back to article Will Intel's Braidwood threaten SSD uptake?

Intel is adding solid state drive (SSD) storage to PC and server motherboards with Braidwood, its second generation Robson technology. This caches data stored in hard disk drives inside a NAND flash module installed on a PC's motherboard. The idea is to shorten boot times, launch applications faster, and generally get a PC …

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Neh...

Might be useful for a stripped down server maybe but pretty useless for a home machine.

My Windows Directory alone is 13GB. That's on a fairly clean Vista Installation.

All my data is stored on external drives.

60GB would absolute minimum for a system drive now adays....

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What good is this going to do?

Why would I want flash *cache* soldered onto my motherboard when I can just buy a whole flash SSD instead? And in six months I'll be able to buy twice as much flash for the same amount of money? Who in the hell thought this was a good idea? The last thing I want to do is buy a new motherboard every time the cost or speed of flash improves!

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hybrid?

What ever happened to those hybrid drives that had flash on them along with the spinning media? There was quite a bit of hype originally but haven't heard squat in what seems like over a year.

This intel thing sounds similar..

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easier than SSD

Some thoughts - a flash cache like Robson or Braidwood does not have to deal with the thorny wear leveling issues that an SSD has to face. Even the crappiest MLC flash will do, if there is a CRC error on flash just read the block from HDD instead. Applications don't churn too often, so the number of erase cycles will be manageable.

What makes Braidwood potentially more interesting is the better performance of new NAND flash interfaces (DDR style transfers at higher rates than the 20 MB/s of normal NAND), and the higher density now available with 34 nm technology.

How much of a market there will be for SSD is up to NAND flash vendors, their products make up most of the cost of an SSD... At the moment flash prices are going in the wrong direction (up).

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Time is not on your side...

Unless I totally misunderstood the article... ;-)

Where will the benefit and performance be after ~five years of use when the flash cache is dead? Assuming 10k cell write endurance, a 1.2 to 2.0+ write amplification, etc. If all disk I/O is cached, it isn't going to last long. And the smaller the cache, the faster it will die.

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Answers to questions

Sent to me by Jim Handy:

"Two things I can help with:

* You ask why Braidwood should succeed when Robson failed - very fair question. Microsoft support was required for Robson. It appears that Intel won't be depending on Microsoft this time. Once bitten, twice shy!

* The last paragraph of the article says: "Wouldn't both notebook and server motherboards benefit from a NAND flash module or modules too? Where is Intel going with this? Inquiring minds need to know." The first exposure I had to Braidwood were photos of things that appear to be server boards. I think that Braidwood is going to be a part of everything Intel makes in the not-too-distant future.

Computer architecture is about to change. All systems will include a NAND layer between the DRAM and the HDD.

It won't be too long before we look back and say: "How in the world did we do without a NAND layer?"

Chris.

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Anonymous Coward

on the drive?

If this is an SSD cache then why not put it on the drive, rather than on the motherboard?

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Why not just use more RAM?

I don't know how Windows behaves but on my system almost all the RAM not being used by an application is used as disk cache anyhow -- how is this an improvement over having more RAM?

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Re: Why not just use more RAM?

Cost? Technology like SDHD seems to be retailing at about £1 per gig, which beats seven barrels of shit out of DRAM. Jim Handy's remark (reported in an earlier comment) could be reworded as "Computer architecture is about to change. All systems will use a NAND layer as main memory and DRAM as the L3/L4 cache."

And since L1 and L2 caches don't require OS support, we shouldn't be surprised to learn that this doesn't either.

Further down the line, expect to see the DRAM become "fixed-size and soldered on" so that it can be "closer" (electrically) to the CPU, and the NAND package moving to a socket so that power users can add expand it if they wish.

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@Ken Hagan

Yeah, but DRAM can be re-read/written millions of times in its lifetime, NAND only 10k's...

Who wants to keep replacing their "RAM" every year because it "died"?

IMHO THAT is the issue here.

They should just leave this in SSD drives and let the power-users use SSD for their OS/boot drive.

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@Mr ChriZ:

Think a little less linearly, and you'll realize that only part of the OS, the files used daily for booting, drivers, etc..., need to be on the flash. It would be silly to store theme files and sample video clips on there, and surely even Microsoft is smart enough to figure that one out.

@deegee:

After it burns out, the answer is: so what? Most people are replacing computers much more quickly than 5 years, and even if they didn't, performance would just revert back to "normal", non-cached variety. Most motherboards also have a soldered battery to keep the CMOS alive, and eventually those fail too.

@Cameron Colley:

RAM goes away when you switch off the power.

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Anonymous Coward

Hasn't Braidwood been scrapped?

Techpowerup reported that Intel Braidwood was scrapped in the upcoming P5 series of motherboards.

If that's true, I don't see much future for this technology.

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@Brian 62

"After it burns out, the answer is: so what? Most people are replacing computers much more quickly than 5 years, and even if they didn't, performance would just revert back to "normal", non-cached variety."

Better check those stats again, you will find that most companies and casual users don't upgrade that often. And this "feature" sure isn't going to be a $1 cost to add. If mobos using this cost 30% more, and it lasts for 3 to 5 years (depending on write endurance, write amplification, etc.), then it is a waste for anyone but enthusiasts.

"Most motherboards also have a soldered battery to keep the CMOS alive, and eventually those fail too."

Yeah, but replacing a $1 battery is cheap. And when it dies you don't lose system performance.

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