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Diablo’s flash memory will get up close and personal with chips

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Diablo Technologies has come up with a design for putting flash into servers’ memory slots, it plans to announce Tuesday. The devices live closer to the CPU than PCI-Express cards, which makes it faster and cheaper to get data into storage or memory.

At the root of Diablo’s Memory Channel Storage architecture is an application-specific chip the company has been developing for a few years, said Kevin Wagner, Diablo’s vice president of marketing. Now that chip is close to becoming part of a real product, alongside flash that can add up to 400 GB per card.

A common server has eight or 16 slots for this type of card — alongside DRAM — and each one can talk directly to the CPU. They can function as storage or memory. By comparison, typically there’s room for just two PCIe cards, and they have to go through a more complex route to hit up the CPU, Wagner said. These differences help give the cards the performance they get: 3-5 microseconds in write latency, compared with 150 microseconds to 2 milliseconds for PCIe flash cards, Wagner said. On price, the cards “will end up looking much better in dollars per gig than PCIe,” he said.

SMART Storage Systems — which SanDisk (s sndk) just decided to acquire — will build off the new design, and large server manufacturers will be able to incorporate them into off-the-shelf servers. Such servers could become available by year’s end.

The PCIe market is busy, and the SSD market is jammed with competitors. The memory slot is a far less hotly contested area on the server, and sticking flash there could become a new trend if the Diablo design can show impressive results.