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Intel plans to put flash memory into notebooks next year

post #1 of 36
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Intel plans to put NAND flash memory chips into notebook PCs beginning next year, the company revealed at the Intel Developer Forum this week.

According to a report published on TheStreet.com, the Santa Clara, Calif., chipmaker said Tuesday that the NAND flash feature in its forthcoming notebook platform, dubbed Santa Rosa, would offer the main benefit of almost instantaneous PC boot times.

NAND flash is a type of computer memory that retains data even without a power supply -- a technology that has proven especially popular for the new generation of consumer electronics devices, such as digital media players and cameras.

"We need to have devices that boot up very rapidly," Sean Maloney, the head of Intel's mobility group, told developers. "The same way you come off a plane and get a cell phone signal immediately."

In his presentation, Maloney demonstrated the advantages of flash technology in PCs, by booting up two PCs on stage, one with 256MB of flash memory, and the other without, TheStreet reports. The PC with flash reportedly booted in about half the time and also consumed slightly less power than the non-flash PC.

According to Maloney, the technology can scale way beyond a 256MB flash buffer, potentially running a PC's entire operating system from flash instead of from the hard drive. "It just comes down to what's the cost curve on NAND," he said.

Still, Maloney noted that it is still unclear how much flash would be incorporated into the forthcoming Santa Rosa platform, an updated version of the company's popular Centrino brand scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2007.

Word of Intel's intentions to extend NAND flash technology to PCs comes roughly three months after Apple gave the chip maker and its flash memory manufacturing partner Micron a cool $500 million in prepayments to secure a supply of the memory chips through 2010, presumably for iPods.
post #2 of 36
Interesting, although my MacBook Pro already "boots up" from sleep in under a second!
post #3 of 36
Quote:
Originally posted by Robin Hood
Interesting, although my MacBook Pro already "boots up" from sleep in under a second!

How long does the battery last when sleeping?

I think this is pretty nice, especially when using peripherals that don't allow a computer to sleep well when connected.
post #4 of 36
So much memory... Video, RAM, now this. Crazy. I'd like to see it, but how much more space would it consume/need? I think we'd all like the features of current Powerbooks with the MacBook Pros.

Very cool. I hope Apple adopts this. Would there be any benefit for desktops with this? How about launching programs user-specified quicker with this technology? I know Apple Music uses would like Logic to boot up in about half the time!
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post #5 of 36
I look forward to this technology. Anything to increase the real world speeds is a good thing to me.
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post #6 of 36
Maybe Apple can incorporate or better said take advantage of this new technology in Mac OS 10.5 "Leopard"
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post #7 of 36
I love this technology - getting rid of platter drives is the holy grail of laptop and TABLET computing!

Ever run a Pismo from Flash? Ever run Linux from RAM? Ever played an iPod nano and been impressed with the lack of seek times, vibration and BULK?

The future is in flash. Platter hard drives are great for huge data stores that you want to be fast, re-writable and of course cheap. But the age of tugging one around with you all the time and fearing the worst when you drop your computer or left it stored in the cold is coming to an end.

Apple first!
post #8 of 36
why is this "new"? hypothetically, as long as my boot loader could see the memory (like on a usb flash drive, or something along those lines), i could say, put a Linux kernel on it, and boot from there. The only difference I see is this is soldered to the board.

While this could be loaded without having to spin up the disk, the kernel still has to initialize and go through its boot process. Will parallelizing the hard drive spin up really make a difference?

putting OS libraries and files on a separate physical disk (whether its flash or platter-based, especially one that rarely needs writes), is bound to speed up any application, is this a potentially cheap and efficient way of doing just that?
post #9 of 36
Quote:
Originally posted by fuyutsuki
I love this technology - getting rid of platter drives is the holy grail of laptop and TABLET computing!

I realized that this was basically what they touted as Robson several months ago. It isn't dedicated flash drive but a hybrid caching system using as little as 128MB of flash to store some often used files with low latency. Running Tiger and any current software on a flash drive is still very unrealistic unless you have a lot of money.
post #10 of 36
The "switch" to Intel has made the Mac roadmap a bit more interesting. Gone is the secrecy we had with IBM and Apple on future processor and related technologies. It's nice to on a winning team for a change.
post #11 of 36
Quote:
Originally posted by JeffDM
I realized that this was basically what they touted as Robson several months ago.

Actually, it's still touted as Robson.

I might be holding off my MBP purchase until Santa Rosa.
post #12 of 36
RAM DISK!
post #13 of 36
ha! i knew it
post #14 of 36
Whose paying for this "feature?"

The consumer is going to get stuck with this feature at a price point that will no doubt raise the prices of MacBooks.

Hell we can't get a $40 add-on BTO video card option yet these memory chips will be almost that much for a laptop. Of course this will be billed as a "feature."
post #15 of 36
Quote:
Originally posted by mdriftmeyer
Whose paying for this "feature?"

