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NAND Flash Better Than DRAM For PC Performance 205

Lucas123 writes "Adding NAND flash memory to a PC does more for performance than DRAM and costs less, according to a new study. As the price difference between the two memory types widens, NAND flash will become the memory of choice in the PC. The effects of NAND flash adoption are already being felt in the DRAM market, as revenue in 2011 is expected to decline 11.8%."
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NAND Flash Better Than DRAM For PC Performance

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  • No kidding (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @04:59AM (#36820828)

    It is far, FAR more important for your computer to have enough RAM than to replace a HDD with an SSD. At this point (and probably for a long time) flash is not replacing DRAM. You need to have RAM in your system for it to work. Flash replaces hard disks.

    Well cool, HDDs are by far the slowest component these days. SSDs are have somewhere in the range of 2-5x the transfer rate they do and more importantly are an order of magnitude or more faster on access.

    Well that still is no comparison to DRAM. DDR3 is 40x the transfer rate of even fast SSDs and about 4-5 orders of magnitude less access time. So you can't just have flash, at least not if you want a nice n' fast CPU.

    Now in terms of practical usage I find RAM is way, WAY more important. If you don't have enough, some programs will just flat out not run. If your system is starved, paging kills the performance, even with an SSD handling the paging. Knocking in a good amount of RAM is the #1 thing you can do to keep your system running well and it is damn cheap.

    SSDs improve responsiveness, don't get me wrong. I love mine and I'm happy to have them (though to be fair I wasn't willing to get them until I saw some on sale for $200 for 256GB). However it is a more minor improvement than having a system with plenty of RAM or a good CPU. I do notice some slowness to my non-SSD work system, but not much.

    The other problem is even though flash is cheaper per GB ($2ish per GB as opposed to more like $9ish for DRAM) you need more disk space than memory. My laptop has what I consider a reasonable amount of both, that is 4GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD. My desktop has a ton of RAM, 16GB, and a moderate amount of SSD, 512GB. So the SSDs cost me a hell of a lot more, despite their lower per unit cost. I could easily recommend a 4GB or more RAM upgrade to anyone, I couldn't recommend an SSD big enough to hold a good amount of stuff.

    Pretty much I only recommend SSDs if you've already maxed out your RAM. Spend your money on that first, then if you are still willing to bear the cost of an SSD, go ahead.

    In that vein, I noticed more improvement on my laptop than on my desktop. No small part of that is likely the RAM. The desktop has RAM to spare, it can cache a ton of stuff. The laptop is not starved for RAM, but not does it have a massive surplus. The base usage on the system is about 1.5GB for OS and background services. Gives it maybe 2.5GB for caching when nothing else is running. Hence the SSD helps more.

  • Re:One Problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @06:44AM (#36821236)

    Compact flash cards, SD cards, SSD, USB sticks all see this problem. So far we've only found a few suppliers of Compact flash cards which guarantee the internal management is safe, and we tested it and found it to be true. SD cards, I've a few broken "industrial grade" SD cards on my desk as proof that this is not the case. SSD is to large for our product, so I have no tests for these, but I expect the problem to be the same.

    If you expect SSDs to have exactly the same problems as SD cards, you're a total moron with at best shallow expertise in the field. Go look up the specs of controller ICs used in SSDs and try to tell me with a straight face that they're exactly the same thing you'd get in a SD card, or even a very good CF card.

    To pick just one example, do you know of any CF cards which compress all data on the fly in order to increase effective flash lifespan by reducing the total amount of data written? (Since the SSD controllers in question use hardware compression engines which can handle hundreds of megabytes per second throughput, this also has the nice side effect of increasing effective performance, unless you're storing incompressible data.)

    We use raw flash, with linux and JFFS2 or UBIFS. Which is a filesystem designed to run on flash, raw flash. Wake me when "SSD" offers that solution.

    Whatever makes you think the FTL (flash translation layer) firmware inside SSDs isn't designed to run on flash, raw flash? Whatever makes you think that a generic one-size-fits-all software solution like JFFS2 applied to whatever random flash memory you put in your embedded system is better than a SSD whose firmware has been tuned for the specific flash chips it was built with? (One of the fun things about NAND flash is that it's far from generic, especially MLC, and even more especially sub-30nm MLC NAND.)

    More broadly, JFFS2 is one way to skin the cat, having a "drive" abstract flash into a generic block device is another. If you want low cost, low-to-medium performance, and probably not the best possible reliability, especially for heavy write loads, JFFS2 and friends will do just fine. If you want a real HDD replacement for non-embedded-systems, it's not even close to being the right solution. Which is why you don't see anybody trying to deploy flash-managing filesystems as HDD replacements.

    The controllers used in real SSDs are expensive enough that it would be a huge win if you could toss them and just use a flash FS. There are lots of very good reasons why this has not happened and will not happen. Take your head out of your butt and get some perspective, right now you're a classic example of how a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    (TRIM is not a sollution, it's a workaround)

    No, TRIM is an attempt to improve performance which has been oversold a bit in the popular computer press.

  • Re:One Problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @08:12AM (#36821764) Homepage Journal

    Care to tell us which flash storage cards (brand, capacity, name, etc) you tested which have safe internal management?

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray