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Siamese DIMM

Double down on your PC
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According to Wikipedia, current DRAM transfer rates can reach up to 204.8 Gbit/s. This is roughly 200 times faster than gigabit Ethernet, or in technical terms, “really, really fast”.

What if we designed a DIMM that didn't contain any memory modules, but instead was designed to plug into TWO motherboards? It would look sort of like a taller DIMM, but with contacts on both edges. A special case could be designed where one motherboard would be flipped over and rotated 180º so that the DIMM slots line up. Both motherboards would have a CPU, RAM (in other DIMM slots), and (potentially) a full complement of cards filling the PCIe slots.

One system (the “slave” system) would be loaded with a special operating system designed only to shunt requests coming in over the memory bus to and from the various hardware devices. The other system (the “master” system) would have a normal operating system installed, with a special driver that maps a virtual portion of RAM to control hardware requests to the slave system.

Communications between the two systems would be so fast that they could appear to the user as if they were a single system with double the RAM and CPU power.

ytk, Nov 11 2013

Dual port RAM http://en.wikipedia.../wiki/Dual_port_RAM
Baked. [8th of 7, Nov 12 2013]


       Not sure I see what the problem is in terms of cooling. The two motherboards would only overlap slightly, so you would have the normal amount of space for each motherboard to install your fans, water coolers, liquid nitrogen baths, or what have you.   

       The DIMM itself wouldn't be difficult to cool either, since it would stick out much farther than adjacent DIMMs, and (if necessary) could have its own cooler installed that didn't touch anything else.
ytk, Nov 11 2013

       Baked to a crisp … dual-port RAM and memory bus sharing have been around since the 1960's.   

       [suggested-for-deletion], Widely Known To Exist.
8th of 7, Nov 12 2013

       //Dual port RAM//   

       Okay, but what does that have to do with this?   

       Dual-ported RAM allows simultaneous memory reads and writes. This idea proposes converting a memory slot into a high-bandwidth networking interface, by means of a special DIMM (that doesn't even contain any usable RAM, dual-ported or otherwise).
ytk, Nov 13 2013

       //Its all SATA or equivalent under the hood.//   

       With a substantially slower bus like SATA, or even 10Gbit Ethernet, you're not going to be able to have the two computers communicate at a low level—e.g. rendering graphics for one system on the other system in real time, or offloading CPU calls from one system to another for tasks that require high speed and low latency (real time video decoding and effects, for example).   

       A cluster that uses a slower transport medium is going to be limited by the speed of that medium. There's pretty much nothing faster than DRAM access, so it would be the best medium for linking two systems so that they appear to the user as one.   

       //a concrete application//   

       MORE POWER!!!
ytk, Nov 13 2013

       //Each pin on a DIMM is about as fast as SATA or Ethernet. Its just that there are more pins.//   

       So? The interface is still very fast overall, and that's the point. Every single consumer (or professional) motherboard out there is already equipped with the network interface to make this work, all you need is a simple adapter with some basic circuitry and a software driver. No need for //High end costly topologies//.   

       Oh, and a specially designed computer case, you'll need that too. But for not much more (or perhaps even slightly less, since you could eliminate some redundant components like graphics cards and such) than the cost of two little computers, you could have one big computer, which is better from the standpoint of efficiently maximizing resource usage anyway.
ytk, Nov 13 2013

       I like this for high availability applications [+]. With HA, the cross connect speed is always the bottle neck. This would help a lot.
ixnaum, Nov 14 2013

       //I think the cheapest solution for you is probably a multiple CPU motherboard. Each CPU has access to the full memory bus.//   

       How is that cheaper? You pay a premium for a dual core motherboard, then on top of that you pay a hefty premium for the processors, because a dual core motherboard only works with Xeons. You can get a 3.4GHz 6-core i7 processor for under $600, but a 2.66GHz 6-core Xeon will run you upwards of a grand. So you're paying an $800 premium just to be able to run dual processors. A second motherboard would only run you a couple hundred, and you can get RAM for that motherboard for a couple hundred more. You end up saving several hundred bucks, and are able to run at a much higher clock speed to boot.   

       As a matter of fact, I already own a dual-CPU system (a Mac Pro), and I paid quite a bit for the privilege of having 12 cores and 32GB of RAM readily available. It's still not as fast as I'd like (and yes, I'm utilizing all of the power of my system—I mainly use it for tasks that are easily parallelized). Heck, if I could join two of these systems and end up with 24 cores, I'd seriously consider it. I've tried networking multiple systems, but it ends up being a hassle and unreliable, and the slowest system on the network tends to bog things down disproportionately. A simple way to meld two systems into one would be incredibly useful.
ytk, Nov 14 2013

       Indeed. And I also have my system set up to use spare CPU cycles to help crunch numbers for disease research and such. So I'm not going to come out and *say* that by opposing this idea you're in favor of letting kids die of cancer, but…
ytk, Nov 14 2013

       Yes, I have. The problem is the GPU is only really usable for very specific purposes, so in order to take advantage of it your application has to be specifically tailored to use it. It's thus very difficult to provide a flexible “general” rendering interface for the graphics hardware. If you switch to a different video codec, or apply a different kind of image filter, your super- fast GPU code becomes useless.   

