Intel and Micron Unveil New Memory Class That's 1,000 Times Faster Than Current Technology

Intel and Micron today announced 3D Xpoint, a new class of memory that the companies are calling a "major breakthrough in memory process technology." 3D Xpoint (pronounced cross point) is said to be up to 1,000 times faster and more durable than the NAND Flash storage that's currently used in mobile devices and solid state drives. It's the first new memory chip to come to the market in 25 years.

Intel and Micron say that 3D Xpoint was built to create a non-volatile, high-performance high-capacity storage and memory solution that was also affordable. In addition to being faster than NAND Flash, it's also 10 times denser than the DRAM chips used in computers, which means much more data can be stored closer to the processor and accessed quickly.

A smartphone equipped with 3D Xpoint technology would potentially see much faster performance than a smartphone using existing technology. 3D Xpoint is also versatile -- fast enough to replace DRAM and stable enough to be used for long term storage. Initial capacity is 128 Gigabits (16GB) per die across two memory layers, but future generations of the 3D Xpoint will be able to increase the number of memory layers to improve system capacities.

intel3dxpoint

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.

Intel and Micron provide several use cases for 3D Xpoint technology, suggesting it will let retailers quickly detect fraud patterns in financial transactions and allow healthcare researchers to process and analyze larger data sets in real time. For consumers, 3D Xpoint will allow "faster interactive social media" and more immersive gaming experiences.

"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 a nascent technology, 3D Xpoint is designed to complement existing NAND Flash and DRAM options because it will likely be too expensive to serve as a standalone option at launch, but in the future, it has the potential to introduce dramatic performance improvements in mobile and desktop products.

According to Intel and Micron, 3D Xpoint samples will be available later this year to select customers, but mainstream use may be a ways off. It is not clear if Apple will adopt 3D Xpoint when it first becomes available, but the company does often aim to implement cutting edge technology in its devices for maximum speed and performance.

Tags: Intel, Micron

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Top Rated Comments

MagnusVonMagnum Avatar
116 months ago
This could be the next "BIG THING" if what I'm reading is correct. The key word there is NON-VOLATILE. Regular system type ram has never been non-volatile and while it's been faster than either flash storage or SSD drives, you could never swap one for the other without dire consequences. In other words, SSD storage, fast as it is can't compare to regular memory speeds and using regular memory for storage would mean you'd have to keep it refreshed (power to it) making it largely useless for storage as it would be erased the moment it lost battery power and it would be a relative power hog. Here, however, you have the potential to replace FLASH, SSD and RAM all with this new type of memory. Imagine a computer that comes with 5TB of this stuff that is both RAM and STORAGE with no differentiation between the two and now speed drops transferring things. Games would never "load" in the traditional sense again as "loading" is moving data from storage to the main system memory so the CPU can manipulate it. Here, there wouldn't have to be a difference! Even external storage of this type would be as fast as the data bus lines could possibly move it (with current technology), making all current SSDs obsolete, etc. The only issue, of course, is PRICE. I'd imagine, however, that this stuff is going to be so popular that it will change the face of the entire computing industry within a few years time, unless it has a major manufacturing issue. The article mentioned it being designed to be affordable yet throws "too expensive at first" back in your face in the same article so I imagine that will be a limiting factor at first. But long term, storage may change entirely.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Dwalls90 Avatar
116 months ago
According to Intel and Micron, 3D Xpoint samples will be available later this year to select customers, but mainstream use may be a ways off. It is not clear if Apple will adopt 3D Xpoint when it first becomes available, but the company does often aim to implement cutting edge technology in its devices for maximum speed and performance.
Just in time for iPhone 12S.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
0098386 Avatar
116 months ago
And... Cloud computing enthusiasts: You're dead on arrival.
There are cloud computing enthusiasts?
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Moonjumper Avatar
116 months ago
Hopefully the cost isn't also 1000x
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
penajmz Avatar
116 months ago
Wow, up to 1,000 times faster. That's insane.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
lowercaseperson Avatar
116 months ago
No doubt it'll be in the iPhone 7....so long as they will sell a 16 GB component. ;)
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)