Breakthrough! ‘3D Xpoint’ memory – up to 1,000 times faster NAND flash – arrives next year

“A new kind of memory technology is going into production, which is up to 1,000 times faster than the NAND flash storage used in memory cards and computers’ solid state drives (SSDs),” Leo Kelion reports for BBC News. “The innovation is called 3D XPoint, and is the invention of Intel and Micron. The two US companies predict a wide range of benefits, from speeding up scientific research to making more elaborate video games.”

“If all goes to plan, the first products to feature 3D XPoint (pronounced cross-point) will go on sale next year. Its price has yet to be announced,” Kelion reports. “Rather than pitch it as a replacement for either flash storage or RAM (random access memory), 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.”

“3D XPoint does away with the need to use the transistors at the heart of NAND chips,” Kelion reports. “3D XPoint works by changing the properties of the material that makes up its memory cells to either having a high resistance to electricity to represent a one or a low resistance to represent a zero. The advantage is that each memory cell can be addressed individually, radically speeding things up. An added benefit is that it should last hundreds of times longer than NAND before becoming unreliable.”

Video starts at 59:54:

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: Intel’s and Micron’s joint press release:

SANTA CLARA, Calif., and BOISE, Idaho, July 28, 2015 – Intel Corporation and Micron Technology, Inc. today unveiled 3D XPoint™ technology, a non-volatile memory that has the potential to revolutionize any device, application or service that benefits from fast access to large sets of data. Now in production, 3D XPoint technology is a major breakthrough in memory process technology and the first new memory category since the introduction of NAND flash in 1989.

The explosion of connected devices and digital services is generating massive amounts of new data. To make this data useful, it must be stored and analyzed very quickly, creating challenges for service providers and system builders who must balance cost, power and performance trade-offs when they design memory and storage solutions. 3D XPoint technology combines the performance, density, power, non-volatility and cost advantages of all available memory technologies on the market today. The technology is up to 1,000 times faster and has up to 1,000 times greater endurance3 than NAND, and is 10 times denser than conventional memory.

“For decades, the industry has searched for ways to reduce the lag time between the processor and data to allow much faster analysis,” said Rob Crooke, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group. “This new class of non-volatile memory achieves this goal and brings game-changing performance to memory and storage solutions.”

“One of the most significant hurdles in modern computing is the time it takes the processor to reach data on long-term storage,” said Mark Adams, president of Micron. “This new class of non-volatile memory is a revolutionary technology that allows for quick access to enormous data sets and enables entirely new applications.”

As the digital world quickly grows – from 4.4 zettabytes of digital data created in 2013 to an expected 44 zettabytes by 2024 – 3D XPoint technology can turn this immense amount of data into valuable information in nanoseconds. For example, retailers may use 3D XPoint technology to more quickly identify fraud detection patterns in financial transactions; healthcare researchers could process and analyze larger data sets in real time, accelerating complex tasks such as genetic analysis and disease tracking.

The performance benefits of 3D XPoint technology could also enhance the PC experience, allowing consumers to enjoy faster interactive social media and collaboration as well as more immersive gaming experiences. The non-volatile nature of the technology also makes it a great choice for a variety of low-latency storage applications since data is not erased when the device is powered off.

New Recipe, Architecture for Breakthrough Memory Technology
Following more than a decade of research and development, 3D XPoint technology was built from the ground up to address the need for non-volatile, high-performance, high-endurance and high-capacity storage and memory at an affordable cost. It ushers in a new class of non-volatile memory that significantly reduces latencies, allowing much more data to be stored close to the processor and accessed at speeds previously impossible for non-volatile storage.

The innovative, transistor-less cross point architecture creates a three-dimensional checkerboard where memory cells sit at the intersection of word lines and bit lines, allowing the cells to be addressed individually. As a result, data can be written and read in small sizes, leading to faster and more efficient read/write processes.

Sources: Intel Corporation, Micron Technology, Inc.

23 Comments

  1. One word I don’t recall seeing in the press release is “cheap.” I’d expect a tiny amount of Xpoint memory in next year’s computers for lots of cash. This transition will take some time.

