NAND flash, slowly but surely making headway to become a dominant force in data storage, has always had a close personal relationship with dynamic RAM (DRAM), but it's never been confused as to be one and the same.
Now the waters are being muddied in this regard. Ottawa-based Diablo Technologies has found a way to bridge DRAM and NAND flash storage to make the flash tier act like an extension of DRAM—without requiring additional power or cooling—and speed up processing to new levels.
On July 30 Diablo came out with what it calls Memory Channel Storage, a new storage and system memory approach that the company claims lowers latency and increases throughput for enterprise applications.
Diablo, which has been building advanced memory channel interfaces and protocols for a decade, has come up with a new architecture that directly attaches persistent memory to the host processors of a server or storage array. The Memory Channel flash component simply drops into a standard dual in-line memory module (DIMM) slot and becomes native to the CPU memory interface.
This enables a Memory Channel flash chip to become a drop-in replacement for standard RDIMMs (registered DIMMs).
A DIMM is made up of a series of dynamic random-access memory integrated circuits. These modules are mounted on a printed circuit board and designed for use in personal computers, workstations and servers. DIMMs began to replace single in-line memory modules (SIMMs) as the predominant type of memory module as Intel Pentium 5-based processors began to gain market share.
The Diablo architecture delivers persistent latencies approaching that of DRAM and linear scaling of throughput with additional modules, Kevin Wagner, Diablo's vice president of marketing, told eWEEK.
Memory Channel Storage is designed for high-performance applications that include cloud-based databases, big data analytics, high-frequency trading and other financial applications, server and storage virtualization, and virtual desktop infrastructure, Wagner said.
"Flash SSDs boost system performance, and flash over PCIe [Peripheral Component Interconnect Express], (a computer expansion card) is even faster, but the best performance will come from flash on the memory channel," said NAND flash industry analyst Jim Handy, a director at Objective Analysis.
"Diablo is on the right path by providing a way to plug flash right into the DDR memory buses on today's servers."
MCS is compatible with any industry-standard DDR3 memory slot, allowing deployment across the full spectrum of server and storage system designs, chassis and form-factors. So the product is basically plug and play in nature.
The MCS architecture works particularly well in blade servers, where PCIe slots are severely limited in availability and size, requiring costly and custom designs and reduced flash storage capacity, Wagner said.
Diablo's Website offers more information on MCS.