The consumer is going to get stuck with this feature at a price point that will no doubt raise the prices of MacBooks.

Hell we can't get a $40 add-on BTO video card option yet these memory chips will be almost that much for a laptop. Of course this will be billed as a "feature."

I doubt the cost of a 256MB flash chip is anywhere near $40.
post #16 of 36
i thought apple would be the first to do this with the macbook pro line, we really shouldn't have to wait a year, what about apple doing this later this year??? and get one up on the competition. i don't want to delay my purchase till next year.... unless we have to wait that long to run windows on a mac
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post #17 of 36
Right now, they are only talking about a couple dollars of Flash.

Don't get too excited!

It will take time before Flash can replace HD's. Its write lifetime is way too short, and the price is way too high.
post #18 of 36
the idea is for apple to leapfrog other pc makers by having a hybrid system to improve boot and dramatically increase battery life. maybe even a replaceable flash
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post #19 of 36
I almost never reboot my PowerBook, and don't care about boot times. But I like the idea of NAND not being prone to physical failure.
post #20 of 36
Like nagromme, I don't reboot often and boot times aren't important.

What really matters to me is being able to quickly suspend and resume login/application sessions. Normal sleep is still the best option for that since none of my systems support safe-sleep. I'd like to use safe-sleep for longer durations of system inactivity and if NAND flash made that faster I'd might use it even more often.

I keep a Windows laptop hibernated for months at a time, power it back on, and resume everything right where I left it (well, until the inevitable updates download and I end up rebooting anyway after they're installed). And my Solaris box now lives in sys-suspend most of the time, but still ready to be resumed in the state I left it.

I'd rather see more sophisticated session management features than faster system boot times.
post #21 of 36
I am somewhat concerned about the lifetime of this flash buffer. If it is used to more or less constantly write data to it to create a complete copy of the running OS so that sleep and wakeup is seamless, how long will it last? Flash is notorious for a limited number of write-cycles, after all.
post #22 of 36
While this technology seems great and interesting, I don't really see much of a benefit for someone who doesn't reboot their system often. The only time I ever reboot my iBook is after a system update that requires it. Usually several weeks go by before this is needed and even then my iBook usually boots to the login window in about 20 seconds.

However, if the entire 'system' was being run off the memory then I could see how that would dramatically increase the overall speed of the system while using it and that of course, would be extremely beneficial to everyone.

I'd rather see Apple change their base RAM configuration from 512MB to 1GB before they started stuffing NAND memory into their systems.
Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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post #23 of 36
Apple does BTO. It's YOU that stuffs in the extra memory.

Blurb on Robson NAND tech.

Quote:
Intel demonstrated Robson using OS boot times and application loads. The demonstration took place on a NAND enabled system and one without, and in many cases the one with Robson showed 4 to 5 times the performance of a legacy system. For mobility users, Intel also says that using NAND flash technology, battery power will be preserved because there is a higher performance-per-watt ratio on a NAND-enabled system vs. a legacy HDD-only based system. Intel also recently invested heavily into Micron, to create a new joint venture on producing NAND flash memory and NAND based products.

Robson is more than just booting up fast. There are small functions that receive a large speedup as well. I'm all for anything that makes my computer faster and more efficient.
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post #24 of 36
I think this could be a big thing for Apple as it continues to move into the living room. Not sure how fast the new mac mini boots, but I know my DVD player "boots" instantly. A big selling point for a computerized entrertainment system is convience and people aren't going to put up with long boot times if they just want to watch TV or a DVD.
post #25 of 36
What would really be nice, I think, would be to get rid of the need to swap to a mechanical harddrive. This is the only problem with my old PPC Mac Mini, because it takes ages to swap, even though I have a full 1 GB of memory, but when not swapping, it's plenty fast for my needs.

If some lowspeed, very cheap RAM could be somehow used "in front of" the harddisk as a swap-only buffer, this might speed up swapping and reduce disk activity a whole lot.

The RAM would have to be pretty dense, about 10-20 GB of it, but it wouldn't have to be fast, because it doesn't take much to be faster than a harddrive in those conditions. If the swap area runs full, there would still be the ability to swap to disk. AFAIK, such memory doesn't exist and I don't know if it would be possible to build such dense memory chips where speed is not important.

Using Flash for storage seems nice until you run into the fact that it's very expensive and has a short lifetime.
post #26 of 36
I don't like the idea. I think it's a largely useless marketing gimmick. Is it really going to make a difference waiting 5-10 seconds for the machine to load instead of 30? Also, it's just another element to go wrong and in the case of flash, it inevitably will. At least Ram has a lifetime warranty.

The more that machines get optimized with higher throughput and faster CPUs, the startup time is going to reduce to practically zero anyway.

All it'll do is make machines more expensive and less reliable for very little added benefit.
post #27 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin

The more that machines get optimized with higher throughput and faster CPUs, the startup time is going to reduce to practically zero anyway.

No, there is a fundamental hard drive limitation because files have to be read from the drive. It has access times to deal with, delays in fetching particular files in many places on the drive. A system reads a LOT of files to boot. If you have a louder hard drive, that's what the clatter is. Flash memory can significantly reduce the access times.
post #28 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by henrikmk

What would really be nice, I think, would be to get rid of the need to swap to a mechanical harddrive. This is the only problem with my old PPC Mac Mini, because it takes ages to swap, even though I have a full 1 GB of memory, but when not swapping, it's plenty fast for my needs.

If some lowspeed, very cheap RAM could be somehow used "in front of" the harddisk as a swap-only buffer, this might speed up swapping and reduce disk activity a whole lot.

The RAM would have to be pretty dense, about 10-20 GB of it, but it wouldn't have to be fast, because it doesn't take much to be faster than a harddrive in those conditions. If the swap area runs full, there would still be the ability to swap to disk. AFAIK, such memory doesn't exist and I don't know if it would be possible to build such dense memory chips where speed is not important.

Using Flash for storage seems nice until you run into the fact that it's very expensive and has a short lifetime.

How much are you prepared to pay for this 10 to 20 GB of RAM?

Assume a cheap $75 per GB, that's $750 to $1,500 of RAM. If it could be gotten cheaper, say $50, you would still be talking $500 to $1,000.

That has to drop by a factor of ten.
post #29 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM

No, there is a fundamental hard drive limitation because files have to be read from the drive. It has access times to deal with, delays in fetching particular files in many places on the drive. A system reads a LOT of files to boot. If you have a louder hard drive, that's what the clatter is. Flash memory can significantly reduce the access times.

Depends. Even several GB's of memory wouldn't guarantee that it would be hit successfully. The hd would constantly be moving files in and out of the RAM.

It's best to just have enough RAM in the first place, and not start fooling around with the drive for that purpose. I think it's overrated for many uses. No one will use more than a few hundred MB's on the drive because otherwise the price of the drive will be constrained by the price of the RAM. Maybe several years from now.
post #30 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross

How much are you prepared to pay for this 10 to 20 GB of RAM?

Assume a cheap $75 per GB, that's $750 to $1,500 of RAM. If it could be gotten cheaper, say $50, you would still be talking $500 to $1,000.

That has to drop by a factor of ten.

Doesn't the 1 GB shuffle sell for only $79? Although I don't know if it uses the same type of ram, thought it did. If I'm wrong don't hesitate to correct my ignorance

Also, wouldn't there have to be some additional sofware written to properly utilize flash memory in conjunction with the physical ram and hard drive?
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post #31 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by rickag

Doesn't the 1 GB shuffle sell for only $79? Although I don't know if it uses the same type of ram, thought it did. If I'm wrong don't hesitate to correct my ignorance

That's not RAM. That's FLASH.

Also, there would have to be some additional sofware written to properly utilize flash memory in conjunction with the physical ram and hard drive?[/QUOTE]

Yes. In the OS. Though they could add some code to it.

EDIT: changed the wording of "wouldn't there", to "there would". That was a mistake.
post #32 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by rickag

Doesn't the 1 GB shuffle sell for only $79? Although I don't know if it uses the same type of ram, thought it did. If I'm wrong don't hesitate to correct my ignorance

It's a different type of memory. "Flash" memory is different than what you put on DIMMs inside your computer.
post #33 of 36
Opps, I was under the impression that the NAND flash memory chips that Intel plans on putting in PCs was at least similar to that used in the iPod shuffle. Thanks for correcting me.
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post #34 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by rickag

Opps, I was under the impression that the NAND flash memory chips that Intel plans on putting in PCs was at least similar to that used in the iPod shuffle. Thanks for correcting me.

They are similar type, I think there was some confusion here, I think it is because you called flash memory RAM.

At least some types of flash is considerably cheaper than computer RAM, I pointed out earlier that one can get a 4GB gum-pack USB flash drive for $100. It's still way too expensive to use as a system drive, and as others suggest, probably not ready. As a selective cache of often-read/ rarely written files, it might work very well.
post #35 of 36
Ah, I think I see the some of the errors of my ways. The discussion had moved to use of ram in buffering hard drive access. And I was still focused on the use of flash memory in Intel systems for boot up.

And yes I did refer to the memory in the iPod shuffle as ram, my bad.

conclusion: I'm hopelessly ignorant of even the basics in computing and remain in a constant state of confusion.
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post #36 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by rickag

Ah, I think I see the some of the errors of my ways. The discussion had moved to use of ram in buffering hard drive access. And I was still focused on the use of flash memory in Intel systems for boot up.

And yes I did refer to the memory in the iPod shuffle as ram, my bad.

conclusion: I'm hopelessly ignorant of even the basics in computing and remain in a constant state of confusion.

Stick with us pal, and you will become ever more confused.
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