Gigabyte GC-RAMDISK / i-RAM Review(-ish)

I mentioned that I bought a Gigabyte GC-RAMDISK (a.k.a. i-RAM) to go in my new home file server, largely to see if using it as a solid-state log device would improve ZFS performance.

Unfortunately, I’ve been completely and totally unable to get the card to do anything at all. I’m not sure if I have a defective card or if Gigabyte’s SATA implementation is just really buggy. When I plugged it into the motherboard’s ICH9R SATA ports, the BIOS didn’t even show it on the boot-up scan and Solaris reported it as failing to initialize correctly. When I plugged it into the Supermicro AOC-SAT2-MV8 8-port SATA card, the BIOS could see it but Solaris gave a similar error. Connecting it to the motherboard’s Marvell eSATA ports made the Marvell hang at bootup and made Solaris really unhappy, spewing drive failure messages all over the console.

I can’t find a single review that suggests that anyone has got this to work with a recent motherboard. Digging through the Linux kernel mailing list suggests that it has a really spotty SATA implementation. Apparently they developed it using a couple Windows drivers as a comparison, instead of actually paying attention to the SATA spec.

So, it’s going back to Amazon today. It was a nice idea, but it just doesn’t appear to work. I don’t know if it’s broken or just poorly designed, but either way it’s not useful to me.

Posted by Scott Laird Mon, 22 Oct 2007 21:39:47 GMT


Comments

  1. Grant about 1 hour later:

    Thats a shame as I was hoping to hear good things about it, but it looked a tad cludegy when I read more about it. I can’t wait to hear how all of this turns out as I really need to do something similar at my house.

  2. Alex 1 day later:

    Linux supports i-RAM since kernel 2.6.18. I’m running Linux on i-RAM for a year now.

    I have VIA SATA chipset motherboard and BIOS detects i-RAM. Only time BIOS failed to detect my i-RAM was right after power loss (battery died after 6 months and all my data is on the mercy of PCI standby power now). But I was able to fix the problem by pressing reset button.

    Did you try Linux livecd to find out whether ICH9R support i-RAM? I’m pretty sure high end SATA RAID card will have hard time detecting it since i-RAM does not support SMART.

  3. Scott Laird 2 days later:

    Alex, the ICH9R isn’t a high-end RAID controller. It’s Intel’s current southbridge. It’s one of the most common motherboard SATA implementations. If the i-RAM won’t work with it, then there isn’t much of a reason for me to keep one around.

  4. Alex 2 days later:

    Oh, I meant Supermicro AOC-SAT2-MV8 8-port SATA card. I read high-end SATA controller had problem detecting i-RAM. But the most onboard SATA chipset had no problem with i-RAM.

    My motherboard has two SATA ports by VIA and two SATA ports by promise chpset. Both chipsets work with i-RAM. And I was able to install Linux, FreeBSD and Windows XP with any problem. But never tried solaris.

  5. Scott Laird 3 days later:

    The Supermicro card isn’t a RAID card either; it’s just Marvell’s 8-port PCI/PCI-X SATA controller on a small PCI-X board. The same basic chip shows up on the motherboard of some boxes.

    In my case, the single biggest issue is that Intel’s chipset couldn’t see it in the BIOS. In this case, that ends up making the card kind of pointless, so it was best to return it.

  6. Charles Darke 4 months later:

    Put your ICH9R controller into RAID mode instead of AHCI.

  7. Charles Darke 4 months later:

    In the BIOS, put your ICH9R controller into RAID mode instead of AHCI.

  8. Walker Boh 7 months later:

    I bought an I-RAM and have found that it works only with certain SATA controllers. The first motherboard was the Asus A8N-E. It would detect the i-Ram disk in the BIOS, but would crash when Anaconda tried to probe it during install. (Also failed with Debian Etch, and OpenSUSE 10.3)

    The motherboard the I-RAM is currently happy with is the Asus M2N-SLI Deluxe. For my setup - the entire OS (Trixbox CE/Asterisk) is on the I-RAM, and then I have an 80GB drive for storing voicemail/video mail.