How far off into the future are RAM Drives?

CallTheFBI

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Jan 22, 2003
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RAM is getting cheap and abundant. Some systems are toting 1 GB of RAM+. So the question is, how long until people's entire hard drives are made up of RAM? I think that would be so cool. Practically no load time for anything and installation of apps would go a lot faster. The RAM Drives could have battery packs so that they wouldn't dump their memory after the power went off. Am I dreaming or will this some day be a reality?
 

Lonyo

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Aug 10, 2002
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Would be risky, if the battery failed then everything would be lost, and you'd need to ensure the battery was recharged as often as possible, and RAM is not that cheap really, because you'd need a lot of it. A SCSI drive would probably offer not too bad performance and a lot more space and reliability, and price per GB is a heck of a lot better.
 

CallTheFBI

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Jan 22, 2003
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Access time from RAM is in nanoseconds while access time for hard drives is in milliseconds. I think there is a big, noticeable difference. You could have it do a nightly backup to a regular hard drive to insure against failure.
 

Lonyo

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Originally posted by: Blain
>> The Future Is Now << :D

$399 for that, plus $250 or so for each 1GB RAM module, total of.....
$1400 or so for 4 GB storage.

Probably $400 for a SCSI card, $676 for 4 x 36GB SCSI drives
Total $1076 or so for 144GB storage.


Maybe the RAM would be a lot faster, but which would you rather have?
Maybe in the future things will change. If you went RAID 0 with 4HDD's it would be fairly quick and quite cheap (with IDE ATA 100 drives)
 

Blain

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Oct 9, 1999
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"Am I dreaming or will this some day be a reality?"

The question has been answered. The cost/benefit will have to be decided by each person, based on their needs. :p
 

TonyB

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May 31, 2001
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if for $1400 you can get a 4GB version and lets say you can load the OS onto the rocket drive, then it'll be worth every penny... might not even need 4GB, id say 2Gb is good enough.. then have a secondary IDE drive for storage.
 

McCarthy

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Oct 9, 1999
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Heck I'm a cheapskate who finds problems with almost anything new and I like this product. The $399 pricetag is extremely high, but they're not selling many now. Gotta wonder though if they sold it for $50 how many thousand orders they'd have within 10 minutes. I know I'd be one, probably would opt to go with 1gb actually. Only reason I don't trim Windows down anymore is cuz drives are huge and I got lazy, putting it on a smaller partitition would give me a nice excuse, and 2gig would be grand. Could get the most common apps on there. Beautiful for any number of applications.

But they gotta work on that $399 first.
 

CallTheFBI

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Jan 22, 2003
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Originally posted by: Blain
>> The Future Is Now << :D

Eh, I knew about that stuff. But look at the cost and the small amount of storage. I'm talking about something like that but with large capacity and even faster access times. "The Rocket Drive uses SDRAM to store your data." SDRAM? Make that DDR and then I'll be happy.
 

FishTankX

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Oct 6, 2001
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RAM drives are already a reality on workstations.

On workstations with 4GB of RAM you can set apart part of the RAM for memory, and it will dump it to the harddisk every time you shutdown or load it everytime you startup. And it also has the benefits if the RAM's monstrous memory bandwidth. Thus, it's got the latency and the bandwidth of RAM but the thing is that capacity is limited and anything you can put in the RAM drive the operating system can cache.

I believe at one point in the future RAM drives will merge with HD's in the terms of programable massive caches with onboard batteries. They can probably run on the WLAN powersupply (Each computer provides power to the motherboard for wake on lan, i'm sure they could integrate it so that the Harddrive could work off this power, and probably have battery backup for when it's unplugged. Also, you would keep a local copy on the HD) and with such things the most frequently used programs and perhaps even the operating system files used during booting could be stored in extremley fast random access memory with the latency of RAM and perhaps if the southbridge had a driect link to the northbridge you could get like 600MB/s.
 

CallTheFBI

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Originally posted by: FishTankX
RAM drives are already a reality on workstations.

I believe at one point in the future RAM drives will merge with HD's in the terms of programable massive caches with onboard batteries.

That's what I'm talking about. So when are they going to have 100 GB DDR RAM cards for everyday computers?
 

FishTankX

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Oct 6, 2001
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That wasn't exactly what I meant..

