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This new 3D XPoint memory could last forever

Lucas Mearian | July 31, 2015
Intel and Micron this week unveiled a new type of memory they plan to mass produce that is purportedly 1,000 times faster than NAND flash and has 1,000 times the endurance.

Intel and Micron are claiming that their 3D XPoint memory could usher in entirely new system architectures by replacing both DRAM and NAND flash.

For example, DRAM's latency falls into the nanosecond range, while NAND flash's falls in the microsecond range, which is still a thousand times faster than a hard drive's I/O speeds. While not offering specifics, Micron and Intel said 3D XPoint approaches the speed of DRAM.

The new material being used in 3D XPoint is critical. NAND memory has been approaching a lithography wall, meaning its transistors can't get much smaller. Currently, the smallest lithography process is between 10nm and 20nm in size. So NAND flash companies such as Intel, Micron, Samsung, SanDisk and Toshiba have been building 3D NAND, which stacks as many as 48 microscopic layers atop one another to increase memory density and capacity.

3D XPoint memory arrays are made up of perpendicular conductors that connect 128 billion densely packed memory cells. Each memory cell stores a single bit of data. The compact structure results in both the high performance and high density of the new memory.

Initially, XPoint memory will store 128Gbits per die across two stacked memory layers. "Future generations of this technology can increase the number of memory layers and/or use traditional lithographic pitch scaling to increase die capacity," Micron said in its marketing material.

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


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