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Computer Memory – The Breakdown

Storage devices have come a long way in an extremely short amount of time; given how much they have changed from just my personal knowledge alone. I still remember using an IBM PC XT 286 with 640KB of RAM and a 64KB ROM to using services provided by companies over the past few years such as Backblaze who are building out 60 Drive 480TB Storage Servers accessible from anywhere.

There are two primary types of storage topologies. Volatile Memory and Non-Volatile Memory.

ComputerHope.com describes Volatile Memory as a “type of storage whose contents are erased when the system’s power is turned off or interrupted. For example, RAM is volatile; meaning users will lose a document if they do not save their work to a non-volatile classification of memory, such as a hard drive, before shutting down the computer.” and Techopedia.com finishes the explanation by elaborating on Non-volatile Memory as a “type of computer memory that has the capability to hold saved data even if the power is turned off. Unlike volatile memory, NVM does not require its memory data to be periodically refreshed. It is commonly used for secondary storage or long-term consistent storage.”.

There are many aspects to consider when it comes to the rapid expansion seen in data storage and the devices being invented to push the bounds of what is currently possible and purchasable.

Solid State Drives have a much higher Input/output operations per second (IOPS) – “which is a performance measurement used to characterize computer storage devices like hard disk drives (HDD), solid state drives (SSD), and storage area networks (SAN)” – than the traditional Hard Disk Drives primarily because they don’t have any moving parts unlike their slower counterparts.

Drive speeds are still much lower than the speed that a Central Processing Unit (CPU) can operate at; which means that generally drives will need to get a lot faster before CPU manufacturers need to catch up when it comes to crunch time and data processing frontiers.

Quantum science can help immensely in the breakthroughs specifically in regards to fitting more into smaller spaces as computers and computing devices continue to get smaller while the technologies powering them only grows in leaps and bounds.

IBM, Microsoft and numerous other technology companies are investing heavily in quantum computing to try and push technology into the next decade of higher qubit nano technology available through their cloud offerings each year.

Being able to store data directly to Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) circuits which operate at a much higher speed than current CPU’s because of their sheer volume of chips installed at a closer proximity while retaining a level of Non-volatile Memory, may assist the aforementioned quantum-space drive storage capacities and access speeds immensely.

Overall user experience has been fairly positive with the speed increases as a result of the shift from HDD’s to SDD’s albeit more expensive. It is still relatively affordable being packaged with hardware products such as the Apple range (Macbook Pro) where the devices have always been considered somewhat expensive or “top of the range”.

Online hosting services are also switching to SSD based packages to speed up the IOPS at similar prices to the previous hosting packages on the market. This pushes the competition to up their game continually.

As storage solutions move towards both cloud based Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) such as Dropbox, Google Cloud, Amazon Cloud Drive, Backblaze and Amazon S3 to name a few; storage tiers are growing far beyond the bounds of a single physical machine housing all our own data.

Being able to “selectively sync” specific sub folders of information to our own local drives and store the remainder of the data on remote hosted solutions allows individuals to move between personal machines or devices with very little effort, confident in the thought that there is no limit to the amount of storage space they require for their personal digital assets.

Some newer devices have a technology called NVRAM installed with them, which is a “best of both worlds” type approach to storage. Making the initial shift of having RAM level speeds of storage while retaining data in a non-volatile fashion.

This could signal a major shift in the breakthroughs of extremely high speed data storage and retrieval that could allow for quicker access by the CPU; once again pushing data processing speeds yet higher.

References:

“IBM PC XT 286” (2010) – Available from: “http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?c=260 (Accessed on 25th December 2016)

Storage Pod 6.0: Building a 60 Drive 480TB Storage Server (2016) – Available from: https://www.backblaze.com/blog/open-source-data-storage-server/ (Accessed on 25th December 2016)

“Volatile memory” (2016) – Available from: http://www.computerhope.com/jargon/v/volamemo.htm (Accessed on 25th December 2016)

“Non-Volatile Memory (NVM)” (2016) – Available from: https://www.techopedia.com/definition/2793/non-volatile-memory-nvm (Accessed on 25th December 2016)

“IOPS” (2016) – Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IOPS (Accessed on 25th December 2016)

“DOE Science Showcase – Quantum Computer Hardware” (2016) – Available from:https://www.osti.gov/home/doe-science-showcase-quantum-computer-hardware (Accessed on 25th December 2016)

“You can play with IBM’s quantum processor for free” (2016) – Available from: http://www.pcworld.com/article/3065654/hardware/ibms-quantum-computing-processor-comes-out-of-hiding.html (Accessed on 25thDecember 2016)

“Quantum computing” (2016) – Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_computing (Accessed on 25th December 2016)