Gigabyte boosts i-RAM speed, capacity

TAIPEI, TAIWAN — Gigabyte’s i-RAM is easily one of the most unique storage products on the market, and it’s about to get an upgrade. Gigabyte had what it now calls the GC-RAMDISK on display at its Computex booth, and while the unit wasn’t a final revision, we were able to learn a number of things about the i-RAM’s successor.

As you can see, the GC-RAMDISK no longer relies on an empty PCI slot for power. Instead, Gigabyte’s crammed the unit into a 5.25″ drive bay insert that pulls power from a four-pin molex connector. An onboard battery still keeps the memory powered when the system is shut down, though.

Gigabyte told us that when the latest GC-RAMDISK hits the market, it will support up to 8 GB of DDR2 memory—twice the capacity of the original i-RAM. 300 MB/s Serial ATA transfer rates are also on the menu, addressing our only real gripes with the Gigabyte’s first stab at solid state storage.

Comments closed
    • relki
    • 13 years ago

    This “device”, allows you to use cheaper/GB DDR2 ram modules in combination to create a maximum of 8GB of hard drive storage. (The limitation on the capacity is not the current memory market, but the integrated circuit on the card. They are redesigning a memory controller that works specificly for this application). The SATA II output is the best solution for our cost effective solutions.

    The SATA II output connector allows us to just “plug it in” to our SATA port on our motherboard, and our PC will see this RAM Drive as a new hard drive without any special drivers. This means you will be able to select it while installing windows without needing to load a driver disk (Unless using Hardware Raid).

    If they were were to “invent” something out of thin air that didn’t exist, like say, a PCI-E 16x Raid controller that talked directly to the memory controller on the i-RAM, it would all have to be contained on the same board (signal degregation/vs distance/speed). That makes a big card, and lots and lots of R&D costs which gets handed to us if they can do it.

    I honestly think that the only improvement this card could possible have, is to have a hardware switch/jumper on the 5.25″ circuit board that allows the output to be selectable from 1xSATAII ports or 4xSATAII ports (Effectively 4x 2GB Sata Drives). I think this method would cost the least amount for R&D to implement with the most gains in performance.

    Those of us that have 4+ SATA ports on our motherboard would reap the benefits or we could buy another SATA RAID controller that did have the additional ports (<$120). We would then have the option, out of the box, to output to 1x SATA II port for total bandwidth of 300 MB/s, or flip the switch and use all 4 SATA ports to activate 4 seperate 2GB RAM drives and then, computer savy peoples would then use hardware or software RAID to bring those 4x 2GB drives into 1x 8GB RAID 0 Drive with 1,200MB/s total speed

    Just image Gigabyte doing this one addition. We consumers would then be able to rush out and grab us a HighPoint RocketRAID 3520 PCI-E Raid controller + 2 of the iRAM’s sucessors with 8GB RAM each.
    Specs would look likes this:

    Storage Drives:
    2x “iRAM successors” 8GB each (16GB Total)
    -Functions like 8x 2GB Drives
    ::Max Bandwidth is 8x SATA II Ports at 300MB/s = 3.2 GB/s

    SATA RAID Controller:
    1x HighPoint RocketRAID 3520 (8x SATA II Ports) PCI-E 8x Interface
    -Utilize all 8 Ports of controller – 2GB RAM Drives each
    ::Max Bandwidth of PCI-E 8x Interface is 4GB/s
    ::Max Bandwidth of available SATA II ports is 8x SATA II 300MB/s = 3.2GB/s

    End Result = 16GB RAID 0 Array cabable of 3.2 GB/s sustained. Now I know what your thinking…. That’s enough to host the bestest badassest SQL Server datafile ever! LOL

    I’m thinking website backbone.

    Larger picture is this HighPoint RocketRAID controllers can be combined with other RocketRAID controllers (They talk together). Now grab me a new MSI K9A2 Platinum motherboard with 4x PCI-E 8x Ports and 4x HighPoint Controllers…. 64GB RAM Drive transfering data at 12.8GB/s… You’d have to upgrade your NIC card to a 10GB/s NIC just to keep up with this, and it’s a silent beauty.

    I know what your thinking again, “But what about it loosing power?!” Problem solved.. grab one of those internal 5.25″ atx power supplies that have they’re own power cord outside the case… then do what any smart person does and buy a UPS!! UPS start at $29 and at the small amount of power these iRAM successors would consume, you’d be able to get at least a half a day’s worth of power out of it if your house lost power. Not to mention the constant peeping these UPSs do when they loose power. (Bigger UPSs run upwards of $100+ and they would give these little units power for days I’d image)

    Really, only use this if you are planning to host high transaction/sec or low capacity/high bandwidth applications such as SQL Server, Photoshop, Video Editing (1 video at a time), Audio Media Streaming to MANY MANY clients similtaneusly, you get the picture.

