> Serial ATA RAM disk, An SSD alternative
 Nuno Brito
post Jan 22 2009, 01:41 PM
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Solid-state storage is the new hotness. Of course, that hotness is relative—this is still the storage market we're talking about. Think less Scarlett Johansson and more Tina Fey. Nonetheless, the recent almost-affordability of blazing-fast flash drives has been an interesting development in the storage world. And it's getting even more interesting, because in addition to an entire family of flash drives, the SSD market also has a crazy uncle.

The focus of most solid-state storage discussions centers on flash-based solutions, but they're not the only game in town. DRAM chips offer solid-state storage, too, and they're widely available on plain old memory modules. What's more, even Intel's fastest X25-E flash drive is limited to 250MB/s reads and 170MB/s writes, but your average DDR2-800 DIMM can read and write at up to 6.4GB/s. That's like lining up a 40-horsepower motor ripped from a Vespa against the W16 monstrosity that powers the Bugatti Veyron.

Of course, you still need a way to get DRAM chips to behave as a hard drive. The hardware to do so was initially offered only for high-end servers and workstations, and it was priced accordingly. Then, about three years ago, Gigabyte went out on a limb with an i-RAM storage device that allowed users to plug four DIMMs into a PCI card that hooked up to a standard Serial ATA port. The i-RAM was ridiculously fast, and for most intents and purposes, it behaved exactly like a normal hard drive.

The original i-RAM's total capacity was limited to 4GB of DDR SDRAM, so it's not particularly useful by today's standards. However, a company called ACard has done one better with the ANS-9010 RAM disk, which has eight DDR2 DIMM slots and support for up to 8GB of memory per slot. The ANS-9010 also features a pair of Serial ATA ports, allowing it to function as a single drive or masquerade as a pair of drives that can easily be split into an even faster RAID 0 array. Can this latest RAM disk live up to its staggering performance potential, and perhaps more importantly, could you live with it as a primary hard drive?





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post Jan 23 2009, 06:44 AM
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The box seems ok, but the ram is where the cost will get to you.
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