Radically new non-volatile memory chips that are said to have the potential to revolutionise any device, application or service that benefits from fast access to large sets of data has been unveiled by Intel and Micron Technology.
Now in production, 3D XPoint technology is a major breakthrough in memory process technology and the first new memory category since the introduction of NAND flash in 1989. The new technology makes new innovations possible in applications ranging from machine learning to real-time tracking of diseases and immersive 8K gaming.
The new chips are up to a thousand times faster than flash memory chips used in most mobile devices, it’s been reported. They are also much better at storage than regular DRAM chips. What’s really special about these chips is that they are able to store data, even without power.
Mark Adams, president of Micron, said in a statement: “One of the most significant hurdles in modern computing is the time it takes the processor to reach data on long-term storage. This new class of non-volatile memory is a revolutionary technology that allows for quick access to enormous data sets and enables entirely new applications.”
The explosion of connected devices and digital services is generating massive amounts of new data. To make this data useful, it must be stored and analysed very quickly, creating challenges for service providers and system builders who must balance cost, power and performance trade-offs when they design memory and storage solutions. 3D XPoint technology combines the performance, density, power, non-volatility and cost advantages of all available memory technologies on the market today. The technology is up to 1 000 times faster and has up to 1 000 times greater endurance than NAND, the most popular non-volatile memory in the marketplace today, and is 10 times denser than conventional memory.
“For decades, the industry has searched for ways to reduce the lag time between the processor and data to allow much faster analysis,” said Rob Crooke, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group. “This new class of non-volatile memory achieves this goal and brings game-changing performance to memory and storage solutions.”
As the digital world quickly grows – from 4,4 zettabytes of digital data created in 2013 to an expected 44 zettabytes by 2024 – 3D XPoint technology can turn this immense amount of data into valuable information in nanoseconds. For example, retailers may use 3D XPoint technology to more quickly identify fraud detection patterns in financial transactions; healthcare researchers could process and analyze larger data sets in real time, accelerating complex tasks such as genetic analysis and disease tracking.
The performance benefits of 3D XPoint technology could also enhance the PC experience, allowing consumers to enjoy faster interactive social media and collaboration as well as more immersive gaming experiences. The non-volatile nature of the technology also makes it a great choice for a variety of low-latency storage applications since data is not erased when the device is powered off.
The innovative, transistor-less cross point architecture creates a three-dimensional checkerboard where memory cells sit at the intersection of word lines and bit lines, allowing the cells to be addressed individually. As a result, data can be written and read in small sizes, leading to faster and more efficient read/write processes.
3D XPoint technology will sample later this year with select customers, and Intel and Micron are developing individual products based on the technology.