Intel's latest memory problem

Intel's latest memory problem

Summary: Intel can't seem to catch a break. First their highly-touted FB-DIMMs deliver nothing beyond cost and heat.

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Intel can't seem to catch a break. First their highly-touted FB-DIMMs deliver nothing beyond cost and heat. Now their highly-touted Robson technology is getting beat up.

HP: are they or aren't they? In HP says no to Intel's Turbo Memory, David Meyer reports from London that

Steve Doddridge, senior notebook technology consultant for HP Personal Systems Group for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), added: "We looked at the baseline system performance of a standard system (with 1GB of RAM) without any Robson or ReadyBoost type of technology added, and we then compared that to the same system with Robson, and the same system but just with an (equivalently sized) SD card or USB stick."

The HP team found that just adding more RAM to the system helped performance just as much as Robson Turbo Memory. Oh, and it cost less too.

Now, it isn't clear if this is a world-wide HP decision or just a Euro thing. Even if HP US comes out with Robson, will it be because it is better technology or will it be a marketing decision? Stay tuned.

This is just the beginning Flash has been climbing the hype cycle for some time, so some reality is in order. I've been investigating NAND flash as a disk substitute and it isn't nearly as clean as proponents would have you believe. There are a lot of potholes in the flash road.

For one, Windows and Mac OS throw small random writes around like confetti, and small random writes are *really* slow on flash. For another, even though flash is much faster on small reads than disks, it is still way-y-y slower than DRAM and no faster on large sequential reads.

The Storage Bits take Flash isn't a panacea. It costs a lot more than disk and its major performance advantage is in small random reads. IMHO, it will take a combined hardware, software and firmware effort to exploit the advantages of flash while minimizing the negatives.

For you Mac fans, that means that Apple is best-positioned technically and, as a large consumer, economically to take full advantage of flash. For example, the new ZFS file system coming in Leopard is good with flash because it performs large writes by default. There are less-obvious opportunities as well.

What about flash's power savings? They help, but as I concluded in Power, notebooks and solid state disks

Today's laptops have so many power-using systems that advances in just one of them make only a small difference.

And the disk guys have some power tricks up their sleeves as well.

Update: The CEO of SUN announced today that

In fact, this week you'll see that Apple is announcing at their Worldwide Developer Conference that ZFS has become the file system in Mac OS 10.

It was over a year ago that I first started writing about ZFS on StorageMojo (see ZFS: Threat or Menace? Pt I and ZFS: Threat or Menace? Pt II) and a month later the first rumors about ZFS on OS X first surfaced (see ZFS on Leopard: How cool is that?). I'll try not to sprain my arm patting myself on the back.

What is new is my realization that ZFS smoothes the integration of flash disks into OS X. More on that hot topic RSN.

Comments welcome. I'm back from Boston so I'll be better able to respond.

Topics: Hewlett-Packard, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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5 comments
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  • internal vs. external

    Check the article again. HP didn't say if you add more RAM to your system it is cheaper. They said if you went with an external USB stick out the back of your computer.

    It should be cheaper or you should get more flash memory for that ~$50.

    However, why would I want an external flash card (ReadyToSnapOffDrive) sticking out of my laptop taking up a slot all the time for basic capability that I want available always. I'd rather have the internal card.
    corey.minter@...
    • Why not internal

      You missed where in the same story about HP why... because it was limited to 1 gb and you could get larger external devices, or because larger external devices would be coming soon at a cheaper price point.

      It was actually a good move on their part. Another was that it enabled them to add another gig of memory to a system and gain a marketing and pricing advantage over those who choose to implement it internall.
      doug@...
      • that's HP's reason not mine

        But that's HP's reason not mine. I just don't want a memory card sticking out of my laptop for a basic function that I want all the time.

        Is the $10 flash card comparable in speed to the $50 readydrive? +$40 might not justify internal to some people.

        I'd like to see the measure of benefit comparing 512MB, 1GB to different amounts of system RAM.
        corey.minter@...
      • It is confusing

        The article said that the $50 Turbo Memory was a wash. Given that the latest SO-
        DIMMS are running about $34/GB, with prices headed down, I concluded that HP
        decided that the price/performance was better with more DRAM.

        I didn't spend much time looking into the external flash drive issues, other than
        checking out Microsoft's Vista Performance page where they give the marketing
        once-over-lightly. On a quick read it sounded like fluff to me, given what I know
        about flash performance.

        Robin
        R Harris
  • Then is DDR3 the answer?

    I don't think so. I would add that to the stack of Intel's memory mis-steps while trying to dictate technological direction simply for their financial benefit. It's amazing how Intel labels a technology as being at its limits when the rest of the world manages to keep moving forward.
    Uber Dweeb