New Server Chips Quadruple Memory Capacity

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Startup company Metaram on Monday is expected to announce technology that overcomes traditional server memory limitations and allows users to quadruple memory without adding new hardware.

Targeted at servers, the MetaSDRAM chipset sits between the DRAM module and a memory controller, processing commands and manipulating the controller to allow the system to have up to four times more memory.

The capability of Metaram's chipset to read the additional memory means memory makers can pack more RAM on a memory module, overcoming limitations that typically throttle the amount of memory that can fit in servers.

For example, an 8-socket x86 server is limited to 256G bits of RAM, but MetaSDRAM chipsets quadruple that to 1T byte of RAM.

"That allows the system to overcome traditional limitations to read the additional RAM on a [memory module]," said Jeremy Werner, senior manager of marketing at Metaram.

The ability to plug four times the memory into a slot on a motherboard is very attractive and allows servers to perform better, said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Insight 64. "If you can put a terabyte of memory in a system, your entire Oracle database can sit in the memory. That's a rocket booster," Brookwood said.

It also results in cost savings, Brookwood said. Users can add four times the memory capacity without adding CPUs, he said.

Memory manufacturers can plug the chipset on existing memory modules, according to the company. Hynix and Smart Modular Technologies are supplying the technologies in the memory modules, according to Metaram.

Metaram is shipping separate chips that can help double and quadruple the DRAM capacity of memory modules. The MetaSDRAM MR08G2 chip, which helps double the capacity of memory modules, is available to memory makers for US$200 in quantities of 1,000. Metaram did not share pricing information on the chipsets that quadruple memory. The chips are compatible with Advanced Micro Devices- and Intel-based x86 systems, Metaram said.

With the MetaSDRAM chips, Metaram has found a way for users to fit memory modules into existing infrastructure that users can adopt quickly, Brookwood said. This follows the rationale of Fred Weber, one of the founders of Metaram and former chief technology officer for Advanced Micro Devices.

"It reflects the same design philosophy when AMD came up with their Opteron boxes," Brookwood said. "Intel said x86 couldn't do 64-bits, but Weber said that the problem with Itanium is it doesn't fit into existing infrastructure," Brookwood said. Weber and AMD figured out how to fit the 64-bit architecture into chips that could be implemented into existing infrastructure, Brookwood said.

While Metaram's technology overcomes bottlenecks facing traditional system architecture, it could have its limits, analysts said.

"It is not a revolutionary product, but it is a novel way to handle additional memory," said Will Strauss, principal analyst at Forward Concepts. PCs and servers support only limited memory today, and this product will be effective until new PC designs are introduced in the future, he said.

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