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One day, storage=RAM?


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#1 Kimmo

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 04:13 PM

So last night I was thinking about SSDs, wondering if it was posssible to eliminate the load times in Skyrim...

And then I was like, hang on, read/write speed versus size is pretty much all there is to the distinction between storage and RAM, right?

So, surely there are some way juicy implications for what will be possible when the distinction totally disappears.

But I guess it's one of those game-changers it's hard to imagine being on the other side of. Can you guys help me paint a picture?

What would you do with a terabyte of RAM?
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#2 robzy

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 09:25 PM

I don't think that the distinction will ever disappear. There were always be faster, albeit more expensive, technologies which we will utilise as cache on faster buses. Rob.
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#3 SquallStrife

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 09:50 PM

Gigabyte tried it yonks ago.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-RAM

Atomic reviewed it even, I'm pretty sure.

IIRC, the summary was that despite being blazing fast, the disadvantages and high $/GB meant it wasn't worth the hassle of keeping the device powered.
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#4 Morgoth

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 10:55 PM

Nand will be out of life within 10 years, I think more RAM like solutions will be afoot!
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Posted 03 March 2012 - 01:17 AM

And then I was like, hang on, read/write speed versus size is pretty much all there is to the distinction between storage and RAM, right?

The main distinction is volatile vs non-volatile.
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#6 p0is0n

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Posted 03 March 2012 - 03:31 AM

wondering if it was posssible to eliminate the load times in Skyrim...

FYI longest load time I've ever had in skyrim was about 1.5 seconds. Usually about 0.5 seconds. Compared to approx 40 seconds for the same load on xbox lol.
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#7 kikz

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Posted 03 March 2012 - 08:15 AM

And then I was like, hang on, read/write speed versus size is pretty much all there is to the distinction between storage and RAM, right?

The main distinction is volatile vs non-volatile.


Yep.



I don't think that the distinction will ever disappear.

There were always be faster, albeit more expensive, technologies which we will utilise as cache on faster buses.

Rob.

Yep. It will always make financial sense to have a significantly faster memory for frequenctly used software. ie, a cache. RAM is just a level of caching. until something unforeseen happens in computer architecture and a breakthrough in hardware, CPU's have cache's too. The pattern is there throughout.
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#8 Dasa

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Posted 03 March 2012 - 09:02 AM

you can get 32g ram for $230 and make a ram drive but as it would be going from ram to ram so it would probably halve your ram speed so your probably better of with something like OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 $699 up to 1500mb read speed there will still be load times but they will be much shorter i think there is also a open cities mod so you dont have loads going into a city since you can get 6 core cpu\mb\64g ram for under $1500 a system that could be completely load free after the first load is possible but not with ancient engines like that used for skyrim which didnt even have support for over 2g ram till it was moded then patched to now support 3-4g
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#9 Kimmo

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Posted 03 March 2012 - 12:49 PM

I don't think that the distinction will ever disappear.

There were always be faster, albeit more expensive, technologies which we will utilise as cache on faster buses.

Well, yeah, but are you gonna even notice the difference between 1/3 and 3/4 of the blink of an eye?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-RAM

Yeah, I remember that, nifty idea. Wouldn't it make more sense now, with much cheaper RAM? I could see it kinda sitting between a HDD and SSD... I guess there's plenty of scope to cache a HDD these days.

The main distinction is volatile vs non-volatile.

I imagine at some point we'll have non-volatile storage that's fast enough to work as RAM... I guess some redefinition might be in order then.

FYI longest load time I've ever had in skyrim was about 1.5 seconds. Usually about 0.5 seconds. Compared to approx 40 seconds for the same load on xbox lol.

It seems that as your savegame gets older, it takes longer and longer and longer to load... due to dead bodies and stuff sticking around for 240 hours (!!!) by default. Might have to look into a mod to address this.

i think there is also a open cities mod so you dont have loads going into a city

Saw that; I think it's only Riften for now, but I'll definitely fire it up when it applies to more cities. I should also add the one that allows you to fast travel direct from any place you own too, come to think of it.


But anyway, nobody's had a go at exploring the point of my post; what really new shit does blazing-fast storage enable?
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#10 robzy

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Posted 03 March 2012 - 02:34 PM

I don't think that the distinction will ever disappear.

There were always be faster, albeit more expensive, technologies which we will utilise as cache on faster buses.

Well, yeah, but are you gonna even notice the difference between 1/3 and 3/4 of the blink of an eye?

And in related news, 640 *THOUSAND* bytes ought to be enough for anybody :P

Rob.
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#11 Kimmo

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Posted 03 March 2012 - 05:10 PM

Point taken, but my point isn't withdrawn. Surely there'll be a new class of apps designed to leverage quick access to vast amounts of info beyond boring databases...
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#12 Dasa

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 02:13 PM

if the storage and the interface was fast enough it could do away with memory and even cache if it was large enough you could travel the entire planet kinda like the google street view and do a much higher resolution version and make our planet into a virtual world with texture quality where you cant tell the difference from real life if this was to happen before the human race is wiped out then the processing power may also have caught up enough to be able to do the lighting realistically but still smaller scale photo realistic textures should be doable with current pc hardware if game engines caught up

Edited by Dasa, 04 March 2012 - 02:14 PM.

