Have you ever wondered what you could do with all of your high bandwidth, low latency RAM? Romex Software’s FancyCache has a suggestion for you: cache your drives.
Caching has been all the rage lately in the SSD world. If there isn’t a caching solution to your liking now, chances are their will be soon enough although such options are the industries attempts to marry the low cost per GB of HDDs with the speed of SSDs. Our review today of Romex FancyCache is going to be something just a bit different!
We started off with a headline of reaching an unheard of 13GB/s transfer speed and 765,000 IOPS and now we need to show you the way to get there. Our guess is that if you are reading this article, you’ve already bought into the solid state drive story and caching one SSD with another suits no purpose whatsoever. We need to cache it with something faster, something much faster and that only option seems to be through use of your systems RAM.
Faster DDR3 random access memory in an overclocked Sandy Bridge system can hit 20+ GB/s in bandwidth, and with infinitesimal access times. A quad-channel X79 motherboard destroys even those heady dual channel numbers. With that kind of speed on tap, imagine using that to speed up storage performance. Especially with the ongoing nosedive in RAM prices, RAM is cheaper and more plentiful than ever.
RAM might be caching your storage right now, to a small degree, and it helps high end RAID cards develop stellar performance. Hopefully, we can show you that FancyCache is unique in its configuration options and end results. There are some drawbacks and caveats, but one thing is for sure; using RAM to cache your SSD can result in some insane, cartoon-like performance numbers.
HOW IT WORKS
FancyCache operates in a similar manner to other caching solutions. Working at a low level, it works in between your OS (Windows) and your disk(s). At this time, there is one version for single disks and another for arrays, but it works the same for both.
If Windows asks for data from the cached disk, FancyCache first sees if the data is already cached in RAM. If it is, the request gets serviced at warp speed. If it isn’t, it gets serviced off the disk and placed into the RAM cache for later. As the data within the cache increases, it is eventually necessary to eject some of the lesser used or older data.
Of course, one vital difference between RAM and other SSD-based caching solutions is RAM is volatile. When the system gets powered off, a traditional SSD cache will still be there when the system gets restarted. Obviously, RAM-based cache is going to disappear after every power-off. Another FancyCache feature is a Level 2 cache, which can leverage SSDs and USB/SD/CF flash devices. Such a discussion is best left for another day, but the feature does exist. In fact, it could also be used to create a SSD/HDD hybrid of sorts, but again, we’re more interested in the RAM caching today.
Download and install the appropriate version of FancyCache, then reboot. When you do, you can start the simple configuration progress.
This is the main window of FancyCache. It’s fairly simple to get it up and running. First, select the drive you’d like to start caching. Decide how much RAM you would like to use and the block size — block size works in a similar way to stripe size in RAID applications. Lower numbers can increase small file performance, like 4K accesses, but require more CPU overhead. Larger block sizes can help with larger files and typically utilize fewer CPU cycles.
You can select a different caching strategy, but let’s leave it at Read/Write. Now, enable Defer Write and leave it at the default 10 seconds. Deferred writing enables the cache to accumulate data before being committed (flushed) to disk. This can be beneficial for several reasons, but any writes to the same address on the disk will get eliminated, so this will help reduce wear and tear on the SSD in some instances. When you have the desired settings, hit Start Caching and it’s active.