Intel and Micron 3D XPoint Memory Kicks Off A Revolution

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

3D XPoint Memory Technology Could Usher In A New Golden Age Of Electronics.

The 3D XPoint memory technology that Intel and Micron announced Tuesday is new to its core and took years to develop, but that work may pay dividends in both living rooms and data centers. 3D XPoint is 1,000 times faster than the NAND flash used in today’s consumer electronics and SSDs (solid state drives).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. 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.

For more information on the technology itself, I’d recommend reading this article, as it covers many of the technical details made during today’s announcement. It could kick off the same kind of upheaval that the shift to solid-state drives has caused, according to Rob Crooke, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group. 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.

As it stands today, most interactive electronic devices have some sort of central processor or SoC (system on a chip), that links to some system memory and storage. Here are a few examples of what 3D XPoint might bring about: Better speech recognition for talking to your phone, better face recognition for biometric security, computers controlled by hand gestures, and seamless transitions between scenes in video games. 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.

In most PCs, the storage attaches to the system via the SATA interface or PCI Express and system memory resides in its own slots, connected directly to the memory controller in a CPU. 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. The “3D checkerboard” architecture they developed forms a grid where each memory cell is attached to two metal lines, one vertical and one horizontal. 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.

Imagine an ultra-small form factor PC, for example, that can instantly power up and start off from the exact point it was shut down, with hundreds of gigabytes of high-speed memory, that’s capable of transferring data at many gigabytes or even terabytes per second. System memory limitation could essentially be eliminated and there would be no latency associated with copying data from a relatively slow storage device into system memory. 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. Fundamental breakthroughs that bridge the gap between storage and memory have been talked about for years, including “memrister” technology that Hewlett-Packard had said it would use in its Machine, a computer that stores all its data in non-volatile memory, said Technalysis analyst Bob O’Donnell. 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.

Just as the falling cost of DRAM has made in-memory databases like SAP’s Hana feasible, 3D XPoint could bring very high-speed data access to a broader market, including consumer systems—probably beginning with high-end gaming PCs, he said. 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.

Intel has been pushing NVME (Non-Volatile Memory Express) to take full advantage of the speed of flash, and 3D XPoint raises the stakes again. “It’s incredibly important for a technology like this,” Crooke said. If it is a choice, it would appear that wallpaper will no longer be visible from your own timeline, or the general feed; you’ll only see it when you click an individual tweet.

Now if you go to Settings and choose Design, you can reupload your background image and see if that reinstates it; this worked for a few of us, and the wallpaper returned. We’re unsure: We’ve reached out to Twitter and will report back with any comment on the apparent update. “We’re removing background images from the home and notifications timelines on web for all users.

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