Continuing our thread of articles (The SSD Evolution) looking at memory storage, we thought we’d turn our attention to Intel’s breakthrough technology, 3D XPoint.
It’s extremely exciting, as for the first time, someone is attempting to combine the worlds of system memory and storage memory. Intel claim that achieving this has been akin to discovering the Holy Grail and as a result they look set to create the first new memory category in 25 years.
So what’s it all about?
For system designers, the purpose of a computer is to work with data, so getting that data as close to the processor as possible is critical to achieve better performance. Unfortunately, NAND flash and even DRAM memory lag significantly behind today’s fastest processors, creating wait time at the processor to perform computational tasks asked of it. Essentially, both system memory and storage memory have held back the processor… until now.
Basically, Intel has combined both system memory and storage memory into a single component. What this means is memory that is big enough and cheap enough to use as storage, but fast enough to use as memory. Furthermore, the memory is non-volatile meaning it can do its job even without power.
It would appear this is a pretty major breakthrough, especially when we delve deeper into what Intel claim about this product:
- 1000 x faster than today’s NAND SSD
- 10 x denser than today’s DRAM
- 1000 x the endurance of NAND SSD
Although similar to flash memory in structure, 3D XPoint uses a Crosspoint Structure which takes the premise of stackable memory one step further. The shattering performance stats will see latency slashed to nanoseconds, something not yet seen on the conventional memory market.
Whilst we don’t expect to see 3D XPoint memory landing in our machines any time soon, Intel has revealed its plans to release high performance solid state drives based on 3D XPoint memory dubbed ‘Optane’ later this year. What’s also surprising is their promise of affordability, something we don’t usually see when new memory technology hits the market. This will come as good news to those who demand the highest performance from their servers, PCs or data centre. We can’t wait to see the potential of this new technology first-hand and the application it will have in the development of our systems in the future.
Like always we will be keeping you updated with how this progresses and continue to share our observations. If you’d like any help understanding 3D XPoint and its future potential please get in touch.