Intel, Micron 3D XPoint memory tech can support 8K gaming

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

3D XPoint might change computing as much as SSDs did.

CHIP BEHEMOTHS INTEL AND MICRON have announced a new category of non-volatile memory technology that they claim is a “revolutionary breakthrough” in the industry. 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 3D Xpoint technology is described as faster and denser than any other class of memory, and 1,000 times faster than the NAND architecture featured in most flash memory cards and SSDs. “3D Xpoint is the first class of memory technology brought to market for some time. 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. Its very dense, non-volatile characteristics allow us to select each memory cell individually,” said Rob Crooke, SVP and GM of Intel’s non-volatile memory solutions group, in a web cast.

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. This creates a 3D checkerboard where memory cells sit at the intersection of word lines and bit lines, allowing the cells to be addressed individually. “Perpendicular conductors connect 128 billion densely packed memory cells, each storing a single bit of data.

Examples given of benefits from the technology included shop owners more swiftly identifying fraud patterns in financial transactions; health care researchers analysing data in real time, and tracking diseases or parsing genetic data. 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. The initial technology stores 128Gb per die across two memory layers, but Intel said that future generations of the technology could increase the number of memory layers, in addition to traditional lithographic pitch scaling, further improving system capacities. 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.

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.

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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