3D XPoint Memory isn’t the Storage we Deserve, but the Storage we Need
INTEL and MICRON held a press conference yesterday and revealed something that could potentially turn the storage world upside down. The average gaming system benefits immensely from a single good performance SSD, but in the case of Big Data, storage is still the major bottleneck of being able to process information at higher rates. However, if 3D XPoint Memory really does work at 1000X the speed of NAND Flash with 10X the capacity of DRAM, storage could be taking a huge turning point within the next year or two.
This isn’t first time we’ve heard of some crazy fast technology being worked on with the potential to change the market. For instance, graphene keeps hitting the headlines but even just a working sample is still a long ways away and could potentially never materialize. What’s different about the INTEL/MICRON press conference is this technology is going to be ready to sample towards the end of this year. MICRON even showcased a chip wafer that was already fabricated. Based on what was said, the initial technology can hold 128 Gb per die across two memory layers. It’s hard to picture exactly how this will turn out just yet but if multiple dies can be added to one device, similar to the way multiple NAND chips are combined on an SSD, we might see 1 Tb + devices pretty quickly. 3D XPoint is in it’s early stages but future generations can increase the memory layers and lithographic pitch scaling for higher capacities.
This is some pretty huge news and if the technology works well in the Big Data market, which I’m pretty it will initially target that first, it probably won’t be long before we see consumer drives of the same nature. That being said it’s still unclear if this will be used in a traditional storage sense, or in a new way that would be a kind of memory/hard drive hybrid that pulls characteristics from both. During the press conference, Big Data and consumer uses were both mentioned, but there was also a mention of keeping the data close to the CPU for quicker access. This could mean a new method of handling storage or it could just mean that this is why the Z170 chipset upgraded it’s PCIe lanes to 3.0. Either way, we still have a ways to go before sampling begins and the fact remains that if this technology is like NAND Flash, then we’ll probably see a broad range of uses down the road.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. & BOISE, Idaho–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Intel Corporation and Micron Technology, Inc. today unveiled 3D XPoint™ technology, a non-volatile memory that has the potential to revolutionize any device, application or service that benefits from fast access to large sets of data. 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 explosion of connected devices and digital services is generating massive amounts of new data. To make this data useful, it must be stored and analyzed 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 endurance3 than NAND, 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.”
“One of the most significant hurdles in modern computing is the time it takes the processor to reach data on long-term storage,” said Mark Adams, president of Micron. “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.”
As the digital world quickly grows – from 4.4 zettabytes of digital data created in 2013 to an expected 44 zettabytes by 20204 – 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.
New Recipe, Architecture for Breakthrough Memory Technology
Following more than a decade of research and development, 3D XPoint technology was built from the ground up to address the need for non-volatile, high-performance, high-endurance and high-capacity storage and memory at an affordable cost. It ushers in a new class of non-volatile memory that significantly reduces latencies, allowing much more data to be stored close to the processor and accessed at speeds previously impossible for non-volatile storage.
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.
More details about 3D XPoint technology include:
- Cross Point Array Structure – Perpendicular conductors connect 128 billion densely packed memory cells. Each memory cell stores a single bit of data. This compact structure results in high performance and high-density bits.
- Stackable – In addition to the tight cross point array structure, memory cells are stacked in multiple layers. The initial technology stores 128Gb per die across two memory layers. Future generations of this technology can increase the number of memory layers, in addition to traditional lithographic pitch scaling, further improving system capacities.
- Selector – Memory cells are accessed and written or read by varying the amount of voltage sent to each selector. This eliminates the need for transistors, increasing capacity while reducing cost.
- Fast Switching Cell – With a small cell size, fast switching selector, low-latency cross point array and fast write algorithm, the cell is able to switch states faster than any existing non-volatile memory technology today.