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Intel's Robson controller will bring NAND to notebook motherboards. SnowGrass is the exact same technology but for desktops - Courtesy AnandTech
Solid-state storage finally comes into mass production; although prices are still sky-high

Last week at IDF, we reported that Intel's next major mobile platform, called Santa Rosa, will feature NAND flash memory technology in order to allow devices to startup and execute programs. This technology, dubbed Robson, will improve boot times, reduce paging and be used as a general buffer between storage devices and system memory. 

Interestingly, Intel also mentioned that Robson will have a version for desktop computers called Snowgrass. The technology is currently in the works and is planned to be released after Robson. Motherboard makers will have designs that contain a slot designed to take a Snowgrass NAND module. This opens the door for users to customize their motherboards with various sizes of modules for whatever purposes they choose, and also allows the ability to upgrade NAND as it gets less and less expensive.  Remember when L2 cache used to sit on the motherboard?

Intel's current Snowgrass specification calls for a modular design, but it now appears that motherboard makers have the option of integrating the technology directly on board. There is no word yet on capacities, but for Snowgrass or Robson to really have any value over the purchase of a faster hard drive, we would have to speculate that the cost of such a module cost less than a few gigabytes of system memory.  We would not be surprised if Robson and Snowgrass have similar price  points and capacities as USB NAND at the time of launch.  Today, 4GB pen drives using NAND flash memory cost approximately $100.


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startup times on desktop
By brownba on 3/13/2006 7:01:41 PM , Rating: 2
don't want to be a hater,
but I don't think reducing the startup times on a desktop really matters.
on a laptop - yes, I see the benefit.
but I suspect most desktop users turn their computer on in the morning then don't turn it off until night, sometimes longer.
yes, other benefits are listed for this technology, but I don't think reduced startup times should be one to tout.




RE: startup times on desktop
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 3/13/2006 7:06:09 PM , Rating: 2
It's mostly for sticking your entire page file on something that isn't your hard drive but isn't your system memory either. I see potential for that.


RE: startup times on desktop
By Furen on 3/14/2006 12:54:43 AM , Rating: 2
How about getting rid of page files and throwing an extra gig or two of ram into systems instead... or actually making windows load less useless crap instead of looking for faster ways to load the crap.

I agree that it is useful in laptops because of the power consumption benefit, in addition to the faster boot-ups.


RE: startup times on desktop
By jkostans on 3/13/2006 7:35:26 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah could be good for those games that don't use a loading screen like morrowind oblivion etc. Might remove studdering which would be really cool.


RE: startup times on desktop
By drinkmorejava on 3/13/2006 7:43:30 PM , Rating: 2
It can see several possible performance benefits, but with 2gigs of RAM, I can run without a pagefile no problem. In fact, about the only time I get a benefit out of it is when doing major premiere or photoshop work: they steal all of my ram. Otherwise, it's just dead space on my hard drives. So the question becomes, expensive, slow NAND, or cheaper, fast RAM. If it comes down to $100 more and only faster startup times, I think I'll stay away. Now what I'm interested in are the hybrid hard drives.


RE: startup times on desktop
By Questar on 3/13/2006 10:14:50 PM , Rating: 2
I would absolutly love to boot from flash. Here Intel, take my $100.


RE: startup times on desktop
By MrKaz on 3/14/2006 7:04:10 AM , Rating: 2
I dont need it on the notebook,
i press the power botton and the system go to hibernation.

Besides i never reboot my computer more than two times a day.


Somewhat skeptical
By segagenesis on 3/13/2006 10:41:46 PM , Rating: 2
Last I checked flash memory was still slower transfer speed wise than a good hard drive... so unless this is faster than your existing disk in the computer I'm at a loss to see this giving a large performance boost.

I commend the idea at least in concept... as I do remember COAST sticks on Pentium boards!




RE: Somewhat skeptical
By Zanfib on 3/14/2006 12:42:26 AM , Rating: 2
You're right transfer speed wise but in terms of response time it could be a fair amount quicker, drives take several ms to move the head and then wait for the start of the track (the reason why at 10,000 or 15,000 rpm drives are faster--reading/writing can start sooner), whereas solid-state storage can access it in nanoseconds.


RE: Somewhat skeptical
By ATWindsor on 3/14/2006 3:11:37 AM , Rating: 2
But you can create a kind of "internal raid" and get high transfer speed on the whole unit.

Personally i hope they release a harddrive based on flash at a reasonable price, and size (at least 16 GB), the lower acces time will improve performance in windows and key apps, and it will be very quiet.


Fast Hibernate
By Yungblood on 3/14/2006 9:19:34 AM , Rating: 2
If the size was large enough, could this not be used as a "fast hibernate" for desktops in the future? Intel are finally becoming power concious after all.




RE: Fast Hibernate
By heulenwolf on 3/14/2006 10:39:18 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, it could be used for hibernate. Windows XP sets aside as much hard drive space as you have physical memory when hibernation is enabled. The drawbacks are:
1) You can't use that space for anything else
2) At 512 MB and 1 GB sizes, the advantage of the NAND Flash's quicker response time is overcome by its slower transfer rate relative to hard drives - a hard drive will restore your session much faster
3) Matching (or exceeding) your memory size becomes a significant expense as standard RAM sizes increase. As others have stated, you may be better off getting that much more ram for greater performance and using standby instead of hibernate.

