MetaRAM Promises Drastic Cut In Server Prices

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MetaRAM said that its DDR2 MetaSDRAM chipset significantly increases server and workstation performance, by allowing server memory capacity to be doubled or quadrupled. At the same time, costs of high-performance systems are drastically reduced, by as little as a tenth of the current price.

"When you consolidate servers, you need a lot more memory than the old small servers -- you are trying to cram more memory into one machine," said Weber, MetaRAM's CEO. "Virtualization is putting a lot more pressure on companies to get more memory which can get exponentially expensive."

For instance, the San Jose, Calif.-based company's DDR2 MetaSDRAM allows the building of a 16-core server with a quarter-terabyte of memory, and starts at under $50,000, which is up to a 90 percent reduction in system cost and does not need any system modifications.

Memory module vendor Hynix Semiconductor, which sells memory modules to the major blue chip server manufacturers, is now using MetaRAM's chipset in some of its products, assembling MetaRAM chips and Hynix's memory components on to a memory module. Arun Kamat, vice president of marketing at Hynix, said that to get high density in servers has traditionally required very expensive memory components.

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"The end result is that the module becomes prohibitively expensive, but using MetaRAM we can use mainstream memory components to get to that same capacity," he said. "Even though we can build a memory module without their chips we may not get the same density at the cost we are looking for."

Designed for AMD Opteron and Intel Xeon-based systems, MetaSDRAM is currently available in R-DIMMs from both San Jose-based Hynix and SMART Modular Technologies, both in Fremont, Calif.

Servers and workstations are expected later this quarter both from Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Appro and Colfax International, both based in Sunnyvale, as well as Rackable Systems in Fremont, Calif. and San Diego-based Verari Systems.

MetaSDRAM is a two-set chipset that closes the gap between processor computing power, which doubles every 18 months, and DRAM capacity, which doubles only every 36 months, the company said. Until now the industry addressed this gap by adding higher capacity, but not readily available, and exponentially more expensive DRAM to each dual in-line memory module (DIMM) on the motherboard.

The MetaSDRAM chipset sits between the memory controller and the DRAM, and lowers memory capacity costs by enabling up to four times more mainstream DRAMs to be integrated into existing DIMMs without the need for any hardware or software changes. The chipset makes multiple DRAMs look like a larger capacity DRAM to the memory controller, resulting in what the company calls "stealth" high-capacity memory that circumvents the normal limitations set by the memory controller.

Compatible platforms are AMD's platforms based on Dual-Core and Quad-Core AMD Opteron processors and Intel platforms based on Dual-Core and Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors.

MetaRAM CEO and founder Weber was part of the team that designed the Athlon XP processor, while he served as CTO at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD, a position he held until 2005. The company is receiving funding from venture capitalist firms Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers; Khosla Ventures; Storm Ventures; and Intel Capital.