    Who wants there OS to but up in <8 seconds when they have to install their applications on a different “slower” traditional hard drive anyway. Give this card some time + the lowered cost of 4GB DDR2 modules and the support of 4/8GB DDR2 modules on the iRAM, then workstation applications would interest EVERYONE. Note: Currently 4GB Generic DDR2 533Mhz(PC2-4200) Modules are $65 each.

    That’s my billion cents on this card. I really want a setup rig with this card for SQL database purposes.

    • Zero-dB
    • 14 years ago

    this hardware has unique feature that no HDD will ever have
    ….the complete silence !

    i use the zalman TNN (totaly no noise) tower case which with i dont need anymore fans for my pentium cpu and my nvidia gpu,
    unfortunately the HDD still made lot of noise noise
    so i replaced it with the i-ram and reached the 0dB nirvana

    im a pc user since 1998 and i’ve damaged my ears because of the use of these fans on my Pc’s, it didnt hapen at once but its something that slowly occured at longterm,
    so i’ve decided to find a way to get a noiseless pc and the i-ram helped me completing the noiseless pc project

    • indeego
    • 15 years ago

    I’ve been administrating servers for a good 7 years now, and not once have I seen an event log where ECC memory scrubbed an error/made corrections. Suppose there’s always a first time, thoughg{<...<}g

      • evermore
      • 15 years ago

      My company remote monitors servers for other companies. One customer had a failing module in a server so about every month there’d be an ECC event logged, until they finally decided to replace it. ECC may not be all that important most of the time, but this is one of those instances where it might become very important to have it.

    • Prototyped
    • 15 years ago

    This is such a retarded idea.

    Put the RAM in main-memory banks.

    Boot off a CompactFlash card, during the booting process create a RAM disk and run out of it (a la BartPE).

    If you need persistent storage add a real hard disk or use shares over the network.

    That way your RAM is closer to the processor and runs faster without stupid hacks like this one.

      • evermore
      • 15 years ago

      The point of this is to have persistent storage WITH the speed provided by using memory instead of hard drives, without having to rebuild your OS or applications every time you boot as you would if you used a RAMdisk.

      It may have limited applications but that doesn’t make it retarded.

      • miron
      • 13 years ago

      you can not put this in main memory, on 32 bit machine

    • Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman
    • 15 years ago

    Nice alternative to store that goddamn Windows’ Virtual Memory page file.

      • indeego
      • 15 years ago

      uh, no it isn’t. Memory controllers on chipsets are vastly faster than thisg{<.<}g The pagefile works great where it is, thanks.

        • Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman
        • 15 years ago

        But I guess this one is way faster than hard drives, where a swap file is normally put on.

    • Smurfer2
    • 15 years ago

    Hmmm, I still want to play with one of these. 🙂

    • DrDillyBar
    • 15 years ago

    Now all we need is super slow DDR2 with high capacity and a low price.

    • SnowboardingTobi
    • 15 years ago

    This would probably make Photoshop editting mighty fast.

    • Bensam123
    • 15 years ago

    Well they got some of them right…

    The DDR from the last one would saturate a SATA2 port but now DDR2?!?! Jeeze you would think they would try and divey it up somehow better like through two SATA ports in raid or a PCI-E slot or something. It’s still on the right track but as was mentioned some posts down adding some more memory slots would be a nice (the card certainly looks big enough), 5.25s are big enough that you could stand the memory modules up too instead of laying them on their side like they needed to do for the PCI version.

      • Saribro
      • 15 years ago

      The speed of the RAM is totally irrelevant, as it is more than fast enough anyway. Hence, the obvious choice, is supporting the highest volume, and thus, the lowest price RAM, which is DDR2 for the next few years.
      Accessing the drive through PCIe would require a driver and make it unbootable. And last I checked, my DIMM’s wouldn’t fit in a 5.25″ if the slots were upright. instead of slanted.

      • Bensam123
      • 15 years ago

      Yea I know I was questioning their move to DDR2, doesn’t make sense.

      Even if it requires a driver wouldn’t the extra speed be worth it? It would actually be able to take advantage of DDR2 and maybe faster memory if it was tied to the PCI-E bus where as with SATA2 it would need some sort of raid scheme and multiple SATA ports in order to even try to saturate the memory.

