. I'd install all my games on my boot drive and then use Steam Mover to move whatever one I'm currently obsessed with to the RAM drive. 16 GB should be enough for that.

Does anybody know why this type of component never caught on? If it's because of speed, then that's an easily fixed design flaw. If it was the market, then why not try now? PCIe SSDs exist for consumers for raw speed, not capacity or affordability and more than one company sells them, so they can't be that niche. If it was marketing, then free samples to tech sites would be an easy solution.

Cost and the fact that most people interested in RAMdisks use software based ones (which still pants any SSD). If you want a RAMDrive you're looking at some high price tags...I tracked down a few a while ago but they were insane in price.

Other factors like the limits of the connection interface and the fact most consumers didn't like the idea of a drive that you would basically lose all data on a power loss helped limit appeal as well.

Ultimately, with ReRAM in the future it doesn't seem like an idea worth pursuing.
     
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post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Data loss is why I said battery and mirrored SSD. Just in case.

The biggest problem with software RAM disks is that you're limited by the motherboard or even OS. My motherboard allows up to 32 GB, but the OS only allows 16, leaving 10-12 GB for a disk. That's good for a scratch disk, but I can't copy big open-world games that would appreciate the speed.

Can you clarify what you mean by connection interface? PCIe 3.0 is more than enough for most people I would think. Maybe not as fast as the system memory, but good enough.

I'm not sure when we'll be seeing ReRAM take over NAND. NAND is 26 or 7 years older than ReRAM, invented in 1980 and 2007, respectively. Plus, Samsung is working on V-NAND which will give even greater storage density.
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post #4 of 7
It would be very expensive, not necessarily for the dimms themselves, but for the controller(s) and bridges needed for communication.
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post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
That would make sense. How would that compare to a RAID controller though? It seems like it would be a similar concept, albeit an exponentially faster one. There are motherboards that support 12 DIMMs, but those are for dual-Xeons, and I'm not sure how those work compared to a normal single-CPU system. Remember that these are being used for storage though, not system memory.

I just checked PCPartPicker, and G.Skill has 1x16 GB sets @ 1333 MHz for $93.50. Expensive, but under $6/GB is pretty good for RAM since the prices have been inflated for the past several months. $40 gets you a single 8 GB module for another set. The memory itself would be expensive, but doable.

Really, the only noticeable advantage this would have over a PCIe SSD is ridiculous random speeds, near-zero latency, and lifespan (of the components, not data). Sequential speeds are good enough for those. But I'd like my OS on a RAM disk, and that would require a hardware-based solution. RAM can also go through many more write cycles than an SSD, otherwise they'd die the thousandth time you reboot.
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post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by CynicalUnicorn View Post

Does anybody know why this type of component never caught on? If it's because of speed, then that's an easily fixed design flaw. If it was the market, then why not try now? PCIe SSDs exist for consumers for raw speed, not capacity or affordability and more than one company sells them, so they can't be that niche. If it was marketing, then free samples to tech sites would be an easy solution.

PCIe SSDs exist but they're still considerably less expensive than what a RAM-based solution would cost. PCIe SSDs are already niche. PCIe RAM drive would be even more so. Majority of folk requiring oodles of RAM likely have server-grade set-ups with support for up to 1TB RAM and 51.2GB/s maximum memory bandwidth (per unit/blade).

I'd certainly be interested in a 64-128GB PCIe RAM drive. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there's a big enough market for it to justify R&D costs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CynicalUnicorn View Post

The biggest problem with software RAM disks is that you're limited by the motherboard or even OS. My motherboard allows up to 32 GB, but the OS only allows 16, leaving 10-12 GB for a disk. That's good for a scratch disk, but I can't copy big open-world games that would appreciate the speed.

64-bit Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise support 192GB RAM. Windows 8 supports 128GB RAM while Windows 8 Professional and Enterprise supports 512GB RAM. Linux, something in the TB or PB range, I believe. It's not plagued by silly Microsoft licensing limitations on RAM.
Edited by rui-no-onna - 8/25/13 at 9:49pm
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post #7 of 7
Get yourself a LSI 9266-i8, a LSI cache battery, and 8 fast SSDs and stripe them. You may not get the same performance as a true-RAM disk, but you can get a solid 3.5 GBytes/sec of sequential throughput, AND it's non-volatile memory. Bonus.

Greg
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