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Intel and Micron make memory tech breakthrough

By Catherine Knowles, 11 Aug 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Intel and Micron Technology have made a breakthrough in memory process technology, spurred on by growing demands of businesses around the world.

The duo have unveiled 3D xPoint technology, which is a non-volatile memory that has the potential to revolutionise any device, application or service that benefits from fast access to large sets of data.

This is 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, the duo says. In fact, digital data has grown from 4.4 zettabytes created in 2013 to an expected 44 zettabytes by 2020.

To make the vast increase in new data useful, it must be stored and analysed very quickly.

This creates 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 available memory technologies on the market today.

According to a statement, the technology is up to 1,000 times faster and has up to 1,000 times greater endurance 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,” says Rob Crooke, Intel Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group senior vice president and general manager.

“This new class of non-volatile memory achieves this goal and brings game-changing performance to memory and storage solutions,” Crooke says.

“One of the most significant hurdles in modern computing is the time it takes the processor to reach data on long-term storage,” says Mark Adams, Micron president.

“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,” says Adams.

Micron and Intel say as the digital world quickly grows 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 analyse 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.

3D XPoint technology was built from the ground up, following a decade of research and development, the duo says.

The 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.

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