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Forget Flash: Resistive RAM Crams 1TB Onto Tiny Chip 287

Posted by timothy
from the promising-promising dept.
nk497 writes "Flash memory could soon be a thing of the past, according to U.S. startup Crossbar, which claims it's close to bringing resistive RAM (RRAM) to the market. Crossbar is touting impressive specs for the RRAM technology, promising 20 times the write performance at a fraction of the power consumption and size of the current best-in-class NAND flash modules — and squeezing terabytes of storage capacity onto a single chip the size of a postage stamp. The company also claims its technology can retain data for up to 20 years, compared with the standard one to three years with NAND flash."
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Forget Flash: Resistive RAM Crams 1TB Onto Tiny Chip

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  • by alen (225700) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @10:57AM (#44486393)

    why do i need this if there is the cloud to keep my data? why carry 1TB on my iphone when i can just pay at&t more money for more data to stream my music and netflix?

    • by QilessQi (2044624)

      Because you might want to listen to your music -- or watch your favorite movies -- even when you're in locations/situations where you can't easily/cheaply stream your data. Such as on an airplane, or deep inside a building where there's no reception.

      This is not to say that the data wouldn't live in the cloud. Think of your portable device as simply containing a cache, which is loaded on demand. The bigger the cache, the better.

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @11:31AM (#44486753)

      Because technology alternates back and forth on this stuff.
      Early Computers did all the work. You had a computer it did all the work for you and only you.
      Then we got the mainframe One Big computer with terminals so people use the terminals and the data gets saved on the Mainframe(s).
      Then came the PC, we started to move off the mainframe and ran programs directly on our computer again.
      Once broad band became cheap enough and popular services began to move to the cloud as on the average your data was safer there, and easier for the company to manage the software.
      So with cheap and a lot of data we could go back to more of a Personal computing role again. Probably keeping the strong points from the past and making using computing a little more different.

      Say you now have a Netflix app that will in the background download what it expects you to watch. Then if you want to watch it it is available even if it is offline.
      Or your system will host an archive of your data in cases your networks speed is too slow or are offline.

      Will their be trade offs you bet. But this type of stuff cycles around. CPU+Storage+Networking+Price Fluctuate over time. So the popular solution will change base on the systems strong points.

      Desktops for average Joe Web Browser user, is starting to get out of fashion, and going to Phones and Tablets (I am not touting death to any technology here). But to get the optimal conveniences we are trading off Slower CPU, and Storage to get small form factor at a good price. So many apps are popular on the cloud. Because the servers have the Big CPUs and storage and will just send output to the low end Tablets. Now these tablets are getting faster and more storage so people will want to run more apps on them, thus more apps will be created.

    • You might need it if you use your computer as something other than a toy or care about security or performance.

  • Number of re-writes? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @10:58AM (#44486405)

    Do the memory points wear out after a certain number of re-writes?

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @11:58AM (#44487107)

      Do the memory points wear out after a certain number of re-writes?

      Yes, according to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], but new developments have been increasing the material endurance while decreasing the power consumption (less power == less harmful heat).

  • by Danathar (267989) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @11:07AM (#44486477) Journal

    Cool announcement.

    But...

    Given how often we hear researchers exclaiming they've invented the next "Greatest thing (TM)", I'll reserve judgement until I can purchase what comes out of their research.

    I'd bet given the patent landscape at the moment that no matter what they have they will be sued for infringement by somebody. It's the way of things today.

  • Genuinely: what's this about regular old Flash being unable to store data for more than a year or three? Have I seriously misunderstood or is this a real problem I've been extremely lucky to avoid thus far?

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      I believe they mean unpowered and on the shelf. That would allow this new stuff to be used in place of backup tapes.

    • Re:I'm confused (Score:5, Informative)

      by networkBoy (774728) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @11:20AM (#44486637) Homepage Journal

      unpowered the flash cells will leak electrons off their floating gates (powered too if the device doesn't do some sort of maintenance cycle). with as few as 100 electrons making the difference on a cell...

      • Re:I'm confused (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @11:29AM (#44486737) Journal

        But all the flash devices I've used have a retention period of at least 20 years (disclaimer: I'm thinking of flash ROMs and CPLDs and SPI flash for FPGAs, but the way they store bits is the same as a USB flash drive). I've never seen any as short as 1-3 years.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          They are not cheap NAND flash though. That's why they cost so much, relatively speaking. An Atmel Dataflash 1MB chip costs about $1, which is $1000/GB.

