Viking Modular's SATADIMM SSDs are Seriously Cool

Viking Modular's SATADIMM SSDs are Seriously Cool

There's thinking outside the box, and then there's what Viking Modular did, which is to create an enterprise class SSD that doesn't conform to either the 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch form factors. In fact, you won't be plugging the company's new SATADIMMs into any drive bay. In case you haven't figured it out by now, these ingenious SSDs are designed to plug into your PC's DIMM slots.

"Viking Modular is the first to deliver a ground breaking, flexible and efficient method of enabling SSD integration into standard server and storage applications," said Adrian Proctor, Vice President of Marketing at Viking Modular. "It can breathe new life into maxed out systems with the high performance and lower power consumption of SSD technology. Furthermore, it opens up the possibility for new design, no longer constrained by standard hard drive space requirements."


You're not likely to see these SSD sticks marketed towards desktop applications, but in the server sector, Viking Modular's SATADIMMs provide an upgrade path for systems that might be otherwise tapped out in terms of physical space. Just plug them in, hook up a SATA cable, and you're good to go.

Viking Modular says these will work with any 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket. No power cable is needed -- the SATADIMMs derive power from the 1.5v that flows through the memory sockets, and there's not much of a performance hit to speak of. On the contrary, these sticks race along at up to 260MB/s for both read and write transfers. Other features include that all-important TRIM support and built-in AES 128-bit encryption.

Viking Modular plans to sell these in 50GB, 100GB, and 200GB capacities, with pricing yet to be determined.
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So whats the highest capacities you can fit on to these things? is 200GB the highest? But lets take a guess here, will these cost more then normal SSDs?

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This product makes no sense. SATA ports are abundant on a motherboard; DIMM slots aren't. Why would anyone sacrifice precious DIMM slots for sticks of storage with a maximum transfer rate about 1/20 as high?

Alternatively, why not simply build a RAM drive in an external enclosure? This is a drive that's built from RAM and connects to a system via SATA cables. Thus you end up with a 64-128GB hard drive with transfer rates in excess of 500MB/s. I can't see a reason why this would ever be useful--what sort of server has tons and tons of extra DIMMs but virtually no room for 1.8" drives?

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I've been thinking about this more. I can theorize a corner case where a storage system with a large amount of unnecessary DIMM space that was full on hard drives could add a secondary SSD array via RAM slots without sacrificing existing storage space. The problem is, modern OS's haven't really adapted to the challenge of using flash drives as a new tier of storage in between traditional hard drives and DDR RAM. No one challenges that it could be useful to do so (this was the entire point of Intel's Robson Technology), but the memory model doesn't really exist yet. A stick of RAM backed up with some sort of battery to keep data saved seems to make more sense than a standard SSD in a DDR3 slot.

Also, while hooking an SSD in via RAM has latency advantages, access latencies on SSDs are already excellent.

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"but the memory model doesn't really exist yet. A stick of RAM backed up with some sort of battery to keep data saved seems to make more sense than a standard SSD in a DDR3 slot."

I agree. First off, one would need to code from scratch in order to make a proper implementation to actually store data on a DIMM for long-term storage: it's possible, if the DIMMs have a rechargeable battery and the server is always turned on, but look at it this way: virtual memory uses hard drive space as a sort of RAM, but who ever heard of the other way around? If you're using ultra-fast RAM slots for storage, speed is apparently an important consideration for you, so why would you sacrifice your few valuable RAM slots, into which you can put more RAM for a greater performance increase?

Second, if these DIMMs have a normal SATA port, what's the point of the onboard storage on the chip itself? If you plug an SSD into the RAM, you're not gaining much space anyway (at least, given current SSD capacities), and if you plug in a traditional large-capacity drive, you've really just turned that RAM storage space into a really huge buffer, and it in turn only adds a little to that large hard drive. And, like Joel said, that buffer really only adds latency, so why bother?

Third, server motherboards and cases are generally engineered for one another (at least, it seems that way: it's not like the enthusiast market, where yearly upgrades are common). If you have only 8 SATA ports on your motherboard, chances are the server case/rackmount doesn't have more than 8 hard drive bays, so where would you put the hard drives that you plug into this RAM? On top of that, the drives aren't going to be powered by the 1.5V from the memory sockets, they would need SATA power connectors as well, and if we go on with the idea that servers are designed with little leeway, it is very likely that the PSU that shipped with your server case won’t have many more connectors than the case has drive bays. I don’t know for sure (I don’t have much experience with servers) but I do have one rack-mount unit at home, and I know that the motherboard, PSU, and case were all engineered for one another with very low tolerances: the PSU has exactly enough power connectors at exactly the right lengths to plug into the motherboard and drive bays, the motherboard has just enough ports for all the drives, and even the SATA cables are of precise, different lengths to reach the drive bays and no further.

Fourth, let’s just say that you’ve got this figured out: you’ve used all of the SATA ports on your motherboard, have a few drive bays left, have a few power connector Y-splitters (not a good idea for hard drives BTW), and decided you don’t need any more RAM than you have installed, and absolutely want to buy these modules to fill up those extra slots, one simple question: why not just buy a PCIe RAID card? It uses a standard interface, and saves you the trouble of writing specialized code to create a storage interface with your RAM (basically, restructuring the OS to address some data to the RAM slots as well).

Thoughts? Can someone give me a logical use for these things?

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PCI-E RAID controller with full x16 electrical lanes e.g.:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816115081&cm_re=rocketraid_x16-_-16-115-081-_-Product

+ large server motherboard with 32+ DIMM slots:

http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherboard/Xeon7000/7500/X8QB6.cfm?SAS=Y

At 200 GB per DIMM slot, one could configure

a large fault-tolerant RAID array with, say,

8 slots @ 200 GB = 1.6 TB

This would allow a very fast transaction processing machine.

We would also advise Viking to upgrade their

SATA interface to the 6GB standard;

then, we be smokin' man!

MRFS

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Here's one of my favorite server photos:

http://www.supremelaw.org/patents/16xDIMM.slots.jpg

MRFS

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p.s. correction: "6GB standard" above should be "6G standard"

Sorry for the typo!

MRFS

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