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#13 TinBane

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 07:59 AM

Point taken, but my point isn't withdrawn.

Surely there'll be a new class of apps designed to leverage quick access to vast amounts of info beyond boring databases...


With no latency?

There are two problems. HDDs are cripplingly slow by RAM standards, and RAM is cripplingly unsafe by HDD standards.

Rather than converge on one type of generalist solution (a fast, non-volatile memory system, with no read/write limits), we are more likely to end up still retaining two or more differing technologies, which each specialise.


There are fundamental trade-offs.
RAM must be able to switch effectively infinitely*, with no wear and tear. We have no non-volatile storage technologies on the horizon that allows that.
The non-volatile storage must store data committed to it, without electricity for an extended period of time (years).
RAM must be fast enough that variables can be altered and committed to the RAM with proportional speed (as computation speed increases, ram commit and access time must too).

Suffice to say, we don't even have a clue how any of this would be possible. Some of it might, if we totally change our programming paradigm, but RAM is so damn useful that it's exceedingly unlikely we can ever write a fast scratch-pad memory system out of the equation.
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#14 @~thehung

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 11:48 PM

perhaps the distinction will one day blur into a continuum of sorts.

i can certainly allow for the possibility of super-fast and super-small non-volatile storage where the critical factor in transfer speed is distance through a vast singular module to whatever bandwidth bottleneck exists at the CPU's system bus.

in which case, the position of the once-rigid dividing line between storage and RAM could be thought to vary dynamically in accordance with throughput requirements, on a case by case basis.

that is, internal memory swapping would occur along a border line determined by how much data needs to be moved at once, and how far away from the bus is too far in terms of latency for a given processing task. but despite this, one could probably assume the necessity of a reserved area (say, the first 640k :P) sectioned off by an OS for traditional RAM activity.

this is interesting: The perfect computer memory: quantum dots?

beyond the fact that cache may always exist in a separate physical form, i can imagine a future where all storage is as fast as cache, and a person might unplug their single all-purpose 128PB memory module to replace it with a nifty 256 petabyte upgrade.

What would you do with a terabyte of RAM?


if we're just imagining massive portable storage coupled with blazingly fast bandwidth — without factoring in the implications of the drastic advances in processing power we could expect to go hand in hand with that — then i think its all about interactive multimedia playback.

its fun to play around with the stupidly huge images over at http://gigapan.org/ and the like ( eg. http://www.shanghai-272-gigapixels.com - ridiculous!). but, putting aside internet connection speeds, a significant negative factor in the usability of such images is your machine's inability to fully cache them. i would dearly LOVE to be able to zoom in and around those images as quick as i could with an actual panorama before me and a telescope in my hand. but my current PC even has trouble getting around a 42 mega-pixel image of Machu Picchu (compressed to 12MB) without dragging its heals :(

next, imagine having recordings of webcams with panoramic gigapixel images, and the ability to pan and zoom in all directions whilst shuttling forward and backward in time — all with silky smooth usability. and just for you Kimmo, lets imagine for a minute that every rider in the Tour De France has a helmet-mounted 360° panoramic steady-cam and you can get access to all the streams :). yes, it could be done right now to some extent, but probably not with resolutions beyond a postage stamp, because of limited storage density at both the recording and playback ends.

the implications for AR and interactive games would be enormous too. full motion video overlays and such. unbelievably detailed textures in 3D games. an audio example? lets say EA does Squash 2020, but rather than very poorly virtualising the sound of the ball hitting each surface and racket, there is an individual 3D audio sample for each and every event in each and every position in space, all at the ready, waiting to be triggered. possible with todays CPU's, but not yet possible with today's RAM.

Edited by @~thehung, 08 March 2012 - 11:54 PM.

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#15 Kimmo

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 02:37 PM

TinBane, I can see how we might face a fundamental compromise dictated by physics, but the jury's still out on that, right? Perhaps there's a clever way to make volatile memory like virtual non-volatile memory... what's that basic (as in resistor, capacitor, transistor) electronic component they haven't invented yet? I have a vague memory of a New Scientist article talking about it being the electronic engineer's holy grail or something.

Those quantum dots sound cool; perhaps they're more feasible now that Australian researchers have found a way to adapt existing photolithography techniques to create single atom(!!!) transistors...

You've got me drooling, @~...

Come to think of it, I'm going to have to fire up some fractal apps to put my new i5 2500K through its paces... ^_^

Edited by Kimmo, 09 March 2012 - 02:37 PM.

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#16 .:Cyb3rGlitch:.

