Tortoise and the Hare

Two promised products will be showing up sooner rather than later.

In one corner, we have the Gigabyte i-RAM. In the other corner, we have flash memory drives and hybrid flash/rust drives.

Who is likely to win?

On sheer technical potential, regular RAM wipes the floor with flash.

Unfortunately, hooking up a device like an i-RAM to a SATA interface is like giving a Ferrari engine a Honda Civic’s transmission. In comparison, flash isn’t close to saturating even an ATA-100 interface.

The only way to fully unleash the potential of a device like i-RAM is to give it a multi-channel PCI Express interface. However, unless somebody’s doing something I don’t know about, while mobo manufacturers have been adding more PCI Express channels to their boards, the extra channels are going to video, so you can have two real x16 SLI slots.

What the world needs is an all-purpose multi-channel PCI-E interface or two to handle the i-RAM and other future devices.

Unless that happens, though, flash is likely to win out (at least as measured by units sold) simply because:

  • the primary advantage the competition has over it is severely limited by the interface it uses and
  • flash memory is cheaper than regular RAM, and due to get cheaper still.

    For the mainstream, it’s quite possible, if not likely, that in the short-to-medium term, hybrid hard drives will do best of all, simply because putting a gigabyte or so of flash memory to serve as a big cache will offer most of the real-life, real-time advantages of flash. Indeed, outside of a few niches, until computers get so small that the presence of a small hard drive becomes highly undesirable, hybrid hard drives may be the only mainstream option.

    One should be reminded that throughout its history, the PC hasn’t been about the best technology, but rather the best affordable technology. More expensive technologies can occupy niches, but until they get cheaper, that’s all they’re going to o


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