Almost a year ago, Gigabyte Technologies released an innovate product called the i-RAM, or the GC-RAMDISK, as it is officially titled. This device is a unique storage device based on solid-state storage (a RAM medium) that acts as a hard drive. Using up to 8 gigabytes of DDR 200-400, this drive can be used as an extremely fast storage device. As fast as processors and video cards have been getting, right now the main bottleneck is turning out to be the hard drives. While we wait to see new hybrid hard drives or other new hard drive technology, we have to deal with the slower drives or spend mega bucks on high-end SCSI drives to really maximize data transfers. The new i-RAM could change all of that.
Costing a measly $150 for the device (and several hundred for the RAM) the i-RAM is the cheapest solid-state storage device out there. It includes a rechargeable backup battery (recharges while the system is plugged in and the power supply is on) that can last up to 16 hours; that way, any important data on the drive will not be lost in case of a power outage where there is no universal power supply (UPS) installed. The drive currently uses PCI 2.2 specifications and SATA I. Unfortunately, not all motherboards have PCI 2.2, and SATA I is just too slow of an interface for this device, as it could easily saturate SATA I even using old SD RAM. Since DDR ram is so fast, it could also saturate a SATA II connection as well, transferring up to 250 MB/s, a feat that no current hard drives could come close to fulfilling.
Current benchmarks show that a single i-RAM drive with four gigabytes of DDR can outperform a 15K RPM SCSI RAID-0 setup in server applications. Setting up the i-RAM in RAID 0 allows the drives to reach a transfer rate of up to around 230 MB/s, saturating both SATA I channels. As far as access time, there is simply nothing faster. In reality, this drive has no access time; it's pretty much instant. Unlike a hard drive, this device doesn't have to spin the arm around to find the proper spot on the hard drive to pull the data from.
While the cost may seem a bit steep, this device can improve performance in many ways for those who need the absolutely fastest environment for doing music production, digital art, or video editing. You could potentially install Photoshop onto this device and also use it as the scratch disk, which would outperform any other solution. Of course, you could also use this as a very fast virtual memory drive for Windows.
So far, this device is extremely impressive, but unfortunately, there is little information about its reliability. It is hard to say if it is safe enough to use on any mission-critical systems, as no experiments regarding its error recovery have been done. If you were to buy this device, it would be a good idea to have a cron job perform frequent backups from the device. Unlike hard drives, if a stick of RAM goes back, there is no recovery of the data; it's completely gone. This makes it unlikely that one would want to use this in a server environment, unless you go crazy and get a bunch of these for a RAID 5 or 6 setup.
Nash, the extreme gaming haaaX0r!