Chipset steps into server memory breach

A Californian startup has stepped in to try to fill the gap between demand for high-capacity servers and the slowdown in DRAM development

MetaRAM has produced a chipset that takes stacks of existing 1Gb and 2Gb DRAM devices and makes them look to the server's memory controller as though they are single 4Gb chips single-chip 4Gb DRAMs are unlikely to be economically viable before 2010 even though the first experimental devices were unveiled in 2000.

The first dual-inline memory modules to use the MetaRAM chips have been made by Hynix Semiconductor and SMART Modular Technologies. However, Hynix is not yet using the converter chips to emulate 4Gb DRAMs but provide a way of offering DIMMs that previously called for 2Gb devices that are based on dual-die 1Gb stacks. The 2Gb single-die memories are still more expensive on a per-bit basis than 1Gb devices.

"I've spent my career focused on building balanced computer systems and providing compatible and evolutionary innovations. With the emergence of multi-core and multi-threaded 64 bit CPUs, I realised that the memory system is once again the biggest bottleneck in systems and so set out to address this problem," said Fred Weber, CEO of MetaRAM.

MetaRAM received its first round of funding in January 2006, demonstrated its first working samples in July 2007, and released its first chipset into production in November 2007. The company was co-founded by former AMD CTO Fred Weber and is funded by venture firms including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Khosla Ventures, Storm Ventures and Intel Capital.

"The rapid adoption of Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors and platform virtualisation, combined with the growth of data intensive applications, is driving demand for increased server memory capacity," said Bryan Wolf, managing director of enterprise platforms at Intel Capital.

The MetaRAM controllers use power-management techniques to improve the power efficiency of the DRAMs and, in principle, allow two to four times the amount of regular memory to fit into a typical system's power delivery and cooling capabilities. The controller uses a split-bus scheme to access the different DRAMs in a stack.

Image: Hynix has used the MetaRAM chipset in its latest 8GB server module

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