Intel and Micron have been working on a new form of Memory that they have christened 3D XPoint (pronounced cross-point) which they are touting as being the first new class of ‘mainstream memory’ to hit the open market since 1989.
This new class of memory is not only 1000x faster at processing data than Nand flash storage, it also lasts much longer before degrading and although it doesn’t quite reach the speed of RAM, it is classified as ‘persistent memory’ which means that when the power is switched off the memory is retained and it is markedly cheaper to produce than RAM.
Intel & Micron are perceiving this as an add-on level of memory to Flash and RAM more than a full-on replacement for either type.
The main benefits for this new kind of memory are expected to be in processes that utilise ‘big data’ tasks such as genome processing or DNA analysis where huge amounts of data need to be transferred, a current bottleneck with today’s memory.
This new memory standard is also touted as being ideal for gaming consoles that require more RAM at a cheaper production cost where the 3D XPoint would be used as an ad on to the current 8GB standard allowing for larger game levels while vastly reducing loading times. The new Memory standard could also be utilised in the Servers that cater to online gaming which should allow for much larger numbers of players to play simultaneously.
3D XPoint memory is made up of a 3D structure using layers of wires and sub microscopic columns, the tiny wires run at right angles to the layer below as illustrated in the image above and the difference in conductivity of the microscopic columns is what provides the 1/0 status for each bit of information.
The speed increase is provided by the fact that with 3D Xpoint memory, each bit of information is accessible and re-writable on its own, where as with Nand Flash whole sections of memory need to be re-written to accommodate even the smallest change in memory state.
If all goes to plan, the first products to feature 3D XPoint should go on sale next year though no prices have yet to be announced, the popularity and uptake of the new standard will depend on the pricing so watch this space.
For a much more detailed explanation jump over to the BBC website.