Intel & Micron 3D XPoint memory -- is it just CBRAM hyped up?

We're not sure, but we think we know what it's not

Intel Micron 3D XPoint

Intel and Micron announce 3D XPoint. Pronounced "crosspoint," it's a new form of solid-state, non-volatile memory, we're told. We're also told it's faster and more durable than NAND flash.

But we're not told much else, except that it's not ReRAM, nor memristor technology (even though it sounds remarkably similar).

So... A new shiny memory design that'll solve all our problems? Seems to me like we've been here before.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers wax skeptical. Not to mention: Brian Kernighan...

curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.
[Updated 8:21 am PDT with more speculation]


Don Clark is on the mark:

Intel Corp. and Micron Technology Inc. say they developed a new breed of memory chips that could bring dramatic performance gains. ... Their technology—dubbed 3D Xpoint—doesn’t quite match the speed of DRAM. But...will retain data even after they are powered off

But the importance—and originality—of the technology may be hotly debated. Plenty of other companies have claimed significant advances in memory chips in recent years. ... Crossbar Inc. said Intel and Micron seem to be emulating elements of its resistive RAM technology. ... Others, like Everspin Technologies Inc., believe they have a head start.

Intel and Micron aren’t revealing some technology details...including key materials they are using. ... One potential hurdle is the fact that [they] plan to keep sole control over the technology. ... Customers tend to prefer technology that comes from multiple suppliers, reducing the risk.  MORE


Whatever happened to Stacey Higginbotham? Oh! There she is, saying, "This is a big deal":

The decade-long partnership between Intel and Micron to build better...Flash memory used in solid-state drives has yielded an entirely new form of computer memory.

New types of computer memory pop up every few years...but most are too expensive or fragile to find mainstream use cases. What Intel and Micron are hoping...is that it can achieve mass popularity. ... It is 1,000 times faster and can last through 1,000 times more data writes. ... It’s going to be more power-intensive than NAND Flash, but the performance boost may make it worthwhile.  MORE


Chris Mellor and sub-ed do their usual SHOUTY HED schtick: [You're FIRED -Ed.]

This is, we're told, a radical resistive-RAM technology that is bit-addressable. ... That means software can access it far more easily and quickly than block-based flash. ... It will be used as a drop-in replacement for solid-state drives and NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) PCIe cards.

There are no transistors involved and it is not electron-based storage. The cell material has its resistance changed [which] provides the binary value of a cell. ... Memory cells are accessed and written or read by varying the amount of voltage sent to a selector. ... An Intel spokesperson categorically denied that it was a phase-change memory process...a memristor technology [or] spin-transfer torque.

Whatever it is, Intel and Micron have been developing it for about ten years. ... They obviously feel they have a head-start on any other post-NAND technology...but we are facing a duopoly in the making here. ... The two have no plans to license the technology.  MORE


So what else do we know? Gil Russell has his eye on it:

The new devices are debuting as 128Gb, 2 Layer, Byte Addressable devices that use “bulk material property change” process. ... Perpendicular conductors connect 128 billion densely packed memory cells. ... Future generations of this technology can increase the number of memory layers. ... DRAM and 3D Xpoint memory use the same addressing model, greatly simplifying the CPU interface to data and enables...an In-Memory Database system.

Over 100 engineers have been involved in these well camouflaged developments...the companies have spent in the billions of dollars on this program. ... There is no mention made of TSV stacking but from all indications this technology will enter the market as stacked devices.

Connecting the memory elements with their bit-lines remains unclear – whether it’s a diode switching element or an Ovonic Switch remains to be revealed.  MORE


But -- Public Enemy be darned -- Chris Smith does believe the hype:

Intel’s breakthrough new invention will fix all your memory issues and obliterate SSDs.

According to...Intel, in the time it takes a hard drive to sprint the length of a basketball court, NAND memory would run a marathon, and 3D XPoint would circle the globe.  MORE


Yeah, OK, but when? Here's Chris Ciaccia:

The two companies said samples of the technology would come later this year, with products...to follow.  MORE


Update: Chris Mellor does some more thinking:

It would be astonishing if the technology isn't ringed with patents. [It's] likely that one or the other has licensed or otherwise acquired existing technology.

A Micron pitch at the 2011 Flash Memory Summit [by] Greg Atwood, a senior fellow at Micron:..Cross-point can scale by adding levels. Cross-Point uses Resistive RAM (RRAM) memory cells [or] CBRAM...Conductive Bridging RAM, which is made from a thin solid state electrolyte layer sandwiched between an oxidizable anode and an inert cathode. ... Micron has a license for this technology from Arizona State University. [The] cells are read by applying a voltage across the cell and measuring the resistance.

Atwood's deck included a slide that was astonishingly prescient. ... The 3D structure is virtually identical to the one revealed by Intel and Micron. ... Our best guess is that 3D XPoint memory uses 27nm CBRAM for the memory cell and a Schottky diode for the selector.  MORE


And Finally...
Brian Kernighan: 30 years at Bell Labs


You have been reading IT Blogwatch by , who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don't have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or itbw@richi.uk. Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

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