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Diablo Technologies launches new DDR4 Memory1 module

Diablo Technologies introduces the all-flash Memory1 DDR4 module, and claims lower-cost, higher-capacity flash can replace expensive DRAM.

Diablo Technologies Inc. today launched an all-flash DDR4 system memory module that the vendor positions as a relatively low-cost, high-capacity replacement for dynamic RAM (DRAM).

However, industry analysts said Diablo's new Memory1 module is more likely to augment, rather than replace faster DRAM. They see Memory1 as a good fit for big data analytics, virtualization and in-memory computing.

The Ottawa-based startup said its Memory1 module deploys into a standard DDR4 dual in-line memory module (DIMM) slot in a server, thanks to its innovative memory-channel architecture, which enables flash to interface directly with the DDR bus.

"From the perspective of the operating system and the applications, it simply sees this all-flash DIMM as byte-addressable system memory," said Jerome McFarland, principal product marketer at Diablo Technologies. "You plug it in, and you get the capacity from a system memory perspective of a flash device."

Prior to today's Memory1 launch, Diablo Technologies was best known for its all-flash memory channel storage, ULLtraDIMM, which the company sells through SanDisk Corp. and Lenovo. The product presented flash as a block storage device, not byte-addressable system memory like DRAM, McFarland said.

Memory1 can include 256 GB of system memory on a module. Having more memory per machine can significantly reduce the amount of required servers, according to Diablo.

Diablo Technologies claimed the all-flash Memory1 module has four times the capacity of DRAM, in addition to costing less per GB and requiring 70% less power per GB than DRAM. DRAM is often the largest expense in server systems in use with large database and in-memory applications, according to McFarland. He said the Memory1 modules require no changes to the applications, operating system, CPU or server.

David Floyer, CTO and co-founder of Wikibon, based in Marlborough, Mass., said the Memory1 module acts purely as memory, with no sharing or persistence. He said Diablo's approach makes use of DRAM as the front end and flash on the DIMM as the back end similar to tiered storage, but as "tiered memory."

"Memory1 is a way of being able to put in much larger DRAM for a much lower price, and to have performance that will be more than sufficient for many applications," Floyer said. "It's a better way of doing it than pure cache."

Diablo Technologies claimed the all-flash Memory1 module has four times the capacity of DRAM in addition to costing less per GB and requiring 70% less power per GB than DRAM.

Floyer said Memory1 could be ideal for virtualized environments, analytics applications and databases. But, he said he could not foresee using the flash as memory with exceptionally high-performance databases, as well as financial modeling and analysis applications.

"Flash can certainly augment and replace DRAM in some applications at a lower cost than DRAM," Michele Reitz, a principal research analyst at Gartner Inc., based in Stamford, Conn., wrote in an email. "We've not seen any offerings of this type so far. I can see in-memory computing applications being able to take advantage of this, among others."

Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at Taneja Group Inc., based in Hopkinton, Mass., said that using Diablo's Memory1 module for big data applications that do in-memory computation "could well turn out to be a good compromise -- the best option between running these apps at warp speed with a smaller amount of memory due to cost versus a much larger amount of memory at much lower cost and acceptable speed."

However, he said it might take 18 months or so to determine where it will fit best.

Logan Harbaugh, a senior analyst and validation engineer at Storage Strategies Now (SSG-Now), called Memory1 a "potential game-changer, especially for clustered applications that use large pools of memory across multiple systems."

"The ability to increase memory per server from 128 GB to 2 TB reduces the number of times clusters will have to share memory over a network connection, which is much slower than local," Harbaugh wrote in an email.

Harbaugh said moving data from node to node over a network connection, even InfiniBand or 10 Gigabit Ethernet, would be much slower than accessing the data from Memory1. He said using Memory1, a clustered application might be able to get better performance with eight to 10 times fewer nodes.

But Harbaugh does not foresee flash replacing DRAM because "it's substantially slower."

"From a bits and bytes level, there's no question that DRAM is faster than flash," Diablo's McFarland acknowledged. "That's not the analysis that we're focused on, because for sure, accessing DRAM is faster than accessing flash. The question is: How do you leverage flash as memory to get better performance or better economics at the business level? That's why we look at the application use cases."

The Memory1 modules are currently shipping to select customers and due to become generally available in the fourth quarter.

Diablo Technologies plans to showcase Memory1 next week at the Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, California. The company's partner ecosystem includes Super Micro Computer Inc., American Megatrends Inc., LiteOn IT Corp., Themis Computer, Wistron Corp., Wiwynn Corporation Inc., Inspur Worldwide Services Ltd. and Adtec Digital.

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