Virident Announces Flash Memory platform, an Enterprise Server Version of Microsoft Windows Vista ReadyBoost feature

Virident announced the GreenGateway product to enable integration of Flash Memory into servers. I had the opportunity to interview Virident CEO Raj Parekh to get a better understanding of the Green Gateway and how the product enables a Green Data Center.

The WSJ has coverage as well.

What is the Virident Green Gateway? One simple way to look at this is this is the Microsoft Windows Vista ReadyBoost feature for Servers, but with a lot more.

Windows Vista introduces Windows ReadyBoost, a new concept in adding memory to a system. You can use non-volatile flash memory, such as that on a universal serial bus (USB) flash drive, to improve performance without having to add additional memory "under the hood."

The flash memory device serves as an additional memory cache—that is, memory that the computer can access much more quickly than it can access data on the hard drive. Windows ReadyBoost relies on the intelligent memory management of Windows SuperFetch and can significantly improve system responsiveness.

A bunch of companies have been evaluating flash memory for servers, but no one has a product meant to work with most existing servers.

For more about the GreenGateway here is an excerpt from Virident's press release.

Virident GreenGateway turns Flash into DRAM-class memory enabling high-capacity, industry standard data-centric servers

SAN FRANCISCO – June 24, 2008 – Virident Systems announced today that it has developed the first data-centric technology platform to deliver a new class of green memory, servers and applications for the data center. Virident’s high-performance, low-power platform solution enables Internet data centers to cost-effectively keep pace with the rising performance and energy demands of Internet-scale.

GreenGateway™, conceived and developed by Virident, turns today’s compute-centric servers into large memory data-centric servers. This new class of servers offers random access, low-power, non-volatile, high-performance flash memory to applications such as internet search, social networking, data analytics and content distribution. The new memory solution provides DRAM-class read performance with larger memories, improving server efficiency and application throughput immediately. Ultimately, this sets the stage for several revolutionary changes in Internet server design and power efficiency to be announced in the future by Virident. Spansion’s (NASDAQ: SPSN) EcoRAM™ is a MirrorBit Flash-based product built on the Virident platform, utilizing GreenGateway™ technology.


Back to the interview here are some details from notes my interview with Raj.

  • The Software and Hardware Virident developed has multiple functions acting like a flash memory controller to address Flash Memories weaknesses and maximize the strengths, making GreenGateway perform like RAM, but with lower power consumption for a greener solution.
  • GreenGateway loads custom drivers in Linux (their target market is Linux first, and other OS's later), creating expanded memory that provides up to 1/2 TB of low power flash memory for a server.
  • Data Redundancy and Data Failure are examples of issues Virident have addressed in their software given issues like Flash Memory Wear.
  • GreenGateway handles the movement of data between Flash and RAM, but they do have the ability for customers to handle this movement themselves. This is a good customer feature as it reminds me when working on OS's Virtual Memory functionality is designed for the masses, but you have a customer like Adobe Photoshop on the desktop, saying get out of way, we want to handle memory mapping between RAM and HD ourselves as we know how our app performs. Virident has the ability to ship custom SW/Drivers which tunes the performance for specific user scenarios. I think this is one of the smartest things they have.
  • Given the persistence of Flash, it is possible to create a diskless server, working completely from GreenGateway memory.  It is rumored Google does this on some of their servers, loading from Linux from PROM.
  • At this time there is no compression in memory system
  • The first steps of Virident is to make Flash perform like DRAM. Next step is total performance of system and optimization analytics.
  • Virtualization is of course a scenario for GreenGateway, but it is very dependent on what users are virtualizing to know how well GreenGateway will work.

The first version of GreenGateway is meant for existing servers, but what will be interesting is if servers like Dell XS23 and IBM's iDatalplex integrate GreenGateway. It will be interesting to see some performance per watt figures once they are available. Raj gives his view of the potential business value.

“Today’s servers were not built with the data-centric needs of the internet in mind.  As a result, compute-centric servers in internet data centers can be made far more efficient with faster access to larger main memories.  We created GreenGateway to enable alternative memory technologies to replace DRAM and deliver performance and energy efficiency. The GreenGateway platform will enable internet companies to access far larger main memories, achieving growth while living within the pressing power, space and cost constraints of the data center. Ultimately green technology will save the data center.  At Virident, our goal is to make green and growth possible.”