The convergence of RAM and Storage

Remember when doubling the RAM was the best upgrade you could give to your workstation?  How you were told it was worth it to upgrade your laptop from 1 GB to 2 GB, then 2 GB to 4 GB, 4 GB to 8 GB and so on?  And CPU: Core Duo to Core 2 Duo, then i5, i7 etc.  So why is it that the load time is nearly the same when I opened Chrome on my laptop with an i5 and 8 GB of RAM compared to my Core 2 Duo with 4 GB of RAM?  Shouldn’t launch time be half the wait time on the new laptop?

Recently, my wife complained that the beach ball of doom on her Core 2 Duo MacBook wouldn’t leave her alone.  I had just doubled the RAM on the damn thing, and it could support the two million Chrome tabs she never closed out of (don’t ever close Chrome on a user’s laptop unless you want to experience “tab fury”), but it was still slow.

Enter the solid state drive.  I first noticed how much of an actual upgrade this provided when I got the first generation 11″ MacBook Air.  I actually took a hit in clock speed (2.4 GHz to 1.6 GHz Core 2 Duo), but sleep, wake, application performance and battery life were so much better.  When I installed a Samsung 840 Pro in my wife’s 2 year old MacBook, I have yet to hear a complaint.

My argument?  This concept of RAM and the “hard drive” is going away.  Eventually, all we will need is fast storage.  Storage has slowed us down for so long, and now it’s catching up to RAM.  And it’s happening quickly.

A recent post by Brian Madden reviews Atlantis.  Atlantis argues that your entire VDI environment can be run off of RAM.  Why?  Because RAM is fast, and with the right data management (compression, dedupe, etc.) you don’t need a lot of storage for many desktops.  It’s way awesome, but isn’t your desktop speed limited to the speed of one stick of RAM?  Solid state drives on the other hand can be raided for even more IO.  And the price of SSD continues to drop.

What’s to say that one day, RAM won’t be needed?

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