    That said, well done! to all involved.

    We need more breakthroughs. On the other side of the wall is a whole new world.

    1. Cheap is always a relative term.

      Sounds like to me that Intel & Micron have optimized a solution that can give 3 orders of magnitude speed increase.

      Intel/Micron are not going to charge 1000 times the cost per TB, though, they may sell them at 5-10 times the NAND price and still offer a cost effective solution for various uses.

      Congratulations are due to Intel/Micron for spending the last decade perfecting the product.

    2. “3D XPoint technology was built from the ground up to address the need for non-volatile, high-performance, high-endurance and high-capacity storage and memory at an affordable cost.”

      Affordable at least but for whom :-I

  2. I been developing a hexagonal data cell such that each cell can receive data from eight different stream points, reverse raid like, and freezing light in crystals fro over seven years now. Work progresses at Toronto at UofT. I do not have enough funding to get further at the moment, yet test speeds on prototype cells; far exceed microns and Intel results by a factor of eight for obvious reasons. Theoretically if I place my cells in a over lapping space, interlaced, essentially creating 3D space – focusing on one cell as a core linking to the other cells yet acting as one. My small team will destroy what these two believe they have as the best next thing. Imagine a tetragonal array of read-write data cell… almost simultaneously in and out puts. Playing off the “superman crystal” findings at the University of Southhampton, and producing man made 5D nano-structures in what I dub as simply as the Hex-D3 memory bettering the 5D to 8. Production, is key to keep costs down. Manufacturing more costly, yet resulting in mind blowing speeds. I can guarantee 10 times Microns/Intels claim mentioned today. You have seen nothing yet.

    1. Time to apply to Intel/Micron to license/buy your work and go to work for them.

      The age old aphroism from the age of the Asian Hordes is “When you can’t beat em, join em.”

      Still holds true in business today. Otherwise we die with notebooks full of ideas.

    2. “Imagine a….”

      “My small team will…”

      If you are really working on what you say, it sounds pretty incredible. But words like “imagine” and “will” precede many failures to market.

      There is a long way to go from envisioning something, or even validating an approach in the lab, and changing the computing market. 1000’s of hopeful technologies have appeared and disappeared without a dent.

      Regardless of you hyperbole, good luck!

      1. Dream on. One can not simply buy 2000 share Bill; the entry number of shares is 10,000 units — if wishing to buy into either Intel or Micron. 10,000 units comes to about 65,000 USD.

    1. 1000 times faster than a SSD……….
      For more info watch the INTC/MU Webcast produced today with the announcement of the technology……..
      Sold a little AAPL to buy this technology via MU shares……..
      Frankly, I believe Apple and others will be all over this in the future.

  3. Major implication is that with all non-volatile system memory is that instead of “standby” or “low power” mode, we could actually shut off computers or phones when they’re not in use, and not have to wait for a reboot when we turn them back on.

    -jcr

  4. If this can be merged with the High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) interconnect methods, then they might really have something. Otherwise the bottleneck will be PCIe. (And, SAS and SATA will be a complete joke for this.)

    This memory is supposedly 1,000x faster than NAND. You can easily build SSDs that saturate even 16 lane PCIe 3.0 (even though most current offerings don’t do that, and most only use 4 lanes or less) and PCIe 4.0 (coming by the end of 2016) will only be double PCIe 3.0 in its data rate. (Comparing a current 4 lane PCIe 3.0 to a theoretical maximum 32 lane PCIe 4.0 is only a factor of 16 increase — nowhere near that factor of 1,000x.)

    To make this 1,000x speed increase even close to relevant we need PCIe 5.0 at 20x PCIe 4.0 (or another equivalent interconnect technology) by 2017. Yet, PCIe 5.0 will likely only be 2x PCIe 4.0, not 20x. And, it will likely show up in 2019 or later, not 2017.

    Will HBM be that new, ubiquitous interconnect? Quite likely for GPUs and the like, but it will take a major redesign for CPUs to use HBM.

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