      I don’t know about not being able to boot from it though. I have a PCI controller and a PCI raid card and I can boot from both of them so I wouldn’t rule out the possibility.

      A driver would also allow for other possibilites that you can’t do with a SATA interface such as actually communicating with the device. I’m assuming that you could tie it into alot of things rather then just making it storage. Wouldn’t it be closer to graphics cards then the main memory?

      You must have some pretty tall dimms then. I got Geil Ultras and they aren’t taller then my drive bay (they have a bit of clearence too). Aren’t DDR2 dimms shorter yet too?

        • Saribro
        • 15 years ago

        q[

        • SGWB
        • 15 years ago

        y[

          • Bensam123
          • 15 years ago

          I don’t know what kind of hardware you have but I can’t put 8gigs of memory in my board (only the newest chipsets can) and if they add more sockets to the I-Ram the further it seperates itself from system memory you’re comparing it to.

          Latency aside extra memory for your graphics card never hurts, especially when you don’t need to gobble up your system memory’s bandwidth or the actual memory. There are quite a bit more uses for a cache I’m not thinking of right now but I’m pretty darn sure the bandwidth and a driver makes up for the ability to run this thing without one. Anything that presents more then basic of basic functionality always needs a driver.

          Flash memory only has a certain number of read/writes before you burn it up just like your flash-drive counterparts; if it’s the kind that stores data when it shuts down.

          I don’t think booting from components is a risky business (I know ALOT of people that boot from a controller if not a integrated one). I really don’t know how it would be. As it stands now the old I-Ram had a battery back up and so does this stuff. Everyones talking about booting from it reguardless of pluging into a PCI slot or just being a SATA drive. It wouldn’t matter what interface it uses because it would still have the same practical use.

          Board space isn’t that big of a deal. If you really need that much room you could flip the dimms horizontally so they go sideways instead of angeled on a riser or a ribbon cable connected to a riser. There are alot of ways to put things in a rectangle.

          I’m also pretty sure anyone that would spend money on one of these wouldn’t shut down there computer for more then ten hours. I don’t remember the last time my computer was off for more then maybe 15 mins and that was to add a new hard drive but to each their own.

          • evermore
          • 15 years ago

          The people this is aimed at generally aren’t likely to shut their computers down for 10 hours anyway. However the older article is about the PCI version, which uses the standby voltage to keep the memory alive when the PC is shut off as long as it’s plugged in. This new model can’t do that unless a splitter is provided for the power connection to draw the power from the ATX power plug, so as soon as it’s shut off, it immediately uses the battery whether it’s plugged in or not.

          32GB of Flash memory? How much would that cost, in addition to the price they’re already going to be charging for this thing?

    • dragmor
    • 15 years ago

    Could you use RAID 0 on 2 of these onto 2 Sata ports and get 600mbs?

    • Krogoth
    • 15 years ago

    I do not understand the exact appeal of I-RAM drive. It had always been stupid to use DRAM for permanent data storage. I-RAM is even more unreliable then a “Deathstar” RAID 0. I do not know that many people who are willing to keep ghosting/reinstalling the OS after power and battery fails.

    I-RAM better have ECC support or it is effectively an alternate solution for a scratch disk.

    A single fast HDD is still far a more cost-effective solution then previous and this revision of the I-RAM for fast, permanent data storage. The user must be very impatent to be willing to take a trade-off for 5-10 second boot-up on a unreilable media storage versus 30-40 seconds boot-up on a more stable media.

    • IntelMole
    • 15 years ago

    In my eyes, the simple fact of the matter is this, irrespective of price:

    8 gigs of hard drive just isn’t enough.

    If I was to buy this, I’d want to run my most hard drive intensive applications off it too. Not just the OS.

    I’m well aware that 8 gigs is a lot of RAM, but it’s not a lot of hard drive.

    As soon as this is mentioned though, people make niche applications up for it in defence. “Oh, it’s only for an OS drive, run all your games off another, really big drive (or a Raptor RAID 5 array, if you really want), and you’re laughing.”

    Not really pointing any fingers here, just calling it as I see it. For me, that just seems like making excuses.

    As tempting as all the google videos are, this would be the real killer for me if I was looking at buying one.
    -Mole

    • Convert
    • 15 years ago

    Wait… So this now relies on battery power when the system is turned off? The original i-Ram could at least sustain itself when the system was turned off, so long as it wasn’t unplugged.

    That seems like a step back in progress.

    With ddr2 it should last a little longer when on battery power but still, I would prefer the pci solution or pci-e.