       A handful of graphics/video applications take advantage of the GPU for rendering, but even the ones that do often only use the GPU for certain limited functionality, or yield substantially reduced quality with hardware rendering versus software. There's just no substitute for raw CPU power in most cases.
ytk, Nov 14 2013

       So you're looking to make a blazingly fast connection between two ordinary/cheap motherboards.   

       Just so you know, you'll pretty much HAVE to have a dual port memory between them to use this interface effectively. With no memory between, you'd need to arrange some way to have one computer doing a read exactly at teh same time teh other is doing a write. And both motherboards are gonig to be trying to drive the clock.   

       Of course you probably don't need a really large dual port RAM to make a fairly efficient protocol for rapidly dumping large blocks of data across.
scad mientist, Nov 15 2013

       Yes, of course you'd need some sort of buffer or controller to get the machines to talk. That was what I meant by “basic circuitry” in a previous anno. It might include a small amount of RAM (though such memory would not be directly accessible to either system). But in what way does that make this idea itself similar to the concept of dual-ported RAM?   

       So far I've gotten two MFDs (well, an MFD and an SFD), neither of which I feel is justified. The idea is clearly not baked, as no such thing exists, even if some of the components to make it exist (and why is that not a /good/ thing?). As for bad science, that doesn't even make sense. I haven't seen a single argument that this idea isn't possible to implement, just that it wouldn't be terribly useful or practical, or the most efficient way to combine multiple systems. So fine, you think it doesn't solve the problem it sets out to—that just makes it a bad idea, in your opinion. But in what way is my science flawed?   

       Feel free to criticize the idea based on its merits, but I submit that the idea is neither baked nor unbakeable, and thus both MFDs raised thus far are inappropriate.
ytk, Nov 15 2013

       [+] by the way. I also don't see any reason for MFD. Even if this is simply implemented as a dual port RAM, I'm not aware of any dual-port RAM with a dual DIMM interface. I'm actually not even sure if there is a dual port RAM readily available that can handle two different clock domains: a necesity since you can't synchronize the system clocks on two standard cheap motherboards. Any traditional clock re-sychronization sceme is going to introduce a cycle of latency, slowing down the interface (assuming you can even make that work on an DDRx SDRAM interface).   

       There are "asynchronous Dual-Port RAMs", but those have two asynchronous RAM interfaces. Since most modern motherboards use DDRx Sychronous DRAM, you'd need a dual-port RAM with two synchronous interfaces that can operate asynchronously.   

       If you implement this as something more complex than a shared memory space, you'll basically be emulating the DDRx SDRAM interface, which might allow using less exotic memory for your buffer, but might be difficult to design. You might also consider a ribbon cable to a PCI card on each motherboard to allow triggering interrupts when a packet is ready to read because I don't think the DIMM slot is set up for the RAM to send an interrupt to the CPU.
scad mientist, Nov 15 2013

       Ignoring for the moment the idea of putting two 8255's back to back (been there, done that), you're going to hit huge issues with physical geometry.   

       Mobos generally have a dirty great heatsink in the CPU. That limits orientation. It's not clear how close you can get the DIMM sockets on the boards, and extending the memory bus lines more than a fraction will introduce huge timing problems (extra capacitance) and probably stop the interface working at all.   

       Dell blade servers in a backplane would do much better, and they're off the shelf.
8th of 7, Nov 15 2013

       I think you're arguing that this will be fast and cheap, because memory is fast and cheap.
However, your proposal is to bring in essentially a complete computer to manage the peripherals. This is obviously a much more complex entity. As described it seems to be essentially full PC, slaved to the master PC.
I struggle to see how this would be a fast, cheap (or reliable) way of talking with peripherals compared to a well-designed interface.

       I think there are two ways to read the idea.   

       Firstly you could see it as a way of getting a more out of consumer-grade or 'off-the-shelf' stuff. Essentially, getting stuff that works with windows/PC drivers to transparently slot in and work.
It may possibly help by taking away the overhead of distractions like interrupts and polling loops from the master system, in a backwards-compatible manner. However, the information has to get there eventually, and you've introduced a latency, along with considerably more ways for it all to go horribly wrong.
What it wouldn't do is transparently double the RAM and CPU power. It wouldn't do anything for those at all without some nasty hacks to the master's OS, if you were trying to get it to run legacy stuff.
It may be that this would allow you to hang more stuff off a single PC. But only twice as much of anything at most. If it were a method which allowed an arbitrary amount of stuff to be attached then it would be more interesting.

       Secondly you could be proposing a method of parallel computing in a new system designed from scratch. In which case it seems pretty inelegant and unnecessarily restricted.
Loris, Nov 15 2013


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