What would happen is that the Harddrive would have a 'Programmable' cache that would cache a portion of the Harddrive. Maybe you would have a 100GB HD with a 512MB cache. This would cache the parts of the operating system used on boot, and perhaps parts of games that were frequently used. The operating system could 'assign tags' so that certian portions of programs could be duplicated/mirrored in the RAM cache, and this data would have the benefit of the access times of the harddrive's cache, along with a massive burst speed with the higher levels of Serial ATA (aproaching 600MB/s). This would aleviate the harddrive as the bottleneck in situations where you're doing a predictable operation, like booting. Instead of taking 40 seconds to boot it might only take 4.

Think about how much 100GB of DDR would cost. 300$ will buy you 1GB of DDR. That would mean to that to make a 100GB DDR card you would need 30,000$ not to mention it'd be a nightmare trying to stuff 50 2GB registered DIMMs on a card. How on earth could you fit that much on the card? And what would be the use?! The operating system will intelligently cache anything frequently accessed, into RAM. Anything over 2 or 3 GB of cache would be pretty pointless if you ask me. You tag the programs you frequently use for the RAM cache on the HD and you're all good, they'll load at lightning speed. Unfrequently used files, or large streaming files (which aren't sensitive to access time or bandwidth) remain on the HD. It's the ideal merger of RAMDISK and Harddisk.
 

FishTankX

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By the way, by the time 100GB DDR cards could be anywhere near affordable, conventional harddrives would dwarf them a thousand times over. 1GB RAMDRIVES are just comming down to the price point that consumers can afford. You're run of the mill 200GB HD costs nearly 4X less. I would say that the Harddrive has the RAMDRIVE licked for 99% of the computer users out there. Even expensive SCSI RAID is still cheaper than RAM drives, as mentioned by Lonyo.

And.. as for the rocket drive, when you complain about transfer rate you have to consider this.

RAMDRIVE------>PCI------>Northbridge----->RAM
1GB/s 133MB/s 3GB/s

Can you see the bottleneck in this equation? Even though the RAMDRIVE can 'Only' transfer at the 1.06GB/s of SDRAM, it's going through the 133MB/s PCI Bus, which is a tremondous bottleneck. That means that SCSI RAID could compete very nicely with the RAM Drive in terms of bandwidth. 64 Bit SCSI RAID cards could double it.

You would need a RAMDRIVE on a PCI-X slot to even start to take advantage of the bandwidth if SDRAM much less DDR. We'll need PCI-X before we even get close to exploting the full bandwidth of a PC133 RAMDRIVE, much less DDR.
 

CallTheFBI

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Jan 22, 2003
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Originally posted by: FishTankX
By the way, by the time 100GB DDR cards could be anywhere near affordable, conventional harddrives would dwarf them a thousand times over. 1GB RAMDRIVES are just comming down to the price point that consumers can afford. You're run of the mill 200GB HD costs nearly 4X less. I would say that the Harddrive has the RAMDRIVE licked for 99% of the computer users out there. Even expensive SCSI RAID is still cheaper than RAM drives, as mentioned by Lonyo.

And.. as for the rocket drive, when you complain about transfer rate you have to consider this.

RAMDRIVE------>PCI------>Northbridge----->RAM
1GB/s 133MB/s 3GB/s

Can you see the bottleneck in this equation? Even though the RAMDRIVE can 'Only' transfer at the 1.06GB/s of SDRAM, it's going through the 133MB/s PCI Bus, which is a tremondous bottleneck. That means that SCSI RAID could compete very nicely with the RAM Drive in terms of bandwidth. 64 Bit SCSI RAID cards could double it.

You would need a RAMDRIVE on a PCI-X slot to even start to take advantage of the bandwidth if SDRAM much less DDR. We'll need PCI-X before we even get close to exploting the full bandwidth of a PC133 RAMDRIVE, much less DDR.

Hence the emphasis on future. hehe.
 

FishTankX

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By the time a 100GB drive comes out, it might not be useful. By the time, a mere game install might take up 4 DVD's and end up taking up 35GB. An operating system might be a massive 80GB. I don't think you realize how far off RAM drives of this proportion really are. We were at 8MB of RAM in 486's and it's taken us 8 years to get up to 512, an incraese of 64X. The average computer today comes with 512MB of RAM. And that is affordable.

