Western Digital jumps into in-memory computing segment

By combining software with SSDs, Western Digital is offering a way to get the most out of servers without making a pricey investment in more DRAM.

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Western Digital is jumping into the in-memory computing segment, betting that its new product, the Ultrastar DC ME200 Memory Extension Drive, can appeal to businesses that want to get the most out of their servers without making a pricey investment in more DRAM.

There's an increasing demand for in-memory computing as more and more industries take advantage of analytics, data processing, cloud services and high performance computing. However, as organizations try to run these workloads, they may not be able to get the most out of their servers.

"Today, in a traditional server architecture, you've got multiple CPUs, each has eight or more cores," Western Digital's Eddie Ramirez said to ZDNet. "What is really the limiting factor is the amount of memory in the system."

One way to deal with the problem is extra DRAM, but Ramirez said, "Getting beyond 300 Gb is going to kind of jack up your server costs."

The Ultrastar Memory Extension Drive approaches the challenge in a different way, taking a fast SSD and bundling it with an innovative software piece. It expands in-memory capacity, maintaining near-DRAM performance at a fraction of the cost.

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After a systems admin installs the Ultrastar, its software creates virtualized memory pools on NVMe devices. The operating system would see a significant bump in memory capacity, Ramirez said. Rather than replacing all DRAM, the Ultrastar augments it, typically at a ratio of eight DRAM to one DC ME200.

The memory drive is compatible with most Intel x86 servers and available in 1TiB, 2TiB and 4TiB. It doesn't require any modifications to the operating system, system hardware, firmware or application stacks. Using the Ultrastar, Western Digital says customers can expect to see between 74 percent to 94 percent DRAM performance -- but at a significantly lower price.

The product should benefit a variety of applications, including data warehousing, software-as-a-service, genomics, and even traditional ERP applications with high memory requirements.

The Ultrastar memory drive is currently available and sampling with select customers.