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ULLtraDIMM: combining SSD and DRAM for the enterprise

New flash technology integrates directly into DDR3 slots

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Introduction

Flash storage already has much lower latencies than traditional magnetic media. However, in some sectors, every microsecond counts. That's why a couple of clever companies combined SSD and DDR technologies for an ultra-low latency storage solution. ULLtraDIMMs promise to reduce latencies by up to two thirds of the lowest values currently possible using PCI-Express solutions, such as those evangelised by FusionIO over the past few years. Consumers have seen similar products in solutions such as the OCZ's RevoDrives and the recently re-introduced ASUS RoG Raidr Express.

Using the PCI-Express bus delivers not only a significant increase in bandwidth, but also a respectable decrease in latency. However, while these solutions are considered state of the art on the desktop, in server space they have only whetted certain companies' appetite for even lower response times, in order to perform even more calculations per second. Together, SmartStorage Systems and Diablo Technologies have developed a new type of combined flash storage and DRAM memory, integrated extremely tightly onto a small, but familiar package: the DDR3 double inline memory module, more commonly known as a dimm. Its name: ULLtraDIMM.

Ulltradimm


At first glance, the ULLtraDIMM (from now on, we'll skip the extra caps) seems to be both an exercise in engineering ingenuity and a somewhat laborious method to achieve a goal that while impressive, yields largely theoretical benefits. However, once we stop looking at the product from a consumer's perspective and dive into the world of applications such as high frequency trading, where massive server clusters perform millions of trades on the stock market in seconds, the picture changes quite a bit.

As readers with a passing interest in the endeavours of the various high-flying financial institutions will be aware of, in the past decades one of the innovations of the market has been in the introduction of ever increasingly rapid trading in financial products. By taking advantage of tiny fluctuations in stock prices, traders using such tools can make millions - provided their programs are well-made (they are, as the finance sector snaps up pretty much the majority of top performing mathematics and computer science graduates) and provided the hardware can keep up. With the programs keeping equal footing, there is a lot of money at stake in the race to use the fastest computers and technology, which is where Ulltradimms appear and are suddenly not only viable, but potentially a game changer.

High frequency trading: big business

We're still in the early days, but today SmartStorage Solutions and Diablo Technologies are announcing the imminent arrival of the first generation of this product, which should be available in the market in the coming months. Chances are it will be either Q4 of this year or Q1 of the next before there is actual hardware to be purchased, and you had better have very deep pockets. Also, chances are it will take quite a few years before we see this type of technology in the consumer space. Nonetheless, the implications of Ulltradimm technology are very interesting in the long run, and not just to a select group of suits on Wall Street.

Ulltradimm applications
Ulltradimm applications


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