Readers: Thumbs Up and Down For Vistas Flash Speed-Up

Opinion: Some readers say they can't wait for the arrival of ReadyBoost, Microsoft Vista's flash-enabled performance booster and energy saver; others call the technology a bad joke.

Is the market really ready for instant memory expansion with USB flash "drives" or the forthcoming "hybrid" hard disk drives that incorporate flash memory? Some hardy pioneers appear eager to adopt the technology. But others may hold off on deployment, perhaps for a good while.

Readers in both camps responded to a recent column that ripped into Microsofts ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive, technologies due for introduction in Windows Vista.

ReadyBoost will let Vista users plug in a compatible USB flash key that will be used by the system as a RAM cache, and ReadyDrive is much the same thing, except the cache is located on "hybrid" hard drives, or HHDDs (hybrid hard disk drives).

Reader Paul Galburt, vice president at digital video surveillance software developer SharksEye Systems, in Punta Gorda, Fla., was among the skeptics. He suggested that the Ready tech twins might be some kind of April Fools joke.

"Adding complexity to Windows is almost always a step in the wrong direction. Add to that hanging a system component on a USB connector intended only for ad hoc connections? In a word—ridiculous!" he wrote.

On the other hand, a reader named Tony Briggs sounded an upbeat note on the USB thumb drive technology.

"ReadyBoost is just a feature like any other feature of an OS. It sounds like a great idea to me. I like the idea of adding memory without trying to figure out the right speed, configuration, the CAS settings, the latency, or whether I have enough slots. This seems like a huge convenience," Tony wrote.

"But I will reserve judgment until I use it. In the meantime, I am sure as heck am not going to tell people this is a horrible idea," he concluded.

Fine, that just leaves more room for me to flame on!

The currently prevailing antidote to the problem of battery power in notebooks is to throttle back on performance, letting you do more with less. Microsofts ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive take this approach. But what we want to do with our computers requires more processing power and more often, especially with todays advanced interfaces.

What we mobile workers really need are advances in energy storage technology. Better batteries. When have we had a real advance in power technology?

I was encouraged to see the reports from MIT about "hairy" batteries based on ultracapacitors. The researchers say they have a carbon nanotube technology that can provide a "10-year-plus lifetime, indifference to temperature change, high immunity to shock and vibration, and high charging and discharging efficiency."

That sounds like the battery that can power a laptop on an international flight—or at least a domestic flight if you count the waiting.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here for an eWEEK Labs slide show of Vista Build 5381.

Several readers said they looked forward to a performance boost, but offered some suggestions to storage vendors and Microsoft.

Software consultant Jean Paul Lizotte of DrJP Software, based in Montreal, wrote that the flash technology, when "used properly," could have serious benefits.

"I for one would welcome the boost in performance in my daily work where seek times seem to be killing me," he said.

"It would be a good idea if the MS Vista engineers ensured that the files stored on the NAND flash in the hybrid drives contained mostly files that are frequently accessed but rarely modified files (boot)," Lizotte said. "[This would be wise,] since read operations are safer and more reliable on flash memory by an order of magnitude compared to writes. A mock and temporary FAT or MFT table could contain an index to the files on NAND Flash, until they are deemed unusable and then fallback on the versions on the magnetic media."

On the other hand, Mark Hayakawa, a technical marketing engineer at enterprise storage vendor Network Appliance, based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., looked at the hardware.

"The best way to incorporate this technology would be for the laptop manufacturers to have a special port, similar to the memory SODIMM ports. This would allow for the replacement and upgrade of this type of storage," Hayakawa wrote.

He said the Windows operating system would do well to reside on the flash memory in order to improve boot times. With partitions, system paging could be placed on there as well as user data.

"The flash memory technology is very appealing and should be added to the technology suite," Hayakawa said.

Certainly, all the comments by readers are their own and do not represent the opinion of their employers.

However, I like Hayakawas idea of a special port for this technology.

USB thumb drives come in all different shapes and sizes; I have a drawer of them. How will IT managers keep track of which ones work with ReadyBoost and which dont? Will it be a Vista logo that tells the difference? A ReadyBoost branding campaign?

The ambiguity could be troublesome. Time will tell on this front.

The Flash Memory Summit will be held later this summer in San Jose, Calif. That will be an opportunity to see the new applications for nonvolatile memory in action.

One of this years themes is replacing hard disks with flash. But of course, thats one of the big topics every year. Maybe this conference will be different and I will be open to flash brainwashing.

Have these sentiments changed your outlook on Windows Vistas flash plans? Will you deploy it to your clients? Let me know.

David Morgenstern is Storage Center editor for He can be reached at

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