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 03:04 PM

You're probably thinking of the memristor (and it has been invented, by HP). That does bridge the gap between volatile/non-volatile, but we'll have to see if it really can combine storage and random access into a single unit. Either way, it'll still be slower than CPU cache.

Edited by .:Cyb3rGlitch:., 09 March 2012 - 03:04 PM.

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#17 stadl

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 03:27 PM

Even if the technology improves, I think the physical aspects of interconnection and power consumption will mean that high speed memory will not be used for all purposes. Going back to the days of SRAM vs DRAM, which eventually led to developing cache - first on the motherboard, then later built into CPUs, and then 2 and 3 levels of cache. Cache was used because high speed SRAM was power hungry, low density, and expensive. The low density required additional interfacing, and by definition the extra space reduces the speed due to signal path latency (one of many reasons your motherboard doesn't have 40 memory slots) By comparison my first PC in 1985 had: CPU Register + System RAM + Cassette My current machine has several more levels of storage: Registers, L1 Cache, L2 Cache, L3 Cache, System DRAM, SATA RAID Card Cache, HDD Cache/buffer, Magnetic disk That's 8 layers of storage - If you were running with hybrid drives, then there'd be a SSD level between disk drive cache and magentic disk, making it 9!. Each of those layers is implemented as true performance levels, with R/W capability, not a simple serialisation/deserialisation buffer (although some such as the RAID Card cache, and HDD Cache/Buffer serve multiple purposes) It would appear the trend is away from a unified storage pool. Recently things like Cache SSDs and ReadyBoost have arrived, adding another dimension (I don't use them) A unified system would be super expensive, bulky and not easily upgradeable. and difficult to manage meaningful redundancy and backups. While it's messy to have several layers to be managed like we do, it's more scalable and able to be tailored to need. (I have 16GB RAM, 120G Boot SSD, 60G Swap SSD, 4x2TB in Raid 5, 2TB USB3 and 1TB NAS)
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#18 TheSingularity

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 06:04 PM

One I believe there is a new way to make storage using magnetism...Or was it charge...Anyway it changes the state of this particular atom or particle thus making it either a 1 or a 0 ridiculously small though...So good in a way. Then there is the fact you have optical computers being developed and there system and way of storing information is light that is different forms of colours not sure how they store it long term though... Then you have Quantum Computers which involve some highly complicated form of computing because a bit can be both a 1 and a 0 at the same time basically resulting in you being able to double any possible forms of storing information...Although I'm not sure how you store something as both a 1 and a 0 using Quantum technology... But take into consideration Quantum and Optical computing is ridiculously fast, so with this advancement we will get to the point where if you aren't after information that is history in a sense then you just simulate it...You could simulate the entire universe... And now I could go on to explain how this could result in the Singularity but...Probably not the best ideas, I will leave the fact though with that kind of computing power you would very easily be able to simulate some of the most complicated things known and thus the idea of making a intelligent artificial intelligence becomes a much easier thing to acheive. EDIT:Might as well add if you want information on new methods and ideas being developed try PhysOrg found it has a phone app also so you can keep up to date on things if your not doing anything and like science/technology that is...So a lot of things are reported on there, try and ignore the commentors they make some silly comments and have massive physics arguments but are biased with their ideas because of their pet theories...And like advertising there pet theories...

Edited by TheSingularity, 09 March 2012 - 06:06 PM.

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#19 robzy

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 09:50 PM

I have a vague memory of a New Scientist article talking about it being the electronic engineer's holy grail or something.

The transistor was once the electrical engineer's holy grail. The operational amplifiers ranked pretty highly. Etc. Etc.

The thing is that applied science will always be trade-offs between density, speed, etc. Therefore to suggest that one day "storage=RAM" is somewhat... nonsensical. There will always be faster, so long as we're happy to sacrifice density.

Rob.

My current machine has several more levels of storage: Registers, L1 Cache, L2 Cache, L3 Cache, System DRAM, SATA RAID Card Cache, HDD Cache/buffer, Magnetic disk

Correct me if I'm wrong, but none of those caches actually intercommunicate. (Actually, does CPU cache intercommunicate?)

There's the occasional link between two adjacent cache's but no overarching manager of any sort. (None that comes to mind anyway, but I'm not thinking very hard)

I wonder if that's an area for improvement.

Rob.

Edited by robzy, 09 March 2012 - 09:41 PM.

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#20 outsidefactor

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 04:41 PM

Check out Racetrack memory. DRAM speed, non-volatile and should quickly scale to traditional hard disk sizes.

IBM recently demonstrated a working chip: http://www.computerw...ack_Memory_chip

If demand is high enough (and who wouldn't want RAM speed NV storage?) IBM is going to do everything possible to bring it to market. My bet is on 2015. That'll be a big year, if Moore's law holds.

LOL, sell your Seagate/WD shares: the market for hard disks will dry up pretty quick at that point.

Edited by outsidefactor, 14 March 2012 - 04:43 PM.

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