Lots of data in RAM

I remember buying my first computer after college. At the time I was working part time and in graduate studies part time. My aging high school era Apple II wasn’t capable of handling the load, not to mention its 300baud modem wasn’t a lot of fun. I could likely have gotten a faster modem with a serial connection, but most of the modern Internet providers wanted Windows or a Macintosh OS.

I decided to just spend the money and get a computer. Being a bit of a geek, I wanted to customize things a bit and get the most bang for my buck. At that time, I paged through Computer Shopper, looking for deals on parts and trying to find the cheapest 486 CPU I could. I made various choices, one of which was the RAM. I remember thinking hard at that time about whether I could get by with 2 1MB modules or did I need to go ahead and max out the motherboard and get 4. These days I think about GB, not MB, and 2 or 4 isn’t a good number.

One of the first servers I built at one job was with 8MB chips, getting 32MB into a machine, which felt like a lot. Certainly more than I’d ever had in a computer before. I also remember helping write a PO for a Netware server that cost US$250,000, one with 256MB of RAM. It was the size of a washing machine and filled with 32MB HDDs, making it by far the largest machine I’d seen to date.

That’s a nostalgic view back to 1992, when I was working on my CNE certification. I always think about that large, very expensive machine when I see some leap of hardware. This past week, it was a DD4 Gen-Z memory module that has 256GB of RAM in a stick. That’s not only a larger scalar value than the RAM sticks I started working with, but it’s an order of magnitude more memory. Imagine 4 of these sticks giving you a terabyte of RAM in a desktop. Who among us wouldn’t want this for our desktop SQL Server development?

This level of tech isn’t ready for most of us, but it’s not that far off. 32GB laptops aren’t common, but they are easy to find. You can even get 64GB of RAM now if you want to. How long before we see 128GB+ desktop and laptop machines? I have no idea, as we seem to be in a bit of a hardware lull. Most developers run 8GB or 16GB, and it seems like this has been the standard for quite a few years.

I don’t know if we’ll start to see some vendors pushing to add more RAM. Certainly the cloud has changed things with lots of processing and storage occurring off the local system. At this point I’d expect that three years after buying my last laptop, I’d be able to get 32GB in the same form factor for the price I paid a few years ago, but that’s not the case. The machine supports 32GB, but it’s pricey, the same price it was 3 years ago.

I wonder how many of you are still power hungry, wanting more powerful machines. Or has the level of performance you get from your i7 on Windows or OSX been good enough the last few years? I think this machine works great for me, whether running VMs or containers. 16GB does the job well, and I’d look to get the same level of hardware when I replace this laptop.

Steve Jones

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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