3D Xpoint memory: Faster-than-flash storage unveiled

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Intel And Micron Aim To Bring New Breakthrough Memory Tech To Gaming, Phones And Data Centers.

Following the announcement earlier today by (INTC) and Micron Technology (MU) of a new kind of memory chip, I spoke by phone with executives from both companies to get some further detail about the technology and where it fits in the marketplace. Intel and Micron announced a new memory chip technology chips that’s purported to be 1000 times faster than the NAND flash memory found in most smartphones and tablets. The announcement was warmly received by the Street: Intel shares today ended the day up 61 cents, or 2%, at $28.96, while Micron stock was up $1.63, or 9%, at $19.75. The technology, which they’re calling 3D XPoint, also has 1000 times higher endurance — it will last far longer — and is 100 times denser, hence will store more data, than conventional memory storage. “It is fundamental game changer that will enable companies to do new things with it,” said Rob Crooke, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group, at a San Francisco event Tuesday morning. “It will enable us to scale computing even further. Micron stock got at least one upgrade today, from Drexel Hamilton‘s Rick Whittington, who raised his rating to Buy from Hold, with a $25 price target, up from $19, writing that the announcement “places a floor under the MU shares.”.

Traditional computers—including PCs and laptops as well as the data center servers that drive the world’s Internet services—are built around a processor, some DRAM, and a hard drive. The DRAM holds the short-term data that the processor needs to drive the machine at any given moment, while the hard drive holds applications and long-term data. Said Shirley, “moving away from charge-based storage gives either much larger capacity, or much faster operations.” There are, in fact, some transistors “in the decode and the metal lines that interconnect,” he adds.

The first thing to realize is that this device is not Intel and Micron’s “3-D” version of NAND; they are also working on that, as are Samsung Electronics (005930KS), and others. The new technology is entirely different, and it is seen as complementary, part of a “portfolio” of memory approaches the company sees co-existing. “This new class of memory is right in between. It offers a whole new tool that wasn’t available for power or density or performance, or all three at the same time.” As far as the economics, XPoint will be more expensive than traditional NAND, but cheaper than DRAM. “All three offer something that can be optimized,” says Shirley.

Analytics and Big Data today are done in either large monolithic data centers or scale-out data centers,” he says. “This technology enables ‘edge analytics,’ meaning Big Data could be done outside of these kinds of data centers, closer to the data. Many people gave up trying to accomplish this,” said Crooke. “It takes the power of companies like Micron and Intel and sustained investment to accomplish something others thought impossible. And relative to DRAM, the easiest metric is that DRAM if DRAM can read in tens of nanoseconds, this can read and write on the order of hundreds of nanoseconds. Companies such as Crossbar and Everspin Technologies say that have built technology similar to 3D XPoint, and a few years ago, HP revealed hardware that used memristors, a new fundamental component of computing that could be used to build both processors and long-term storage. However, the good thing about that, points out Crooke, is the technology is ready to go today with existing tools. 20-nano is not bleeding edge, with chips heading toward 10-nanometer production and, soon, 7 nano.

HP is now building a system using this technology, called The Machine, which it says it will ship by the end of the decade. 3D XPoint technology may still be a long way from market.

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