Redefining Solid State Storage with HyperDrive 4

2005 was the year of the RAM drive. Gigabyte and a smaller company called HyperOS released their storage products, which were both meant to replace the conventional hard drive with blazing fast SDRAM. Both provided an exciting look to the future of performance storage products, as they blow away any other hard drive. Gigabyte’s i-RAM was the faster solution, thanks to its SATA/150 interface, while the HyperDrive III was limited to UltraATA/100, but supported more memory. HyperOS wants to adjust the ranking with its fourth generation HyperDrive, which offers both SATA/150 and UltraATA/133 interfaces. HyperOS even calls its HyperDrive 4 the fastest internal hard disk in the world.

Memory is typically divided into volatile and permanent storage: your system memory or random access memory (RAM) is volatile, as the DRAM transistor states are lost when the power is gone, so any data stored goes as well. Flash memory, optical storage and hard drives, together with variations such as magneto-optical drives (MO) are considered non-volatile or permanent storage, because they preserve their contents even when they’re shut down. It is possible to convert volatile DRAM from its original use and turn it into a semi-permanent storage device. All you need is appropriate core logic and an energy source to feed power continuously; the result is referred to as a solid state disk.

While Flash memory is increasingly used for solid state disk products, it does have its downsides. It can compete with DRAM when it comes to read performance, and it excels conventional hard drives at random read operations. But its write latency still is horribly long - Flash SSDs still abandon the random write benchmark field to quick conventional hard drives. In this light, DRAM cells not only allow for quicker write performance, they often provide a lower cost per stored bit as well.

Bitmicro has been addressing the solid state market with various products during the last several years; most of them are designed for professional use. The two other products I’ve referred to, namely Gigabyte’s i-RAM and the HyperDrive III by HyperOS Systems, target the upper mainstream, as well as professional users. The Gigabyte solution is powered by a PCI expansion slot and a buffer battery to maintain the memory contents of the four DDR1 memory modules for up to 16 hours. HyperOS puts its product into a 5.25" form factor, and hence supports eight memory modules for up to 16 GB or storage. The power supply, which consists of a small backup battery and an external PSU, doesn’t protect against long power outages. Again, Bitmicro has been the one to offer solid state drives with permanent backup storage included.

The HyperDrive 4 now comes with a combination of both Serial ATA/150 and UltraATA/133, eight instead of six memory sockets, a more powerful backup battery, and optional backup storage by means of a 2.5" UltraATA drive.

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  • mi1ez
    I'm surprised the RAID controller doesn't get itself all in a twist bating along at those speeds!
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  • bobwya
    Great article THG

    But... I have been monitoring the progress of the Hyperdrives (or not!!) over the past few years... The Hyperdrive IV (long awaited) has been around for months... So why have THG taken so long to produce this article???

    We get subjected to latest GPU wars (which never show MINIMUM framerates) or Intel CPU... Thats great when they introduce something new (Netburst->Centrino->Core) but otherwise is pretty dull... Time to put the innovation back in THG!!

    As for the Hyperdrive IV its a crock of **** because HyperOS Systems _still_ have not sorted out a SATA-300 link for it!! Mind you at least it is no longer vapour-ware (like it was for 2-3 years of development post product announcment)... An SDRAM base Hyperdrive V (?) should saturate a 3Gbit link and only then will you totally kick the butt of any other drive on the planet!! The benchmarks results would change radically then!!

    Ah looking forward to 2008!! Donations to the "Bob Build a Server Fund" gratefully received :-)

    Bob
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  • doa_cp
    Well forget all this and look over here:

    http://www.fusionio.com/

    They have FAR more bang for your buck.

    It will be expensive in the beginning (everything is in IT). Once this filters through to the normal user it will DESTROY anything that SATAII can throw at it. 100,000 io/s, the benchmarks speak for themselves.
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  • bobwya
    doa_cp:

    OK the price may be good but the life span isn't. The Hyperdrive will last a lot longer (with decent ECC RAM). Also I would rather have a generic SATA-2 interface than suffer the driver headaches of a PCIe interface. Could you ever install an OS on one - I doubt it!! (Especially Windows of course!!)

    I am interested in the performance for RAID-0 cheap CF cards with SATA adapters hanging off a good RAID card with 256Mb+ of cache ram. 8x CF 8Gb cards could have interesting performance numbers!!

    Also the individual CF cards could be replaced as they wear out and the investment in CF IDE-SATA adapters and Hardware RAID card amortilised over time... Still waiting, waiting, waiting for THG to pull their collective fingers out and do a decent article on this subject (and not the pansy assed one that came out this year).

    Bob
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  • doa_cp
    BobWya,

    what do you mean the life span is not very long? Its more than a hard drive, and just as good as a CF card.

    I would think that drier support would be extremely good, it is aimed at the server market, but if they want windows sales then 2003 and XP are (almost) identical so drivers would not be a problem.

    You are right about OS installation though, that is until mainbaords accept PCIe as a boot device (could wait a LONG time for that).

    I don't know that I'd want to install an OS on it though, especially windows (think pagefiles!!).

    I reckon that it will kick ass as a database/webserver storage solution, maybe just a bridge too far for "normal" pc users.
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  • bobwya
    doa_cp

    I guess just losing storage slowely ain't so bad (through wear leveling). I got a new Seagate HD in the Summer and last month one of the heads started aqua-planning on the harddisk. So you're right when you think of HD lifespans...

    However I was pitting your PCIe drive against a bank of RAID-0 CF cards or a Hyperdrive V (?? - SATA-1 interface is a waste of money) Now the later may be expensive but it should last a longtime (SDRAM lifetime)!!

    Bob
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