Most, if not all, know that memory banks for the computer is an essential component. For reference sake – there are two memory systems used for computing platforms of all types. Both are very different from each other, where one deals with long-term storage (hard-disks), while the other focus on the immediacy of using, managing, and processing data (Random Access Memory – RAM).
This feature will deep-dive into the latter and specifically focus on a very specific type of RAM – the Error Correction Code RAM (ECC RAM). Unlike other RAM types – consumer-grade, high-performance, graphic processing, and low-powered – ECC RAM is made to operate with business-grade platforms. This includes server-class systems, Cloud services, data processing nodes, and high-level computational systems – all of which cannot afford to encounter any hardware outages, system failure, or data corruption.
Before going into details of ECC RAM, let’s do a quick recap on RAM. Unlike hard-disks, solid-state drives, flash storage, or optical drives – RAM reads and writes data almost instantly at almost the same time. It achieves this via the hard-wired circuitry it uses, all of which have been fine-tuned to manage data transfers simultaneously at high speeds. As it is, RAM is the only electronic within a computing system that can ensure bits of data are zipping between the device’s processor, storage, and sub-systems.
There is this believe that having more RAM in a system will ensure all data movement is immediate and that there will be zero delays. As processor core count and speeds continue to climb, memory banks are being filled up for computers that are ready to work with high capacity RAMs. Similarly, graphic processors are also constantly innovating their own memory systems. In fact, efforts to experiment with memory innovations, such as stacking and high-bandwidth development, have also rolled out recently.
If anything, there is no doubt that on-going research and development will continue to evolve and transform RAM designs and usage, making it front and centre for a very long time.
As memory material can be altered via the low-energy radiation that electronics are known to emit, and cause unnecessary errors, RAM makers wanted to overcome these design issues. In fact, as memory cells are now packed into high-density systems, data errors are now more prone to appear. To mitigate these issues, new dynamic RAM have added on an extra memory module to manage and reduce these potential errors. The additional memory module is used to record parity or introduce an error-correcting code system. Of the two, parity has one role – to detect single-bit errors and odd numbers of wrong bits. As for ECC, it will detect single and double errors and correct them when the right programme and follow-up system is in use. If mistakes are found in the data strings, ECC uses an advanced form of parity to search for these errors within large datasets and match the digital bits to ensure all are correct. This is how ECC RAM work towards mitigating any potential system failure that are likely to occur due to data matching errors or information corruption.
ECC RAM is usually paired with business- or server-class hardware, specifically computers that run with Intel Xeon or AMD Ryzen Pro CPUs – like those used in Z by HP Series of desktop and laptop-type workstations. All these systems are usually mission critical; of high importance; and usually considered sensitive platforms. These are the ones that cannot afford any downtime, experience data loss, or deal with information mismatching.
Examples of high-performance computers and electronic systems, especially those that sport top-end industry specs or have been optimised to run 24-hours/7-days a week, are:
Most, if not all, of these market verticals are loaded out with business- and server-class platforms that will ensure there is no downtime or disruption. In fact, to ensure data recovery contingencies are in place and consistent system uptime and seamless user experiences are delivered, these technologies are necessary. Most critical are business-optimised high-powered processors, advanced power supply management, and ECC RAM.
How will ECC RAM offer any advantages over normal RAM? Beyond mitigating downtime challenges and ensuring there is no service outages, this specific memory system is very much for industry platforms and business solution providers. In using ECC RAM, major data failure concerns, such as security vulnerabilities, data transcription issues, corrupted information, and lost data, can be prevented, or if these issues do pop up, better managed as well.
Promising close to no downtime, hardy characteristic that ensures it can deal with most threats of hardware failure, and being optimised only for workstations, servers and mainframes, ECC RAMs stand out as true made-for-industry equipment. While some consumers are crazy enough to get them to pair with their DIY workstation, it’s best to stick with consumer-grade or gaming-focused specs when making high-performance PCs.