I have to admire ACard for coming up with the ANS-9010 RAM disk. Not only does it make the solid-state storage market a little more interesting, but it occasionally offers truly inspiring performance, as well. The drive easily handled our disk-intensive iPEAK multitasking and multi-user IOMeter loads, besting the fastest SSD on the market not only when running in RAID mode, but more often than not, in a single-drive config, too. However, the ANS-9010's dominance wasn't universal. Sure, it was the quickest drive of the lot in WorldBench, but not by a significant margin. And although it exhibited the fastest write and copy speeds in FC-Test, Intel's SSDs proved quicker when it came time to reads.
The battle between the ANS-9010 and Intel's X25-E Extreme SSD was certainly an intriguing one to watch, in particular because the Extreme's storage controller seems to be the best in the business. A relatively poor performance in HD Tach's sustained and burst transfer rate tests suggests this latest RAM disk still has room to improve on that front. Sure, it handily beat the i-RAM across the board, but Gigabyte's take on the inexpensive RAM disk concept is several years old.
Despite leaving some DRAM performance potential on the table, ACard has done a number of smart little things to make the ANS-9010 easier to live with and more attractive than the original i-RAM. With eight DIMM slots and support for configurations up to 64GB, there's plenty of storage capacity to be had. The CF backup feature is really nice given DRAM's volatility, too. And let's not forget the ANS-9010's hint of memory mitosis, which splits available capacity for RAID configurations that can, in some cases, almost double performance.
So how much does all of this cost? $380 for the ANS-9010, plus the cost of memory. The 16GB of DDR2-800 DIMMs we used today will set you back roughly $176, bringing the drive's total cost up to about $555. A 32GB configuration made up of 4GB modules, which run around $100 each, will set you back just under $1200 when all is said and done. This latest RAM disk isn't cheap, then. But neither are SSDs that offer equivalent performance. Intel's 32GB X25-E Extreme runs around $600, for example.
For most applications, the fact that the X25-E Extreme comes in a smaller form factor, consumes much less power, and actually has a lower cost per gigabyte than the ANS-9010 makes the RAM disk a tough sell. However, the ANS-9010 can be much faster under the right circumstances, and there's less reason to worry about the drive eventually wearing out.
Even if it may ultimately be relegated to a niche of the ultra-high-performance storage market, I quite like ANS-9010. ACard should be applauded for doing something a little different. And speaking of a little different, you can also get an ANS-9010B RAM disk for about $250. This B revision is limited to six DIMM slots and 24GB of memory, and it lacks the second SATA port for RAID, but it's nice to have the option of a cheaper alternative with fewer frills.
124 comments — Last by blubje at 11:18 AM on 06/17/09
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