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Gigabyte Technology this week officially revealed its i-RAM device which behaves as typical Serial ATA hard disk drive, but uses DDR memory modules to store data. The i-RAM can enhance performance of tasks bound to performance of storage sub-system, but cannot offer really huge amount of storage space.

Gigabyte i-RAM is a device that is plugged into a PCI slot and acts is seen to operating system like a typical Serial ATA hard disk drive as it has a special embedded controller. The device is equipped with four DIMM slots for DDR memory and can support up to PC3200 memory modules, however, even the most basic PC1600 modules are likely to offer similar performance.

The heart of the i-RAM is Xilinx Spartan-series FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) that translates Serial ATA requests into requests to random access memory.

Gigabyte i-RAM is also equipped with a Li-Ion rechargeable battery that can power the device for about 16 hours when a PC is shut down. Once the battery runs out of power, all the data on the memory modules disappears.

Gigabyte claims that i-RAM can boot Windows XP 13 times faster than a contemporary hard disk drive. However, the device itself cannot provide really large storage space as well as is not suitable for systems that are switched off for more than 16 hours, for instance, during weekends. 


Comments currently: 24
Discussion started: 09/30/05 03:52:43 AM
Latest comment: 08/09/06 08:31:10 AM
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Ive seen things similar to this used by the military already. Ive been telling people for years that this is how an OS should be loaded on a computer. Hard drives are nice and somewhat fast but nothing beats loading something out of memory.
0 0 [Posted by:  | Date: 09/30/05 03:52:43 AM]
- collapse thread

Yeah, I agree...But the Military ones cost heaps because they need to be ruggered solutions designed to take abuse and harsh environments.

No desktop hard disk is gonna survive, shaking around in a truck, etc like that!

If you think about, the majority of commercial networking devices use flash memory to load the OS already.

The only issue for the desktop, is the cost per GB for a RAM solution. If its possible to make it as cheap or cheaper, then alot more people will go for it.

The Gigabyte solution would make a great "swap" drive.
0 0 [Posted by:  | Date: 09/30/05 08:19:41 AM]
For me it's cheap :)

For years I've tried to get Platypus Technolgy (no longer a business) and Cenatek to sell me bare QikDrives, RocketDrives, etc, for the systems I sell.

Cenetak = $3000 for 4GB, and Platpus products went for $1000 to $1500 per GB. All because they would only sell them with their overly expensive RAM, which was really ordinary PC133.

I-Ram $50 - $150 has been talked about, plus ~$95 per 1GB module.
0 0 [Posted by:  | Date: 09/30/05 11:15:14 AM]

Was wondering when these were going to come back around. Can't wait tilll I can actually buy one, there will be a way to mod them i'm sure to extend the battery life.
0 0 [Posted by:  | Date: 09/30/05 07:16:44 AM]

You can shut off you PC for as long as you want. The card gets power though the PCI slot. That is why it is in there. As long as you don't shut off the PSU in back or unplug it from the wall you could leave it off for years.
0 0 [Posted by:  | Date: 09/30/05 07:11:20 PM]

Booting from memory is old hat, in fact most the earliest computers did this because they could not anticipate anyone having a floppy disk drive because of the expense. So, they did it from ROM.

Even the IBM PC was available without a floppy disk drive, although I never did see one of these beasts and I doubt they sold many. So, even it booted to an OS of sorts, cassette BASIC.

Radio Shack took it one step further with their 1000 HX (and most of the succeeding home computers), by putting DOS 2.11 (it had a smaller footprint and was better known than 3.3, which was out at the time) in ROM. It loaded into RAM, rather than running out of ROM, to save memory in case a user wanted another version and booted from the floppy disk or hard disk (it saved memory because you did not map the ROM into the addressable range of the processor. If you did, and booted from the floppy, you lost that memory).

It is nothing new, and kind of a scary way of going about it, being on volatile memory. Then again, with Microsoft releasing lousy operating systems that have to be updated all the time, a ROM based solution would not do, unless it were erasable. It still kind of surprises me that Windows is not released on a PCI card with EEPROMS that would allow a user to boot up from that instead of a hard disk. If you added something like a browser, a lot of people would not even need the disagreeable hard disks they make now. Without a hard disk, you would save a lot of noise, a lot of heat, and a lot of room.

With regards to ECC, it seem incongruous for this product. I doubt any sane person would put anything that could be lost on something so tenuous as volatile memory. So, it is almost implied that you are taking some risks because losing the data will not be fatal and the risk is acceptable.

The thing that is a little unusual is that they want to keep the SATA protocol. On something as dreadfully slow as a hard disk, the overhead is essentially meaningless, but on RAM, it has to be extremely inefficient getting commands improper for the hardware and converting them to something more appropriate.

With regards to memory speed, even a tiny bit of thought will reveal the speed of the memory would not matter. If you are going through the PCI bus, you are limited to 33 MHz, and that is as fast as you are going to get the transfers regardless of whether you run the memory at 100 MHz or 200 MHz.
0 0 [Posted by:  | Date: 10/04/05 03:30:58 AM]
- collapse thread

According to Anandtech's review, the device only uses the PCI slot for power, not for data transfer. It uses the SATA interface for data transfer.
0 0 [Posted by:  | Date: 10/04/05 05:13:57 AM]

This news is old news by several months.

~150MBps is better than 4MBps random read of HD's but still limits potential performance benefit.
Wake me up when it uses PCI-E x4 (1GBps both directions) or better and slots into their desktop/workstation MB's along side 2xVideo + RAID. A good SCSI RAID card with 1GB cache can reach >600MBps burst. If you add system RAM then its >5GBps when used as a RAM disk but with no protection.
0 0 [Posted by:  | Date: 10/04/05 11:29:05 PM]


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