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Everspin Launches Non-Volatile MRAM That's 500 Times Faster Than NAND 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the 500-times?-that's-almost-600-times! dept.
MrSeb writes "Alternative memory standards have been kicking around for decades as researchers have struggled to find the hypothetical holy grail — a non-volatile, low-latency, low-cost product that could scale from hard drives to conventional RAM. NAND flash has become the high-speed, non-volatile darling of the storage industry, but if you follow the evolution of the standard, you'll know that NAND is far from perfect. The total number of read/write cycles and data duration if the drive isn't kept powered are both significant problems as process shrinks continue scaling downward. Thus far, this holy grail remains elusive, but a practical MRAM (Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory) solution took a step towards fruition this week. Everspin has announced that it's shipping the first 64Mb ST-MRAM in a DDR3-compatible module. These modules transfer data at DDR3-1600 clock rates, but access latencies are much lower than flash RAM, promising an overall 500x performance increase over conventional NAND."
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Everspin Launches Non-Volatile MRAM That's 500 Times Faster Than NAND

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  • Re:So NOT Vaporware? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @06:15PM (#41985425) Homepage Journal

    With that said, ST-MRAM is still years away from practical consumer applications. Everspin’s new 64Mb “DIMMs” are impressive, but current 8GB consumer DDR3 DIMMs are as cheap as $30. That’s a 1000x density difference.

    Still completely impractical. It may improve with time, but I wouldn't hold my breath. They basically have to improve fast enough to catch up and then surpass Flash memory, which is difficult at best with the enormous lead Flash memory currently has.

  • Re:power (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @06:16PM (#41985435)

    It uses a lot more power while you are using it. Because it runs 500x faster you have to use it for a lot less time though, and it doesn't need power to retain state.

    It uses 5x more power for that 500x performance. Of course, people will think up new ways to use that kind of performance.

  • Cache for SSDs? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @06:55PM (#41985831) Homepage

    It has much higher performance flash and persistence but at a big cost in size, power and money. I think this sounds like good case for using it as write cache for SSDs that you don't need to flush. Imagine for example a log file that's very volatile, a line gets written every few seconds. Or that document or spreadsheet or email you're working on that Office auto-saves all the time or game autosaves for that matter. With this you could commit it to MRAM and it'd be written "for real" even in case of power failure with no supercap to flush to NAND without wasting write cycles on it. They say a 50:1 cost compared to NAND so on a 256 GB SSD a 512 MB cache should add ~10% to the cost.

    If you only need to push the most stale writes to NAND you could download a 50MB installer, install it using 100MB writes then delete the installer and it'd never need to touch the NAND at all - it's marked free again before it's ever written to disk once. Oh yes and you'd also get better burst IOPS as a bonus. If it really can't be worn out like RAM that is going to be huge, even if it just comes on top of the technology we already have and doesn't replace anything. After all, most of my SSD is the same from day to day - the "active set" that gets written to is much smaller.

  • Re:So NOT Vaporware? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ChrisMaple (607946) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:01PM (#41985891)
    We're not too far away from the ultimate limit of smallness on all semiconductor technologies: single atom scale. Flash will stop improving then. More importantly, flash has two important defects: slow write time and an inherent wearout mechanism. So the ultimate (i.e.30 year) question is "can magnetic RAM cells be economically made about the same size as flash?" If the answer is yes, flash becomes obsolete.
  • Re:So NOT Vaporware? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AaronLS (1804210) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:38PM (#41986259)

    Yes, but many existing silicon technologies are running up to lots of hurdles right now at current feature sizes, so the single atom problem isn't close to being a concern. Some of the newer technologies not only allow much smaller feature sizes than the current 20nm, but will also allow stacking of components, rather than having a single layer of components as we do now in chips. Not only that, but some are non-volatile, yet fast enough to replace DRAM, so they would have a greater market being able to provide both ram and storage solutions. Hopefully that greater market combined with increased densities will lend itself to greater production and economy of scale. Who really knows though, there may be limits to how much they can produce, and thus the greater market will instead cause them to be priced at a premium. I'm just gonna wait and see, and be hopeful.

  • Re:So NOT Vaporware? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @11:23PM (#41988179) Homepage

    Some of the newer technologies not only allow much smaller feature sizes than the current 20nm, but will also allow stacking of components

    Sure we can stack them, but can we cool them? Even the Ivy Bridge chips that lowered power consumption a lot compared to Sandy Bridge increased the watt per mm^2 die size due to the die shrink and now it's up to 77/160 = 0,48 W/mm^2. That is a lot of power you have to dissapate to keep a sane operating temperature. Having a flat chip - ignoring the 3D transistors, which are practically flat for this purpose - connected to a huge heat sink is a pretty effective way of doing that. If you stack the chips many of them won't be on the outside. First they have to transfer all the heat through the other layers, then to the heat sink. Supercomputers have worked on it for decades and they haven't really found a working solution.

How many hardware guys does it take to change a light bulb? "Well the diagnostics say it's fine buddy, so it's a software problem."

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