Servers can effectively double the available main memory without requiring a single additional chip by applying a new concept developed by IBM Corp. and ServerWorks Inc.
Unveiled at PC Expo in New York last week, the new system adds 32 or 64 Mbytes of single- or double-data-rate SDRAM for L3 cache in order to spare servers from having to frequently access slower hard-disk storage.
The time saved allows servers to access cache and main memory far more often, essentially doubling the memory capacity being used, according to William Ott, director of Netfinity server development at IBM in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Called Memory eXpansion Technology (MXT), the technique allows up to a 256-Mbyte main memory to operate effectively as 512 Mbytes.
ServerWorks, Santa Clara, Calif., will produce a chipset controller that will be available to all server makers in the first half of 2001. Engineering samples are being delivered now.
LSI Logic Corp., Milpitas, Calif., will provide foundry services for ServerWorks, which up to now has used NEC Corp. to make all its other chipsets.
IBM hopes to establish MXT as a de facto industry standard for all X86-based servers, Ott said. "Ultimately, we believe the technology can be used widely in any product from PCs to networking equipment to handheld devices that need to increase memory capacity."
MXT is aimed at multiple-processor servers since the technology is the only architecture supported by ServerWorks chipsets.
MXT can be used for the chipsets being developed for next-generation Intel servers, according to Raju Vegesna, president of ServerWorks.
The L3 cache also compresses memory data, so greater levels of data can be retrieved much faster than by conventional servers, Ott said. A data-compression algorithm similar to the popular Zip Drive storage disks is used, although IBM modified it for faster parallel processing than the serial format of the disk drive.
The ServerWorks chipset, called Pinnacle, will support PC100 to PC133 SDRAM or DDR main memory.