Dear Lazyweb, Is Gigabyte I-RAM supported by Linux?

The Gigabyte I-RAM is one of the first cheap solid state storage devices I have seen.  While 4GB may not seem a lot, this could prove amazingly useful for ext3 external journals and the like.

Check out the performance results, this storage totally blows away multi-disk RAID-0 arrays, as it should being basically battery-backed RAM.

11 thoughts on “Dear Lazyweb, Is Gigabyte I-RAM supported by Linux?

  1. Disclaimer: I don’t own one of these.
    As far as I’m aware, however, it acts as a vanilla SATA drive, so as long as the SATA controller you plug it into is compatible with Linux, you’ll be fine.
    It doesn’t do any interfacing with the rest of the PC over the PCI bus, that seems to be there as somewhere to physically mount the card.

  2. It should work fine with GNU/Linux; it presents itself as a standard SATA drive and is detected as such by the BIOS. It sounds like an interesting device, but I think I’ll wait until a version capable of 300MB/s transfer speed and 2GB DIMM support is available (it’s currently limited to 150MB/s transfer and 1GB DIMMs) before considering it. I’d really want something large enough to store the entire operating system base and system apps (with regular backups to non-volative storage of course), which with 4GB would be rather tight. (effectively just having /home, /var, etc. still being written to non-volatile storage).

  3. Michael,

    I see what you mean about the size but even now it would be extremely useful to put all your ext3 external journals on it, and in the future maybe the md write intent bitmaps as well.

    It would mean ext3 reliability at almost ext2 performance, for a couple hundred bucks.

    BTW it already is non-volatile as it’s battery-backed, but there might be a concern with losing data if the battery were ever to run down. You don’t back up your BIOS do you? 😉

  4. The battery only lasts 10 hours, I wouldn’t be willing to risk that if it were storing my OS. A BIOS battery on the other hand lasts for ages and is only used to retain BIOS settings, the actual BIOS is on a non-volatile flashable ROM.

    I will admit to still being tempted by the idea, but at the end of the day I don’t want to be paying that sort of money (remember it’s $150 plus the price of 4x1GB DIMMs) without a serious improvement in performance. The fact that I mostly use a laptop probably biases me against getting one a bit too ;).

  5. HI

    If I under stood the reviews correctly, you will note that the IRAM takes power from the PCI bus even when the computer is turned OFF.

    The Battery is mainly for times when you compleatly disconect your computer from the mains (eg when you move it from one room to another) or when you pull the card out of one machine to put it in another.

    See review:,aid,121105,00.asp

    Hope that helps 🙂

  6. I currently cannot get the I-RAM to work with Linux. I’m currently running the 2.6.15 kernel.

    My SATA drives work for my NForce board as well as the SI3112 SATA card. Neither card will recognize the I-RAM as a device, let alone partition the drive. If anybody can get this to work, please let me know. I’m getting desparate at this time.

    Don’t bother with Gigabyte support. Standard corporate response is “only Windows supported.” I’m looking at possibly other alternative operating systems. If anybody has any further questions or comments, you can e-mail me at

    Good luck.

  7. Hey – anyone have any further experience to share on this subject? I am also trying to bring up an i-RAM under the 2.6.15 kernel and having no luck. The BIOS sees it, but it doesn’t make it into Linux (“fdisk -l” only reports seeing my primary harddrive, /dev/sda).

  8. Apparently the i-ram reports something strange when it is first scanned by a sata controller, which causes the linux sata drivers to ignore it.
    You might want to check out this thread:

    Several of the linux kernel hackers are buying them for testing purposes ( check out: ) so if the i-ram turn out to work well, I am sure they will be working under linux soon.

  9. I have one of these cards as well. I’m running into the same issue with Fedora Core 4 and 5.

    Do any of these ideas provide a plausible workaround?
    – modify an install CD (custom kernel)
    – provide some kernel boot parameter
    – load an additional module
    – Hack the card (hardware or firmware)

    I’ve also heard reports of data corruption when they get their cards recognized. Have any of you experienced this?

    – Mike

  10. According to:, the card is reporting a bit incorrectly, so you can either hack your sata driver to ignore the bit (there is details in the bugzilla report on the bit to comment out), or use a driver that does not check the bit (any sata interface that uses the AHCI or sil24 drivers.

    I don’t have one, so I have now idea about the corruption problems, but once you have it reconized you can easily check to see if it has corruption issues.

  11. For any linux users that are looking, you have to run a Windows program to initialize the drive or ‘format’ the drive, before it’s recognized as a regular SATA drive.

    You might be able to do that with Wine or other such program in LInux. Better yet if you have access to a Windows machine.

    I think the idea of using RAM drives is out of favor today because marketing is pushing flash memory as a replacement for hard drives. You only need fast access for a fraction of your data. And hard drives actually stream data faster then flash. I’d like to see battery backup on the motherboard where you could use software to carve out a RAM dive. Other than that, you know what you can do with your flash memory?

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