The hard drive is about to go away...

Flash RAM is getting more and more inexpensive and, just like tube televisions, spinning drives will soon disappear altogether. How will databases handle this?

Initially, Flash RAM will mimic a hard drive in order to make it make sense with an older design and allow all the software to run.

But, if you consider this from a purely hardware perspective, it is much easier to regard memory as memory and set up a single addressing scheme and a single data path for all the bits.

When that happens, engineers will quickly decide that there shouldn't be any separation between RAM and "other" storage space. ï¾ They will physically be the same thing and it will make more sense to have a single, large chunk of RAM for everything. The OS will need to deal with locking so that runaway applications don't erase the memory, but any lines separating types of memory will be dynamic.

It allows for a much simpler processor and huge speed gains. It will be irresistible for chip companies to develop chips and a system model based on a single large memory area. I think those engineering efficiency gains will translate to software efficiency gains too. A simpler system model will mean simpler code.

It's funny that, for us old-timers, it will be hard to free ourselves from the separation between RAM and storage that we've grown up with.

Right now a computer is
1) processor
2) RAM
3) Drive(s)
4) IO stuff

Combining #2 & 3 and dumping the slow speed constraints of hard drives is huge. Also, hard drives must deal with data serially. They typically only write one bit at a time, first physically moving to the correct spot on the disk, and then waiting for the head to magnetically charge the surface. We'll look back on this technology with the same nostalgia with which we regard cylindrical phonographs.

Try to imagine working on a computer with a single, large memory.

The point is that WebDNA is probably the only database system that is positioned to properly handle this obvious, coming shift in computer hardware. Oracle, SQL, and every other database system I can think of uses a disk-centric model that will require significant overhaul to live in a RAM only environment. WebDNA is built for the coming solid-state future.

WebDNA is actually positioned to take advantage of an inevitable and drastic simplification of what a computer is.

Patrick McCormick


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