      • madlemming
      • 15 years ago

      Yeah, that’s a little puzzling because they could have drawn off the standby 5v line that’s always on. They’d have to ship an ‘extension’ to the main atx power bundle that split off a couple wires for the ramdisk; which I guess would have been more expensive. Still, it should be an easy mod to splice into the standby wire.

    • SpotTheCat
    • 15 years ago

    without ECC, this thing is not good enough to store any of your data. I have my doubts about how long an OS would last, too. errors grow exponentially.

    That said, it would be cool to have a few of these in raid-0 for a 16gig partition of raw speed, but I wouldn’t even have important data on the same machine.

    • Ryu Connor
    • 15 years ago

    Have to agree with Leor’s question.

    One of the major shortfalls was a lack of ECC support. Fixed or not?

    • Beomagi
    • 15 years ago

    well DDR2 400 or 533 is MORE that adequate to saturate the sata channel so i wouldn’t worry as much on ram costs.
    §[<http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16820141224<]§ $102 for 2GB aftre rebate. even beats ddr 266 through 400 by more than $20. for 2GB modules - necesary to get 8GB - it's between $230 and $240 on the egg for DDR 266 and ddr2 400. I'd say ddr2 isn't more expensive and has an edge as far as bandwidth goes (up till it maxes the sata lane - moot since even the lowest ddr can do that in single lane.) It needs a ghosting mechanism for quick copies to the ram from a harddrive in case of power loss.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 15 years ago

      ooh, that’s a fantastic idea. That’d even be good for normal shutdowns, as if you don’t shutdown very often you could forego the battery altogether.

    • spiritwalker2222
    • 15 years ago

    Nice to price out the cheapest DDR2 I can find… well I can dream at least.

    • Beer Moon
    • 15 years ago

    I agree that it’s junk till it hits PCI-e or Hypertransport. It’s an insult to slap that expensive RAM (expensive as far as storage goes, anyway) on a SATA bus – even SATA II.

    Create a link for the co-processor socket and run it over hypertransport, and break 10GB. Now THAT I would shell out for. Of course, it would probably cost an arm and a leg.

    Although now at 8GB you could potentially put Windows on it. As long as you’ve got it ghosted after every OS patch and a live CD that can read NTFS in a pinch if you lose i-RAM power for too long, you might be able to run this fairly securely to speed up your OS.

      • evermore
      • 15 years ago

      Apparently you couldn’t put Vista on it. 🙂

        • Usacomp2k3
        • 15 years ago

        Yes you can. I’ve run it on less than a 10gb partition that they ‘require’.

    • Fearless Leader
    • 15 years ago

    I think this concept is definitely worth it. If I were to use it (which I’m definitely considering), I would use it for a htpc. I simply would love to have the ability to run a diskless htpc that uses less power (meaning generates less heat and can therefore utilize slower fan speeds) and produces better throughput.

      • just brew it!
      • 15 years ago

      It won’t have enough capacity to be useful as a HTPC. Where are you gonna store all the video?

        • crose
        • 15 years ago

        On the media server using something like 4xSeagate 750GB disks in a RAID5 array.

          • cheesyking
          • 15 years ago

          well if you’ve got a media server why do you need the I-ram thing, you can just netboot the HTPC from that.

            • dextrous
            • 15 years ago

            Only if you want to use a *nix based HTPC.
            From netboot site: “Presently Netboot can boot Linux, FreeBSD and various DOS variants. Since Windows-95® is also based on MS-DOS®, that can be used as well. However, Windows-NT® will never be supported.” There goes that idea if you’re using XP MCE.

    • Ruiner
    • 15 years ago

    Will this concept be worthwhile until they can get it a few lanes of PCIe, or better yet, on hypertransport?

      • evermore
      • 15 years ago

      It’s not going to get PCIe or HT support. The whole point is that it’s a direct plug-in replacement for a hard drive, using IDE or SATA connections. They’d have to design an entirely new storage interface and software support in order for it to have a direct connection to PCIe or HT.

      What they could do would be to integrate an SATA controller onto the board, and have the whole thing plug into a PCIe slot. Then it would be nothing more than an SATA expansion card with a hard drive built in. But then you’re back to having to install drivers if you wanted to install an OS onto it.

        • fatpipes
        • 15 years ago

        It’s about cost too. PCIe and HT R&D have large premiums associated. This unit may be $200-300 or somewhere near, but with a PCIe or HT interface, it would easily be worth thousands (and would go for as much due to the development costs) to certain customers. As is, this would be a beautiful cache drive for a network-bootable 1U if indeed it gets SATA II bus transfer speeds.

