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Today I have been mostly blogging...

...over at IT Pro.

Ready for ReadyBoost.
One of my favourite things about Windows Vista is its ReadyBoost disk cache technology which uses off-the-shelf USB flash drives to speed up operations and extend laptop battery life.

One of my least favourite things about Windows Vista is trying to find a USB flash disk that will actually work with ReadyBoost.
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Putting Backup in the Fast Lane
Like many small businesses, Mary and I keep our email and files on a small server running Small Business Server 2003. It's a useful little OS, and its built-in backup tools simplify archiving your data and your email. We're also backing up volume shadow copy data, so lost files can be retrieved from Windows' often ignored file system snapshots.

(If you've not turned it on Shadow Copies yet, go do it now. Yes, you'll lose some free disk space, but you'll gain a lot of peace of mind. Right click on a volume, and open the properties dialog. In the Shadow Copies tab, click “Enable”. Shadow Copies may not be as pretty as Apple's Time Machine, but it does the same job, and it's here now. If you're trying out a business edition of Vista, you can turn it on there too...)

We currently do nightly backups onto a NAS appliance, a Buffalo Terastation Pro, shifting around 50 GB from the server to the NAS store. With 2 TB of disk space, configured as RAID 5, there's plenty of space for several days worth of backups. There was only one fly in the ointment: the backup was taking far too long.
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( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 18th, 2006 10:34 pm (UTC)
This readyboost thing sounds like an utter waste of space. Happy to beconvinced otherwise, but it sounds to me like if your system is performing so badly that co-opting ultra-slow Flash ram "disk" space as extra RAM, then what you actually want to do, at considerably lower price per meg, is add *actual* RAM.

Remind me again what the write-life of most flash systems is?

Dec. 18th, 2006 10:46 pm (UTC)
It's not extra RAM per se, it's a additional read and write cache for the hard disk. So while it may be slower than RAM, it's an order of magnitude faster than a disk read/write cycle...

I also think I'd be hardpressed to add 2GB of RAM to my tablet for less than $50 (especially with the slots full of a gig of RAM).

Lifespanwise, a stick of flash should last about 5 to 10 years with normal ReadyBoost sage.
Dec. 18th, 2006 10:49 pm (UTC)
ReadyBoost is also a reworking of the optimising prfetch developed by Intel and used in Windows XP, where the cache is preloaded with commonly used disk sectors - usually application code.

It's not so much for rapidly changing data (that goes straiht to disk), mre for static chunks of code that would normally be being paged in and out of disk.
Dec. 18th, 2006 11:08 pm (UTC)
Hmm. Even so, ISTM that in real life only big servers will be loaded down enough to benefit from that, and big servers can take more ram easily.
Dec. 19th, 2006 01:01 am (UTC)
but we've seen the difference in app load times and reduced hard drive access = better battery life in action. don't just think speed, think latency - time to spin up the hard .

15 to 80 years is the estimated lifespan calced by MS and a flash manufacturer.

readyBoost is for SuperFetch - the new smarter prefetch - not for straight RAM replacement BTW
Dec. 19th, 2006 09:46 am (UTC)
But you could use some RAM to do the same thing?

I guess it might be a plus on a portable, where you do daft things like letting the disk spin down. :-) But then, who wants to tote a portable about the place with ramsticks sticking out at all angles? And how catastrophic is it if you pull a ramstick being so used without telling the machine first? coz that's going to happen...
Dec. 19th, 2006 11:10 am (UTC)
Think of this as a stop gap. We have fast USB 2.0 ports, and we have fast USB flash drives. Next year though, we'll get hybrid hard drives with flash built in, and Intel's Sata Roasa rev of the Centrino platform, which will add Robson, their codename for on-motherboard flash modules...

The same approach will work with all three (and has been written for them!). In fact, it should be faster with the on-board technologies, as we'll lose a layer of AES encryption on the cache.
Dec. 19th, 2006 07:14 pm (UTC)
But if you're desigingin for it from the m/b up, why not just design in a dedicatged ram slot and use ordinary ram? Or just design in more ordinary RAM and use a slab of that for the task?
Dec. 19th, 2006 07:24 pm (UTC)
Because Flash is fast enough, and doesn't need to be managed by the memory controller - you can use the disk controller instead. It's also lower power, as most of what you'll be doing is reading cached data, with the occasional write - and it's persistent between sessions.
Dec. 19th, 2006 10:14 pm (UTC)
Vista already uses RAM for SuperFetch; the flash is in addition. if you can add more RAM, do; if you can't you can plug in a Flash drive. Keep the stick in your pocket the way you usually do, plug it in when you sit down to work. From 2007 notebooks will have extra flash on the motherboard (Intel Robson technology) just for SuperFetch/ReadyBoost. Everything on the flash is 1. encrypted 2. duplicated in virtual memory so if you unlug it your PC just slows down again and carries on; we've tried this one too. They've had 5 years to make features like this work and 3 years of us asking them this kind of question - MS does seem to have thought a little bit about how to do them.
Dec. 19th, 2006 01:01 am (UTC)
If the price for SOHO businesses is to invest in NAS and gigabit hardware so that they can use Volume Shadow Copies, I suspect they'll not bother. 50GB is a hell of a lot of data to throw across the LAN for a daily incremental or differential.
Dec. 19th, 2006 11:14 am (UTC)
I'm doing a full backup - I know it's not the most efficient, but it's what SBS does out the box. So that's a whole box plus our Exchange store...

VSS is only taking a maximum of 15GB of extra space on the box, and with incrementals shouldn't add too much to the backup.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )