No full Mac OS X support for Robson NAND accelerators?

, posted: 28-Sep-2006 07:07

IntelHard drives will soon have non-volatile Flash memory on them, which will act as a disk cache to further improve performance. The reason for this is that while processor performance has increased some thirty times over the past few years, disk performance on average has only scaled 1.3 times.

As hard drives are mechanical devices, there's only so much you can do to speed them up. Solid-state drives are not yet ready for mass markets - capacities are too small and they consume more energy than normal drives - but Intel thinks that by slapping up to 2GB of NAND RAM on drives, it can substantially improve performance. Intel has code-named this "Robson", and it'll form part of its forthcoming Santa Rosa mobile platform.

Preliminary tests by Intel show a two-fold increase in application loading and a two-fold reduction in the time a system comes back from hibernation (when it has its memory contents paged out to disk, in a lower power state).

Not just that, but there are also small power savings to be had, Intel says, because you don't have to spin up the hard drive so often. This amounts to about half a Watt, but may improve once Robson is fully developed.

I think Robson sounds like very cool technology indeed, but couldn't help noticing that while Intel and Apple are best buddies at the moment, this particular technology seems to integrate the best with Windows Vista.

That's right: Robson is designed to support the ReadyDrive/ReadyBoost and SuperFetch technology in Vista. This allows users to plug in for instance USB memory sticks which Vista can use for paging instead of the hard drive. Not having to hit the comparatively slow mechanical drive gives Vista a substantial speed bost.

However, Apple doesn't currently have anything similar and when asked if Robson was aimed at Vista only, Intel would only say that it saw no reason why other platforms couldn't support it.

Full support for Robson, at the operating system level, is clearly an advantage, but will Apple have it too? That's not certain, nor is support for Linux. Intel has been quiet on Robson support for other operating systems since the technology was first touted, so it'll be interesting to see what happens with Apple. So far, it looks like only Windows Vista users will benefit fully from Robson something that is certain to anger Apple fans.

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