The Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium, a group of memory industry giants led by Micron and Samsung, has announced a new member: software behemoth Microsoft.

The Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC) technology espoused by the group is a planned implementation of through-silicon via (TSV) technology - vertical conduits through a chip's silicon infrastructure which allows components to be placed in a three-dimensional mesh rather than in a traditional planar manner - which promises to dramatically improve the performance of future memory modules.

Prototypes shown off by Micron earlier this year have already proved more than capable of taking over from traditional DRAM components, showing peak throughput of 128GB/s compared to the 12.8GB/s from commercial-grade DDR3 modules created on a planar process.

It's not all about performance, however: the process also promises dramatic power savings for mobile gadgets, with Micron's prototype modules showing a 70 per cent reduction in power draw during data transfer in a module one-tenth the size of current-generation technologies.

The technology is impressive enough to have won a stack of awards, including the Linley Group's Best New Technology Award in its 2011 round-up. Thus far, however, it is notable in its absence from the commercial markets. While there is no timescale available on when the product may launch, the fact that Microsoft is showing an interest suggests it's not too far away from becoming a commercial reality.

'HMC technology represents a major step forward in the direction of increasing memory bandwidth and performance, while decreasing the energy and latency needed for moving data between the memory arrays and the processor cores,' claimed Microsoft's general manager of strategic software/silicon architectures KD Hallman in an announcement to press. 'Harvesting this solution for various future systems could lead to better or novel digital experiences.'

The Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium has indicated that, in partnership with companies including Altera, IBM, Open-Silicon, Xilinx and Microsoft, the draft interface specification for HMC memory will be ready in the very near future with a final specification due by the end of the year.

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