Feeds

MetaRAM double stuffs servers with memory

256GB box for $500k $50k

Boost IT visibility and business value

Fred Weber has a good thing going. As CTO of AMD, he spearheaded much of the work around adding 64-bit extensions to x86 processors. Those extensions made it possible for x86 servers to tap vast amounts of memory. Now, Weber, as CEO of start-up MetaRAM, wants to sell you a ton of memory.

MetaRAM has rolled out technology that memory makers can add to their products to increase the amount of data their DIMMs can hold. In fact, companies using MetaRAM's wares can double or even quadruple the capacity of their memory products. Best of all, the likes of Hynix and Smart Modular - two early MetaRAM customers - can double-stuff their hardware without shifting over to pricier DRAM chips.

Overall, Weber sees MetaSDRAM bringing memory performance closer to that of processor performance.

As many of you know, memory speeds have failed to keep up with Moore's Law-blessed processors. As a result, we have 2, 4 and 8 multi-core processors crammed into x86 servers that spend an awful lot of time waiting for memory. In addition, high performance computing (HPC) applications, databases and virtualization software all tend to go after as much memory as they can get.

"The direction over the next decade is clear," Weber told us. "We're moving to multi-core chips that do more software threads. These processors will require much more memory bandwidth."

MetaRAM sells a chipset that slots in between the memory controller and the DRAM. The company's hardware then takes care of some of the electrical dirty work needed to get up to four times as many DRAMs onto DIMMs. Memory makers can take the MetaRAM technology and add it to their products without requiring any hardware or software tweaks.

Weber admits that the MetaRAM magic does technically introduce a "light performance hit" to the memory modules. But, all told, you're only looking at two extra cycles of lag.

You can compare that to 6 cycles of lag for each FB-DIMM slapped onto a motherboard or take note that MetaRAM is doubling/quadrupling the amount of memory in your box for just a few extra cycles.

"When I am fully stuffed, I have added two cycles of latency," Weber said. "With FB-DIMMs, you're adding 40 to 50 nanoseconds of latency. That really shows up. We add a little latency, but it's totally worth it."

The MetaRAM chips also add a couple of watts to DIMMs, although the company has rolled out something called WakeOnUse power management, which turns of DRAMs when they're not in active mode.

"Even though we have more chips, we burn about the same amount of power as standard DIMMs and fit in the same power envelope," Weber said.

As MetaRam sees it, you could take a four-socket box today, stuff it with 256GB of memory and pay about $500,000 for the privilege. By contrast, a system using MetaRAM's chips could come in at $50,000 thanks to the use of cheaper, fatter DIMMs. In addition, an eight-socket box in today's configurations could hold up to 1TB of memory.

Smart Modular has agreed to offer an 8GB DIMM for $1,500 that includes the MetaRAM chipset. That's waaay below the $5,000 that the device would usually cost. As mentioned, Hynix will sell product as well.

Shot of the Metaram chips

MetaRam's Gear

Weber is encouraged by the prices shown by Smart Modular and Hynix and thinks his company's technology will add some pricing "linearity" to the memory market - where vendors have been fond of kicking the prices of higher-capacity DIMMs much higher.

Pricing and capacity chart for MetaRam

Memory by the Boatload

While focused on DDR2 today, MetaRAM is prepared to piggyback off DDR3 as well.

TSMC makes the chips for MetaRAM, which charges about $200 for 8GB DIMM parts and $450 for 16GB DIMM parts. Both Intel, which has invested in MetaRAM, and AMD are backing the technology, and server makers such as Rackable Systems, Appro and Verari are expected to begin offering the double-stuffed memory soon.

Weber and the MetaRAM team appear to have hit on a very sweet spot of the server market. The hardware makers have been trying hard to keep up with customer demands around memory, and this could help ease some of those issues.

In addition, you can imagine some novel systems arriving on the back of MetaRAM. The company's technology opens up room for more experimentation around in-memory databases and makes buying higher-end hardware more attractive to the average customers, since it lowers the formerly prohibitive memory cost bar.

We're wondering why some of the other major memory makers balked at MetaRAM's initial pitch. They're not slaves to their higher-margins, surely.

You can hear more from Weber on the memory front and the chip game in general here. You'll find MetaRam here. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7
New chip scales to 1024 cores, 8192 threads 64 TB RAM, at speeds over 3.6GHz
Docker kicks KVM's butt in IBM tests
Big Blue finds containers are speedy, but may not have much room to improve
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
Gartner's Special Report: Should you believe the hype?
Enough hot air to carry a balloon to the Moon
Flash could be CHEAPER than SAS DISK? Come off it, NetApp
Stats analysis reckons we'll hit that point in just three years
Dell The Man shrieks: 'We've got a Bitcoin order, we've got a Bitcoin order'
$50k of PowerEdge servers? That'll be 85 coins in digi-dosh
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.