Flash breakthrough promises faster storage, terabytes of memory

Diablo Technologies plans to put flash in the memory channel for a fast route to server processors

By , IDG News Service |  Storage

"Basically, you'd like everything to be in the RAM," Handy said. Virtualized data centers, where many servers need to share a large set of data, need a shared store of data. But in other applications, especially with databases and online transaction processing, storage is just a cheaper and more plentiful -- but slower -- alternative to memory. "Everything that's on the storage is there just because it can't fit on the RAM," he said.

To implement the MCS architecture, Diablo developed software and a custom ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit), which it will sell to component vendors and makers of servers and storage platforms. Flash vendor Smart Storage Systems, which earlier this month agreed to be acquired by SanDisk, will be among the companies using the MCS technology, Wagner said. In addition, a tier-one server vendor is preparing about a dozen server models with the technology and will probably ship the first of them this year, Walker said.

For the most part, Diablo doesn't expect consumers or small enterprises to install MCS flash on their own computers. However, Diablo may work directly with enterprises that have very large data centers they want to accelerate, he said.

Using MCS flash to supplement DRAM would dramatically reduce the per-gigabyte cost of memory but also would allow for further consolidation of the servers in a data center, Wagner said. A large social networking company with 25,000 servers analyzed the MCS technology and said it would make it possible to do the same amount of work with just 5,000 servers.

That's because the current DRAM-only servers can be equipped with just 144GB of memory, but MCS would allow each server to have 16GB of DRAM and 800GB of flash. With that much memory, each server can do more work so fewer are needed, Wagner said. Fewer servers would mean savings of space and energy, which would translate into lower costs, he said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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