If we take 512MB and increase it 64X (A probable increase 8 years from now) the average computer will have 32GB of RAM. Thus, a RAM drive of 100GB would be 3X main system memory.

If we extrapolate that would be equivelent to a 1.5GB RAM drive today which costs something like.. 1000$ today. That's not affordable. It'll probably take 10 years to get to the point where 100GB RAM drives are affordable. By that time, 8,000GB HD's might not be unafordable.

RAM drives, in their pure form, will always be pewny and pathetic in comparison to harddrives. Ultimatley the real solution is to put a large cache on the harddrive and let it tie into the always on powersupply, mirroring part of the harddrive. This would do 80% of what a RAM drifve would do, and it'd be at a drastically reduced price. You wouldn't have to store the entirety of the drive in RAM, merely the frequently used components.
 

Mark R

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Oct 9, 1999
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RAM drives have been around for many years. I remember hearing reviews of a 1 GB RAM drive nearly 10 years ago - it used a conventional Ultra-wide SCSI interface (and would quite convincingly saturate that).

It was available in volatile and non-volatile versions. The NV version included a battery pack and a conventional hard drive - during normal operation the main RAM drive would act as a 'cache' for the conventional HD, and the battery would provide enough power to keep the drive and RAM going until all the data had been copied to the HDD and verified.

They cost about $40k if I remeber correctly.

Some modern RAM drives use conventional DRAM - others use flash RAM. The flash memory is non-volatile, but more expensive, has slower writes, and only a limited number of write cycles. Some more recent ones, use Flash memory, but with a huge RAM cache (128 or 256 MB) - getting around most of the problems with flash.

RAM drives' main uses are where reliable storage of very rapidly changing data is necessary - e.g. a busy e-commerce web server. Every hit has to be logged, stock level databases need to be read and updated potentially 100 times a second, electronic fund transfers must be reliably logged and tracked. Conventional HDs won't cope with a very busy server.

For most desktop work, ram drives are of limited value - max out your system RAM and let the OS allocate a huge file cache, and you could potentially achieve similar performance - especially if your main file working set can reside within the file cache. If you are doing video editing, the chances are that your working files won't fit within a sensibly priced RAM drive - and that an array of 15 krpm disks may be better.
 

HokieESM

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Jun 10, 2002
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Originally posted by: CallTheFBI
Originally posted by: Blain
>> The Future Is Now << :D

Eh, I knew about that stuff. But look at the cost and the small amount of storage. I'm talking about something like that but with large capacity and even faster access times. "The Rocket Drive uses SDRAM to store your data." SDRAM? Make that DDR and then I'll be happy.

Why DDR? Its relatively a moot point at those speeds--compared to modern hard drives (even SCSI). As someone else noted, access time for RAM is in nanoseconds as opposed to milliseconds for hard drives. That's a factor of a million for those who don't do math very well. DDR is twice as fast... but compared to a million times, 2x isn't really all that big of a deal.

As far as RAM drives being LARGE, I think its relatively useless at the moment. Say you have a 2GB RAM drive. 1GB devoted to operating system, 1GB devoted to current "work", and of course, the 1GB+ of RAM that you would already have on that system. You're probably also going to have a quite fast hard drive in the system. Well.... while you're compressing a video (or doing a computational model), the computations will take FAR more time than just reading the data--I'm willing to bet the hard drive could supply the DATA fast enough for the encoding/computation process to occur (while its being WRITTEN to the RAM drive). Not to mention, this would ONLY be relevant for something that occured faster than hard drive speeds--for MANY computational purposes (the FE model that's running on my other machine right now is an example), the "speed" of the computation is TRULY CPU limited and memory bandwidth (RAM) limited, not hard drive speed limited.

The Rocket Drive, while interesting, can ONLY saturate the PCI bus... which, while relatively impressive, isn't all that fast.

One thing you CAN do is set up a "RAM drive".... that is FREQUENTLY done on the SGI Origin 3000 that we have at school. Then the "drive" runs at full RAM speed. But after a "run" is completed, the results are copied to a standard (in this case SCSI) hard drive.

Anyhow.... I think this is relatively moot at this point... when processors get fast enough to TRULY take advantage of memory at that speed, we have no idea how fast hard drives will be. Or we may already be using solid-state memory.