These disadvantages are all contingent upon future OS's doing things the way XP currently does. If Vista redesigns hibernate, for example, then some of these disadvantages may become obsolete.

The one advantage NAND maintains in this scenario is that it takes less power to restore your system from NAND than from a hard drive.


Notice it's a plug in module .... consider why?
By peternelson on 3/15/2006 9:22:32 AM , Rating: 2
Hmmm, NAND.

If this is like NAND flash, then it will have a limited write cycle like existing USB sticks, compact flash etc.

If used READ ONLY as an OS boot that's cool. But I can already do that with a CF card and an IDE/CF adaptor so what is the big deal?

If they think instead you cache your hard disk writes to it, then they must think the average user does little disk writing.

If this was so great an idea why not just integrate the chips on the motherboard. I will tell you why they do not. Because they think using it a lot will exceed the rewrite capacity of the memory technology (maybe around 1 million writes). That is why a module slot hence "replaceable" or more "disposable". Just bin it and buy another card? What a waste of resources and $$$. They ought to allow strict control over what writes occur, and for what purposes.

eg CF is ok as a linux boot drive (with ide adaptor) but ideally don't keep your log files on there (because of excessive writes). Sandisk CF is not bad. Lamer makers CF tends to die in that application because they have not implemented "wear levelling" algorithm.

The idea is good but the implementation should be STATIC RAM with battery backup. If the battery is dying only then write it to disk or some flash.

For a user who just browses the web and sends email this device is ideal. For someone who does data processing, it could work out expensive in replacement modules unless they can explicitly set what purpose the NAND board is used for. And I don't see that feature in any of the details given.

On the positive side, it could allow hard drives to spin down, saving power and noise until they are needed.




By Zoomer on 3/17/2006 2:50:18 AM , Rating: 2
Do you have any idea how expensive static ram is?


By yodataco on 3/15/2006 1:53:21 PM , Rating: 2
I honestly think that NAND tech is becoming outdated. Yes, it's cheap and somewhat versitile....but it's slow, and has VERY limited write life. Beyond that this would be adding another layer of complexity upon systems that need to honestly probably remove a layer or two. Now we have 4 main layers of our memory system (cache, volitile system memory, NAND system file/suspend memory, and slow hard disk / external media memory), instead of having fewer layers, and less complexity. More layers does not always make an architechture faster (look at the P4 stepping fiasco).

I think research should go more into tech like nanotubes. Something that is fast, non-volitile, and can have large capacities. This would mean we could even erase a current layer, and have on-chip solid state cache + solid state fast system memory/storage....thus eliminating the need for a hard disk. This would also simplify the systems architecture in several different areas: system bus, unified caching (no more level 1,2,3,4,5,etc cache), and on-the-fly storage partitioning to name a few.

I know it sounds like a pipe dream, but it's really not. The technology researchers & developers just have to get off their fannys and stop making "incremental" updates just so they can make more money by selling everyone who just bought that 1gb 333mhz ram pair the new 1gb 400mhz ram pair! I mean imagine a system with 1gb of solid state cache and 250gb of solid state memory....it's possible, it's just not profitable because corporations have about 100 iterations of their current and "upcoming" architechtures to make money off of first.




By Brentaw on 3/22/2006 10:53:50 AM , Rating: 2
Sounds a lot like the new Flash chip I invented almost 2 years ago.

The “Avery”© Chip or the “A”© Chip


The Avery© Chip will be almost like a usb flash drive that will be part of the motherboard, and is highly flashable.

The biggest problem in pc’s in this day and age is the boot time after the BIOS check has finished to when you log into Windows.

I have invented the “A”© chip that will fix this problem once and for all.

This is how the “A”© chip will work:

Once you have loaded up your operating system and have installed all your latest hardware drivers, you then reboot your computer and go into the BIOS.

You then have the boot order switched to boot from the “A”© chip. Save and Exit the BIOS.

The next time the pc boots up, the “A”© chip takes all the boot loader information off the hard drive and writes it to the “A”© chip.

The next time you reboot, after the BIOS checks are complete, the boot loader information will be already in memory, so nothing needs to be loaded and you will instantly be at the Windows Logon box. No more “Starting Windows ….or the wait time”

If a driver gets corrupt on the “A”© chip, you can revert back to the hard drive boot loader for diagnostics. If updated drivers for your video card and other devices, the “A”© chip will then recognize that the hard drive boot loader has been modified, and then you will be prompted to update the “A”© chip.

For novice users, you can have another “Soft” menu from the BIOS boot up just to go into the “A”© chip section so the novice user doesn’t change another BIOS feature by accident.

Brent Waddell

Creator of the “Avery”© chip

23 years in computers




More like a Snow Job from Intel
By cornfedone on 3/13/06, Rating: -1
"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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