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Micron Wants NVDIMM "Hybrid Memory" to Become Reality

By - Source: Micron | B 21 comments

Micron has been working on NVDIMMs, a 'hybrid' storage solution, aiming to bridge the gap between DRAM and SSDs. The idea is that all the data in the DRAM would get written to NAND memory upon losing power.

The biggest problem with our current standard of RAM, the Dual-Inline Memory Module (DIMM) is that all data stored is instantly lost when the module loses power. Whilst we've learned how to deal with this limitation through Hibernation and Sleep modes, neither are ideal as the former involves a slow process of writing the contents of the DIMMs to a Hard Drive or SSD and the latter leaves RAM running which consumes power. This situation is the primary reason why most laptops will drain a fully charged battery in just a few days of being in sleep mode and has the potential to cause significant problems for  desktops in the event of a power cut.  For home users this may be a small annoyance, but in an enterprise environment this is clearly impermissible.

It appears that Micron's new technology of Non-Volatile Dual-Inline Memory Modules or NVDIMNs may provide a lasting solution to this problem. A NVDIMM is surprisingly simple: Onboard an NVDIMM is DRAM, this is used like the computer memory we are used to now, in fact, it is the same. On top of this, there is an amount of NAND memory and a system of capacitors onboard. Today's capacitors are constructed well enough and powerful enough to give the module enough time, after the power is cut, to write all the contents of the DRAM to the NAND memory. Upon restoring power, all the information should be written back from the NAND memory to the DRAM, and normal operations continue.

Though this only partially solves the slow recovery time from Hibernation, it is still significantly quicker to load the contents of DRAM from NAND memory than from a HDD and more importantly will provide full data recovery in the event of a power cut since the onboard capacitors would always be charged and thus the contents can be quickly saved to the onboard NAND memory in case of power loss.

Micron's first demonstration of this technology, its first NVDIMM, had 4 GB of DRAM onboard and 8 GB of NAND memory. No reason has been given for the double NAND over DRAM, but we can assume it has to do with the limited lifetime of flash memory, which decays over writes.

Though it is still unknown when this technology will come to the market, Micron is confident that NVDIMMs will bridge the gap between DRAM and SSDs and will be attractive for both enterprise and consumer environments.


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  • -5 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 13, 2013 12:13 PM
    Quote:
    The biggest problem with our current standard of RAM, the Dual-Inline Memory Module (DIMM) is that all data stored is instantly lost when the module loses power.


    You dont say

    http://i2.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/007/666/_57c8a1a431a592af806925e57258202f.png
  • 0 Hide
    MauveCloud , February 13, 2013 12:21 PM
    A good enterprise server would already have a UPS set up, with signalling to hibernate to an ssd if the power cut lasted long enough to risk the backup battery running out, wouldn't it? Would these NVDIMMs really offer any advantage over that? I doubt I'd bother with it for my home computer.
  • 0 Hide
    freggo , February 13, 2013 12:22 PM
    Could we not keep some of the windows boot files in the NAND memory as well?
    Should make the system start up much quicker.
  • Display all 21 comments.
  • 2 Hide
    freggo , February 13, 2013 12:23 PM
    MauveCloudA good enterprise server would already have a UPS set up, with signalling to hibernate to an ssd if the power cut lasted long enough to risk the backup battery running out, wouldn't it? Would these NVDIMMs really offer any advantage over that? I doubt I'd bother with it for my home computer.


    Cheaper than a UPS and most home users do not have a UPS; most don't even know or care that these exists (at least among my none geek friends) !
  • 0 Hide
    house70 , February 13, 2013 12:25 PM
    I am not sure how much power DRAM draws, but this could be addressed by giving a battery power source to the module. A lithium battery can last 10 years, could be replaceable and this would avoid the NAND degradation issues. Even better, it could be a rechargeable one, charging while the PC is on AC power.
    Just my 2 cents.
  • 3 Hide
    duxducis , February 13, 2013 12:25 PM
    this would have to be able to wipe itself beyond any file recovery or it be bad for those who use encryption and need hi security.
  • 2 Hide
    spazoid , February 13, 2013 12:52 PM
    Unless your power delivery is VERY unreliable, I doubt you'd require a 100% overprovisioning to avoid running out of usable cells. Remember, it only writes the DRAM contents whenever power is lost.
  • 6 Hide
    anxiousinfusion , February 13, 2013 12:57 PM
    This is like the poor man's memristor RAM.
  • 8 Hide
    Estix , February 13, 2013 12:58 PM
    house70I am not sure how much power DRAM draws, but this could be addressed by giving a battery power source to the module. A lithium battery can last 10 years, could be replaceable and this would avoid the NAND degradation issues. Even better, it could be a rechargeable one, charging while the PC is on AC power.Just my 2 cents.


    Some sort of computer with a built-in battery?
    Next you'll suggest they add in the keyboard and screen to the same chassis...
  • -6 Hide
    house70 , February 13, 2013 1:21 PM
    EstixSome sort of computer with a built-in battery?Next you'll suggest they add in the keyboard and screen to the same chassis...

