Intel's latest memory problem

Intel can't seem to catch a break. First their highly-touted FB-DIMMs deliver nothing beyond cost and heat.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

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.

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