Faster Servers, Services with FlashStore

Doug Gantenbein: Memory has its faults—and not only the human variety.

Hard drives, for instance, can hold terabytes cheaply. But they’re slow. Random-access memory (RAM) is fast but expensive, and data in RAM disappear the instant the power goes off. Flash memory is faster than hard drives and cheaper than RAM, and it retains information. But the way it handles data writes handicaps its usefulness in server environments.

Still, the distinct advantages of flash—particularly its ability to retain data when power is off, as well as its speed—led two Microsoft Research scientists, Sudipta Sengupta and Jin Li, to develop what they call FlashStore. It’s a flash-based “bridge” between RAM and a hard drive that helps to overcome the handicaps of each while maximizing flash memory’s capabilities and minimizing its weaknesses...

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