    Some sort of RAM module with a built-in battery.
    Your sarcasm is totally misplaced, you did not even understand my point. Reading comprehension fail.
  • 1 Hide
    dark_knight33 , February 13, 2013 2:03 PM
    A better use case for something like this is a fully powered off STR mode. It would make hibernation to your SSD/HDD obsolete, by simply saving the contents of ram to the module itself, then restoring it almost instantly upon reboot. It should be significantly faster because it would be intra module communication, rather than having to pass through the SB to get to the memory controllers on the CPU.
  • 0 Hide
    archange , February 13, 2013 2:31 PM
    Still not the solution I was hoping for, I have to agree with anxiousinfusion.

    We do not need another half assed/half baked hybrid solution. We need to go off volatile altogether. This solves one issue while creating others. I keep thinking about the awkward time needed to copy everything back from NAND to RAM. That would be like trying to start with the handbrake on.. :( 
  • -1 Hide
    phate , February 13, 2013 2:44 PM
    I'm actually very interested in something like this. Most UPS's suck, full stop. They fail all the time, and the PC connection setup to safely power down and reboot on power up is tortuous.

    Most computers however, function on an electronic switch, and automatically turn back on once the power is restored.
    If this could save the state on power loss and immediately restore it when the power turns back on, that's a huge boon to small businesses who can't afford generators, and it completely gets away from the UPS headache.
  • 1 Hide
    stuart72 , February 13, 2013 3:31 PM
    not sure if this is a UPS replacement, what about data in the CPU cache / registers?
    Anyone know if just saving DRAM contents is enough to restore the system state fully?
  • 0 Hide
    cbfelterbush , February 13, 2013 4:16 PM
    It seems some of you have not experienced the performance of running your PC from a RAM Disc. However the ability to install applications and run them entirely from a ram disc provides Stupid Insane speed improvements.

    I installed my Steam client and all my steam games on a RAM Disc, it used a real time backup solution that saved the RAM Disc every 15 minutes to my Revo 3 x2. When The PC would power off it would do an auto save, basically taking a snapshot of the RAM Disc then mounting it on system start-up. This solution worked great on a 48GB Ram disc while the OS and system had 16GB of memory available to operate from.

    This solution required a lot of back-end maintenance, making sure it was backing up right and all that. This tech is aimed at allowing us to boot right into a RamDisc type of OS running environment. Replacing Mass RAID arrays of SSDs as the preferred method of ludicrous amounts of speed.

    Just saying my 48GB Ramdisc was Writing at 7.5GB/s and Reading at 8GB/s, imagine if it was running across 240GB of ultra high speed DDR4 all the while being stored safely against power loss by actual NAND

    -CB
  • 1 Hide
    gm0n3y , February 13, 2013 4:41 PM
    I can see a couple of possible problems with this. First, does Micron have a patent on this? Without an industry-wide standard I doubt this will take off (unless it works in the existing RAM slots). Second, these will likely be much more expensive (not that big of a deal in enterprise though), especially if Micron has a patent.
  • 1 Hide
    shadowfamicom , February 13, 2013 4:49 PM
    cbfelterbush...Just saying my 48GB Ramdisc was Writing at 7.5GB/s and Reading at 8GB/s, imagine if it was running across 240GB of ultra high speed DDR4 all the while being stored safely against power loss by actual NAND-CB


    I too have seen the stupid fast speeds of a ramdisk. Not as great at the speeds the as cbfelterbush has... but still able to write at 3GB/s in real world windows use. I've never benchmarked it, but I assume its limit is much higher. Running 4 sticks of 8gb Crucial Ballistix RAM in quad channel mode on an 2011 socket mobo
    DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)
    Timing 8-8-8-24
    Cas Latency 8
    Voltage 1.5V

    Now I have 3 SDD's (two first gen 60gb ones and one Corsair GT 180gb one for the OS), I find the boot of photoshop CS5.1 64-bit only about a second faster to load vs my SSD's. Not really worth using a ramdisk for (though it is a bit snappier when it is booted up with filters and whatnot). I mostly use it for scratch disk or even I ever need to run a big dictionary file. Best ramdisk program I have found is "Dataram RAMDisk".
  • 0 Hide
    blazorthon , February 13, 2013 5:54 PM
    gm0n3yI can see a couple of possible problems with this. First, does Micron have a patent on this? Without an industry-wide standard I doubt this will take off (unless it works in the existing RAM slots). Second, these will likely be much more expensive (not that big of a deal in enterprise though), especially if Micron has a patent.


    They use regular memory slots and act like regular memory. They simply have a NAND flash data backup in case of a power failure.
  • 0 Hide
    blazorthon , February 13, 2013 5:56 PM
    archangeStill not the solution I was hoping for, I have to agree with anxiousinfusion.We do not need another half assed/half baked hybrid solution. We need to go off volatile altogether. This solves one issue while creating others. I keep thinking about the awkward time needed to copy everything back from NAND to RAM. That would be like trying to start with the handbrake on..


    Considering that each module would have its own NAND, it could take a few seconds to a few dozen seconds. That's a helluva lot better than taking an additional several minutes to several hours to get it all back up and running.
  • 1 Hide
    blazorthon , February 13, 2013 5:58 PM
    What I'd like to know if these hybrid memory modules are really any better than simply switching out the DRAM with FeRAM, a native non-voltatile memory with DRAM-like performance and density and also lacks the inherent endurance issues of NAND flash memory. Does anyone have any recent info on that that they'd like to share?
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