Intel Boosts Storage Performance with NAND Flash Cache

Intel Speeds Up Boot Time for Windows, Applications

by Anton Shilov
10/18/2005 | 06:15 PM

Intel Corp. demonstrated at ongoing Intel Developer Forum in Taipei, Taiwan its new technology code-named Robson that employs NAND flash memory to speed-up boot time for operating system (OS) and other software. The tech can improve performance by several times, but its actual deployment will depend on the makers of personal computers. Earlier this year Samsung and Microsoft showcased similar concept.


Intel Demos HDD with Flash Cache

Intel Robson technology is a combination of 64MB – 4GB NAND Flash cache for storage sub-system of a desktop or notebook as well as a special software that pre-caches frequently used data from the hard disk drive (HDD) to the cache. This results in very rapid access to system or launch files, which ensures high performance of the computer in general.

According to web-site, the Robson technology with 128MB cache ensured “immediate” startup of an Intel Centrino notebook and also significantly boosted boot-up time for other programs. For example, the laptop with Robson opened Adobe Reader in 0.4 seconds, while the other notebook required 5.4 seconds. It opened Quicken in 2.9 seconds, while the laptop without Robson technology needed 8 seconds to do the job.

Huge Flash cache also allows to decrease power consumption as well as reliability of storage sub-system, as HDD’s media is accessed less often. While conventional HDDs usually use dynamic random access memory (DRAM) devices as cache, which are faster compared to Flash, the size of such cache does not generally exceed 16MB.

Microsoft, Samsung Also Bid on Flash Cache

Microsoft Corp. and Samsung Electronics showcased at the WinHEC 2005 conference a prototype of the so-called Hybrid Hard Drive (HHD) which combines NAND flash cache and rotating media. The companies said the new HHD would be supported by Windows forthcoming operating system code-named Longhorn and will improve reliability, power saving and performance of next-generation hard disk drives for mobile computers.

The hybrid hard drive incorporated Samsung’s 1Gb (128MB) OneNAND device that connects to the HHD’s SOC using NOR interface as a cache and storage for data operating system writes in the process of its work. This allows the drive to halt the spindle motor saving up to 95% of power consumption  and preserving the drive even in case of a physical shock, according to Microsoft and Samsung. The hybrid drive design also can provide significantly faster boot times when a computer running Windows Vista starts up, according to the developers.

The HHD prototype will be converted into products manufactured and marketed by Samsung's HDD division as well as other HDD OEMs. Samsung’s OneNAND will integrate with the HHD SOC via its NOR interface as a standalone memory device or in a multi-chip package. Samsung expects HHD-enabled notebooks to begin shipping in large quantities in late 2006.