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OPLIN 4cast #453: Some memories are better than others

Posted in 4cast

Last updated on September 29, 2015

memoriesAbout a month ago, Intel Corporation and Micron Technology, Inc. announced a “breakthrough in memory technology.” 3D XPoint™ is said to be the largest advance in computer memory in decades, and while precise details about the design and materials are not being widely shared, the general description in the announcement still caught the attention of the tech media. Will this new memory start showing up in library computers? That’s hard to say, but there is some speculation that this memory may be affordable enough to find its way into all kinds of computers.

  • 3D Xpoint memory: Faster-than-flash storage unveiled (BBC News | Leo Kelion)  “Intel is marketing it as the first new class of ‘mainstream memory’ since 1989. 3D XPoint retains data when the power is switched off – one of its key advantages over RAM (random access memory), which remains faster. Rather than pitch it as a replacement for either flash storage or RAM, the company suggests it will be used alongside them to hold certain data ‘closer’ to a processor so that it can be accessed more quickly than before.”
  • Micron: 3D XPoint in IMDB (Seeking Alpha | “Overbet For Value”)  “Unsurprisingly, opinions of the impact of XPoint vary greatly. The most pessimistic opinions center around the idea that there is no market for XPoint as its endurance isn’t good enough to take the place of DRAM and isn’t cheap enough to replace NAND in SSDs (Solid State Drives). The most optimistic view is that XPoint is the most revolutionary technology in semiconductors in many years and will eventually replace DRAM, NAND and completely kill hard disk drives.”
  • This new 3D XPoint memory could last forever (Computerworld | Lucas Mearian)  “The new memory, however, is bound to make a splash in data centers for applications such as in-memory computing and high-performance computing, [Gartner Vice President Joseph] Unsworth said. Today, data centers use DRAM for high performance computing and other I/O intensive applications and capacitors to ensure that if power is lost, the DRAM modules have a few seconds of power to transfer the data to non-volatile memory. With XPoint memory, more high-performance processing could be done without the need for as much DRAM, eliminating the super capacitors and some NAND flash.”
  • Intel and Micron unveil 3D XPoint, a brand new memory technology (Ars Technica | Sebastian Anthony)  “Performance-wise, Intel and Micron make very bold claims: 3D XPoint is apparently ‘up to 1,000 times faster’ and ‘has up to 1,000 times greater endurance’ than commercial NAND chips. If 3D XPoint isn’t using electrical charge to store data, and is instead using a material that changes state, then the endurance figure is believable. The performance figure is a bit trickier: when Intel and Micron say ‘faster,’ what do they actually mean? If the access time is 1,000 times faster than NAND, then that’s actually quite believable. By way of comparison, DRAM latency is currently about 1,000 times faster than NAND. If 3D XPoint has 1,000 times more bandwidth than NAND, then we’re probably back into fantastical-PR-claim territory.”

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