Can Gigabyte's i-RAM Replace Existing Hard Drives?

Performance Expectations And Uses

Even if the i-RAM card only supports Serial ATA I and, as expected, exhausts the bandwidth of the interface at just under 130 MB/s as measured, the access times of just 0.05 ms or 50 ns are very impressive. Data throughputs of about 100 MB/s are possible even under database conditions with many random read operations. In comparison, individual hard drives fall back here to just a few megaBytes per second. Even our Webserver benchmark still managed 115 MB/s.

Even more impressive is the possible I/O performance, which represents the most important purchase decision in professional use: Many thousand input/output operations per second are no problem depending on the benchmark profile - even RAID arrays with numerous hard disks still only creep along.

A further possibility consists of transferring the Windows virtual memory to the i-RAM drive. Since Windows deletes this file if desired when shutting down (activated for example with the software xp-AntiSpy), even a data loss due to depletion of the battery capacity would no longer matter. Applications such as Adobe Photoshop want the largest and fastest virtual memory possible anyway, even if they don't actually need it.

And of course i-RAM offers itself as a temporary working drive: Use it for all files currently in use and copy them on to a secure drive at the end of the day. And if you want to be on the safe side, it's best to do that via script at a late hour.

[0]Performance benefits can often be measured without a perceptible benefit by the user. Here it is different. While the speed boost can be measured, you will also definitely feel the difference, whether you're working with Visual Studio, Photoshop or other computationally-intensive applications.

Windows Installation On i-RAM: Ingenious Or Crazy?

Independent of the possible use as a memory area for databases, we see the opportunity to just plain install the whole operating system on i-RAM. Assuming a corresponding quantity of primary memory, Windows becomes somewhat livelier this way and started in 31 seconds as opposed to 35 seconds when using a 10,000 rpm, 74 GB Western Digital Raptor - this difference is not large. The reason for this are numerous initializing functions that actually put few demands on the hard drive but simply need some time.

After their installation on i-RAM, applications also start noticeably faster. However, the current maximum 4 GB of memory space is really not much and suffices in practice only for Windows with its virtual memory. 2 GB DIMMs have not yet found their way to our test lab as DDR400 models. Even if individual applications were able to noticeably speed up by being installed on i-RAM (Photoshop: six instead of nine seconds with the WD740 Raptor), this use is still clearly limited. Particularly the demanding applications frequently require large amounts of memory space for installation. So they're nothing for i-RAM.