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Violin plays AMD for memory monster

10TB of DRAM? Why not?

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AMD and Violin Memory have ignited a love affair around Hypertransport that should result in what the industry technically refers to as huge DRAM appliances being connected to Opteron-based servers.

Violin Memory Inc. had eluded us before today's announcement, which is either the fault of the company's PR staff or our lack of attention to e-mail. No matter. We've spotted this start-up now and don't plan to let go because it's banging away at one of the more intriguing bits of the server/storage game – MAS or memory attached storage.

The company sells a Violin 1010 unit that holds up to 504GB of DRAM in a 2U box. Fill a rack, and you're looking at 10TB of DRAM.

It should be noted that each appliance can support up to 84 virtual modules as well. Customers can create 6GB modules and add RAID-like functions between modules.

The DRAM approach to storage is, of course, very expensive when compared to spinning disks, but does offer benefits such as lower power consumption and higher performance. Most of the start-ups dabbling in the MAS space – like Gear6 - zero in on the performance gains and aim their gear at any company with a massive database.

Now Violin plans to tap right into AMD's Hypertransport technology to link these memory appliances with servers. “The cache coherency protocol of Hypertransport technology will enable several processors to share extensive memory resources from one or more Violin Memory Appliances. This extended memory model will enable these servers to support much larger datasets,” the companies said.

“An AMD Opteron processor-based server connected to a HyperTransport technology-enabled Violin Memory Appliance will have both directly connected memory and Extended Memory resources. Directly connected memory can be selected for bandwidth and latency while the Extended Memory can be much larger and located in the Memory Appliance. Applications such as large databases will benefit from the large-scale memory footprints enabled through Extended Memory.”

The two companies expect these new systems to arrive by the second half of 2008.

Those of you who want to try Violin's gear now can get a 120GB “starter kit” for $50,000. ®

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