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Intel doubles phase change memory

Intel doubles phase change memory

Intel is hoping that the new tech will give us all faster, safer storage. And increase their profits.

If you're holding out for a terabyte-size solid-state disk, you may want to look toward the next big thing: phase change memory.

In a paper presented to the International Solid State Circuits Conference – and doesn't that sound like a fun place to be? - Intel has demonstrated phase change circuitry which has four states instead of the traditional two, meaning double the storage capacity and finally bringing the tech to a level at which it can compete with flash memory.

Phase change memory works by actually altering the physical make-up of the material used within the cells, usually by heating the material until it switches state. Traditional phase change memory had just two states – amorphous and crystalline – but Intel's new research shows an additional two states that exist between the two.

Justin Rattner, chief technology officer at Intel, claims that the company “can [use the four states to store data] successfully with a reasonably sized array, and do it at speeds that are commercially viable.”.

Should the research prove viable in a commercial product, we could see the birth of non-volatile storage with the advantages of flash memory but featuring the speed of traditional DRAM chips. If the technology scales, we could even see the death of RAM within a computer and its replacement being an ultra-fast non-volatile storage system.

Imagine a system where you didn't need to read a file from permanent storage into volatile RAM, and one where you lose nothing should a power-cut occur. That's the promise of phase change memory. And it's a promise that many in the industry are excited about. Jim Handy, an analyst at Objective Analysis, claims that “[mobile] handset manufacturers are excited about phase-change memory” simply because it will allow them to ditch the flash and DRAM chips and “replace them with one phase-change memory chip.

I for one wouldn't mind the idea of non-volatile RAM: it wouldn't matter so much when my laptop runs out of battery again. As with most of these exciting new technologies, it doesn't do to get too excited: we're several years away from seeing the death of flash memory.

Tempted to start saving up now, or do you think that flash memory still has some life left in it yet? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

10 Comments

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mmorgue 5th February 2008, 11:28 Quote
Like so many new techs, it sounds great, but no mention of when it might be commercially available. I'm guessing it's the usual, 5-8 years before we see anything and even then it will be like SSD; an obscene amount of ££ for the 1st/2nd gen items.
yakyb 5th February 2008, 12:06 Quote
its hard to get excited about hdd tech that we will not see for years

i would like to know what kind of storage size we could realistically expect (and power usage for that matter)

will we drives bigger than 5tb in the next few(5) years?
[USRF]Obiwan 5th February 2008, 12:14 Quote
I wish all of the memory companies would just jump on the SSD as soon as possible. And maybe HardDrive manufacturers would therefor jump on this as well before its to late for them. Because i know for sure that if SSD drops the price to consumer levels it will sell like icecream on a hot summer day.
DXR_13KE 5th February 2008, 16:48 Quote
very interesting tech..... i wonder if this will be used on optical media.......
Bluephoenix 5th February 2008, 23:04 Quote
hopefully it isn't as vulnerable to physical shockloads as most other crystalline structures.

It would certainly be nice to have computers with virtually no load times or data loss from power cuts.

though I'd still want a buffer and not a direct read/write as that prevents possible file corruption from calc errors.
r4tch3t 6th February 2008, 00:31 Quote
The question is, how overclockable are they going to be?
Spaceraver 6th February 2008, 03:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by r4tch3t
The question is, how overclockable are they going to be?

Win!
Tulatin 6th February 2008, 07:24 Quote
Actually. 1.6TB SCSI ssds will soon exist :http://[url]http//www.dailytech.com/BiTMICRO+Announces+16TB+Ultra320+SCSI+SSD/article10588.htm%5B/url%5D
metarinka 6th February 2008, 07:25 Quote
interesting but still a way off, even if the tech was market worthy today at a reasonable price, it would take a long time for OS and other hardware makers (mobo's) to catch up as this would be pretty big departure from current PC architecture
ryanjleng 6th February 2008, 07:46 Quote
Interesting but...
Quote:
Imagine a system where you didn't need to read a file from permanent storage into volatile RAM, and one where you lose nothing should a power-cut occur. That's the promise of phase change memory. And it's a promise that many in the industry are excited about. Jim Handy, an analyst at Objective Analysis, claims that “[mobile] handset manufacturers are excited about phase-change memory” simply because it will allow them to ditch the flash and DRAM chips and “replace them with one phase-change memory chip.”

IMHO ain't gonna happen to the PC platform because of the discrepency in the rate of performance increase between Phase Change/NAND and DRAM-CPU.

It's only viable on platform that doesn't require heavy throughput like mobile devices. Phase Change aren't intended for the PC.

Forget about OC'ing. It's like trying to OC your HDD. Even if it's twice the throughput of HDD, it is still like using your HDD (Virtual Memory) as the main memory - painful. The low-latency-benefit argument is negated when considering the actual throughput.

NAND MLC already has a 2-bit cell. Each cell can store 4 values = (0,0) (0,1) (1,0) and (1,1)

Toshiba has already implemented a very impressive 3D Multi Stacking of NAND array since July-August 2007... expanding the capacity per chip multiple times.

There is something going on... maybe the news cycle is an overture to higher management?

"Please don't can our project" since INTEL-MICRON announced 5 fold increase in NAND throughput.

:)
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