3D XPoint memory chips '1,000 times faster than NAND'

Intel and Micron say new 3D chip technology is biggest breakthrough in memory technology in nearly 30 years

Intel and Micron have created a non-volatile memory that they say is 1,000 times faster than the NAND flash technology currently used in many mobile devices.

The two companies unveiled the 3D XPoint technology during a global webcast on 28 July, hailing it as the biggest breakthrough in memory since the introduction of NAND flash in 1989.

During the broadcast, Intel senior vice president Rob Crooke and Micron CEO Mark Durcan declared 3D XPoint to be 1,000 times faster and 1,000 times more durable than NAND.

“What’s really exciting about the memory we’re introducing today is that it’s high performance, can be really dense, and has non-volatile, data retention and endurance characteristics that really allow us to do things we never have before,” said Durcan.

The technology’s transistorless, cross-point architecture creates a 3D chequerboard design, with the memory cells located at the intersection of word and bit lines.

“We have a unique switch and memory cell design that allows us to eliminate the transistor from this and scale to much finer dimensions and enable that cross-point architecture,” said Crooke.

The technology allows each cell to be addressed individually, so data can be read in small sizes, which paves the way for faster read/write processes.

Durcan said the design shortens the distance between memory and processor, allowing data to be stored and analysed far more quickly, which makes it a good fit for use in gaming, pattern recognition and genomics.

Megatrends

He said 3D XPoint complemented “the various megatrends we see in the world today, whether it’s mobility and all the things we like to do on the go with our smartphones, or the connectivity we want to have, or whether it’s the cloud and big data and the bringing together of large amounts of data to solve problems we previously couldn’t solve.

“The phenomenal amounts of data being created in the world are only really useful if we can get the data close to the processor and do something with it, either add it or subtract it or compare it to each other, or use it to create really useful knowledge. That’s what this new technology is all about.”

The first memory and storage products to incorporate 3D XPoint are expected to make their debut in 2016, the companies confirmed.

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