By Jon Stokes
Since its launch in January 2006, the only thing that has been publicly known about former AMD CTO Fred Weber's new venture is its name: MetaRAM. Clearly, the stealth-mode company was working on something to do with RAM, but what? As of today, MetaRAM is finally ready to talk about its technology, and it appears to be a pretty solid evolutionary step for the tried-and-true SDRAM DIMM module. In short, MetaRAM's technology enables DIMM capacity increases of two or four times, so that a single DDR2 MetaSDRAM DIMM can hold 4GB or 8GB of memory while still being a drop-in replacement for a normal DIMM.
Because MetaRAM's high-capacity DIMMs look to an Intel or AMD system like normal DDR2 DIMMs, the company expects to see servers with memory configurations that would normally require expensive custom hardware to become significantly cheaper. One of MetaRAM's channel partners will soon announce a server with 256GB of main memory for under $50,000, with 500GB boxes on tap for a higher price points
I'm tempted to suggest that "500GB of memory oughta be enough for anybody," but MetaRAM is looking to virtualization and enterprise databases as application domains that provide a rationale for putting that much memory in a single server. MetaRAM claims that its own research indicates that 80 percent of enterprise server databases are under 500GB in size, and if this is true, then hosting those databases entirely in main memory could get a lot cheaper after today.
MetaRAM is a fabless semiconductor company, and its manufacturing partners are Hynix and SMART Modular. Both chipmakers are currently sampling 8GB DDR2 DIMMs, and MetaRAM expects to see servers and workstations that include the technology available from Rackable and launch partners later this quarter.