Despite the radical advances in terms of IT architecture over the last 50 years, memory technology has not evolved significantly. The NAND architecture is the latest technology, but it was created in 1989, the same year as the Web. NAND technology is economical and retentive, but its relative slowness requires a combination with DRAM, another old technology, launched a year after Moore’s Law in 1966. The introduction of a new architecture is not only expected, but occurs at a critical moment in the expansion of the digital world. Indeed, the current storage is about 10,000 times slower than the fastest processor memory. Taking the example of supercomputing, the current memory technology creates bottlenecks, which means that existing technology is not, and will never live up to the challenge of exponential growth ahead of volume data. Indeed, by 2020 the volume of data created should be multiplied by 10 to reach 44 Zo, or 44 billion TB. In association with Micron, Intel has developed a new class of memory to solve this problem. Called 3D XPoint, this technology is based on a cross-point architecture without transistors, like a chessboard in 3 dimensions. The memory cells are located at the intersection of word and bit lines, which allows to assign them individual addresses. The data can therefore be read and written in small units, which induces a much more efficient reading / writing process.
The best of both worlds NAND and DRAM
3D XPoint combines the best features of existing technologies. Retentive and economic, it is 1000 times faster than NAND technology and multiplies by 10 the capacity of the DRAM. To get an idea of its speed, solid-state drive might take you to the moon in four days (384,000 km), while the 3D technology XPoint would you do the round trip to Mars in as many days (225 million km). Endurance is another plus point of the architecture of 3D XPoint. 1000 times more enduring than NAND, the new technology means that businesses and advanced users will no longer have to worry about the read / write cycles. If 3D technology XPoint was a car engine oil, you could do 4.83 million km before having to drain. The first public demonstration of SSD units XPoint 3D technology took place during the 2015 edition of IDF and was conducted by the CEO of Intel, Brian Krzanich. This demonstration helped highlight the performance gains multiplied by 5 or 7 compared to SSD units based on the fastest NAND memories. Mr. Krzanich commented on the performance: “When you offer to developers of products with performance gains multiplied by 5 or 7, you open the way for inventions and innovations outside the norm.”
A technology available starting next year
Intel confirmed that 3D technology will be commercialized by 2016. XPoint SSD units proposed under the Intel Optane product portfolio should be integrated into all systems, low-power Ultrabooks with supercomputing systems. A new line of Intel DIMMs will also be designed for data center platforms.
These technologies have the potential to revolutionize many industries. The Optane storage devices are ideal for storing and processing large volumes of multimedia content, as well as immersive games, grounded virtualization in the cloud, to resident databases in memory and high-performance computing. Intel plans significant breakthroughs in medical applications and analysis of Big Data. This memory technology also allows companies and cities to process and analyze large volumes of data to develop smarter systems.
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