          • blastdoor
          • 15 years ago

          How do you get to thousands of dollars for a pcie interface when pcie graphics cards can cost just $100?

          This is clearly a niche product, and when you factor in the RAM costs, a very expensive product. I can’t believe that creating the necessary drivers to take advantage of pcie bandwidth would be *that* expensive. And for the small group of people who would buy this thing, I suspect that they are technically sophisticated enough to be able to install some drivers (I mean come on, how hard is it? Plenty of people manage to figure out how to install drivers for their video card).

        • SGWB
        • 15 years ago

        I agree with you about a PCI-E card requiring a new hardware interface, but the software would not be difficult. They could have built the thing to look like a regular, add in, ATAPI adapter. As far as the OS is concerned, it would look like any other storage adapter. The i-RAM could report the installed DDR as if it were just hard disk plugged into a SATA port, but operate internally anyway it needed to. Software wise, all they would have to do is write a storage driver.

        Yes, it would be alot of work to design the hardware, but probably not much more difficult than what they had to do to make RAM interface with a SATA controller.

    • UberGerbil
    • 15 years ago

    Bummer about the DDR*[<2<]* though -- it's not like it uses the extra bandwidth (though the lower power requirements mean it doesn't flatten the battery backup as fast) and there's going to be a /[

      • derFunkenstein
      • 15 years ago

      PC2-3200 RAM is pretty darn cheap.

      • just brew it!
      • 15 years ago

      I’d actually expect DDR prices to start rising fairly soon (shortly after AMD transitions to AM2), as more production shifts to DDR2. Same thing happened to SDRAM when everyone moved to DDR.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 15 years ago

        and EDO before that. I remember when SD-RAM was $40-$50 for 128MB that 72-pin EDO was roughly twice per-megabyte

      • UberGerbil
      • 15 years ago

      Please note I said *[

        • Peldor
        • 15 years ago

        You’re not likely to get used 2GB DDR cheap anytime soon. It’s expensive and uncommon now. Sure you’ll be able to get 512MB or 1GB sticks pretty easily, but the 2GB stuff will probably maintain a sizeable premium.

        A year from now, 2GB DDR2 brand-spankin’ new will likely be significantly cheaper than 2GB DDR used, IMO.

      • blase
      • 15 years ago

      It just means that now they’ve bottlenecked again at the SATA II interface by using DDR2! 🙂

        • fatpipes
        • 15 years ago

        Bottlenecked at 6x the average speed for a normal SATA hard drive is just fine with me…

    • leor
    • 15 years ago

    ECC?

      • SGWB
      • 15 years ago

      Error Correcting Code. It’s supposed to detect and correct memory errors.

    • Jigar
    • 15 years ago

    Can some one tell me what the hell is this device…. i seriously dont have any idea about it…. so probably lay man’s term will help ..

      • just brew it!
      • 15 years ago

      It is RAM that acts like a (small-ish) but stupidly fast hard drive.

      • UberGerbil
      • 15 years ago

      Read the review (linked in the article above) that TechReport did of the previous version.

    • DrDillyBar
    • 15 years ago

    Getting better. Maybe Gen3 will be the one. Still very cool.

      • Bauxite
      • 15 years ago

      Yeah, give me:

      8 slots
      ECC for sure
      Dual sata channels for easy raid 0 (can’t be hard, cheapest way to speed it up)
      some kind of 5vsb atx pass-thru/DC wall wart (or both)

      PC Plugged in == powered, its rare to lose power for long in most areas even with bad weather. Lets you leverage your UPS time (can be hours with trickle drain) along with the built in battery.

      Perhaps throw in a limited/oem copy of some cloning/imaging software. On a bootable cd maybe, all it has to do is let you set a restore from a local image.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 15 years ago

    Will this thing be using SO-DIMMs for memory? Seems to me that if you’re going to make a luxury item, you might as well really go for broke…I figure in the size of this thing, you should be able to fit 16 SO-DIMMs, allowing for 16 GB (32? are there 2GB SO-DIMMs yet?) of storage.

      • eitje
      • 15 years ago

      does it look like it? 😛

        • derFunkenstein
        • 15 years ago

        The picture didn’t load for me at first. :p

    • Pax-UX
    • 15 years ago

    Nice, my only problem will be the price of this thing, and that’s not even including the cost of RAM. As the last one wasn’t cheap.

      • Steel
      • 15 years ago

      Are you kidding? The last one was practically free compared to enterprise-level SSDs.

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