      • OK, to clarify, are we talking about the same technology used for, say, SD Cards? And if so, is there a serious risk that an SD card left in a box or on a shelf for an extended (say, half a decade) period of time will actually lose some or all of its contents?

        • Yes, and yes. I have no idea if it half a decade, or two decades, but that's the timeframe.

          HDs also lose their data, but that takes a lot longer.

        • Yes, that is true. That's why I still save my long-term archived stuff on optical media.
    • by AdamHaun (43173)

      Genuinely: what's this about regular old Flash being unable to store data for more than a year or three? Have I seriously misunderstood or is this a real problem I've been extremely lucky to avoid thus far?

      I only know about embedded NOR flash, but in that case the rated lifetime is after the max number of write/erase cycles with storage under worst-case conditions on the worst units to come out of the fab. Note that commodity NAND flash is heavily dependent on ECC, so the spec number might not reflect the true lifetime of the bits themselves. At reasonable temperatures and usage patterns with a more typical unit, the data will likely last much longer.

      But again, I haven't seen anyone's internal NAND reliabilit

  • is it agile???

  • CEO information (Score:4, Informative)

    by GoNINzo (32266) <GoNINzo@yahoo . c om> on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @11:14AM (#44486553) Homepage Journal
    Looks like the CEO has 3 patents, one for portable storage, one for non-volatile memory, and one for a memory controller. http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.htm&r=0&p=1&f=S&l=50&Query=IN%2FMINASSIAN-GEORGE&d=PTXT [uspto.gov] So who knows, could be legit.
  • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @11:30AM (#44486741) Homepage

    I have SD cards and USB thumb drives far older than 1-3 years and can still read the ancient data that was on them just fine.

    Where did this "1-3 years for NAND flash" figure come from? It's a bit concerning.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Some really cheap types of NAND used in SSDs do have that limitation, but the controller just re-writes the data periodically to refresh it. Of course if you leave it on the shelf for 3 years you might be screwed.

      In fact HDDs do it too, or at least used to. My old Seagate drives used to periodically start ticking as the drive did a surface scan and read/rewrite cycle, during which bad blocks would also be remapped. All my newer drives are in a NAS now so I wouldn't notice if they still did it.

    • I think that has to deal with guarantees and mean lifetime. Some HDs have last 20+ years but none of the manufacturers will ever guarantee that. NAND flash will leak over time and 3 years without any power is the max that they can be assured data will be held. Some will last longer but the manufacturers will never guarantee it.
    • by gman003 (1693318)

      That's the standard warranty period on SSDs. SSDs often get much more written to them (dozens of gigabytes per day, in some cases), so they can run through their limited endurance much faster, even though they generally use more-durable MLC instead of TLC. With care, they can last much longer, but if you're using them as swap or something, it can run out after a year or two.

  • Good news everyone! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gravis Zero (934156) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @11:32AM (#44486763)

    a few notes:
    - RRAM (aka ReRAM) is memsistor based RAM
    - super simple design
    - requires less power (lower voltage too) than FLASH and racetrack memory.
    - 10ns switching (faster than DDR some DDR RAM)
    - 1 trillion write operations according to US startup Crossbar [semiaccurate.com]
    - possibly scaled down to 2nm (when they invent the manufacturing process)

    so if this really works out, it may be a replacement for RAM and FLASH memory in lots of stuff. i'm not sure if this includes computers but at the very least, it could be used to retain data on RAM sticks (hopefully directly on them) when you turn off your PC.

    • RAM data retention (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swb (14022) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @11:44AM (#44486929)

      So not only will they sell new computers without a Windows install disc, they won't even install it on a disk drive, it will be preinstalled in RAM and all you have to do is turn it on.

      Although it is kind of an interesting idea to consider a computer where there is no distinction between mass storage and RAM, where RAM is rewritable but permanent.

      You could even leave programs in a running state but just stop executing them on the CPU. You could install new software in an already-running and configured state (how's that for a backup?).

      • Although it is kind of an interesting idea to consider a computer where there is no distinction between mass storage and RAM, where RAM is rewritable but permanent.

        That is an interesting idea. Maybe you could call it Multiple-Capability Storage, or Multics for short.

      • by CCarrot (1562079)

        So not only will they sell new computers without a Windows install disc, they won't even install it on a disk drive, it will be preinstalled in RAM and all you have to do is turn it on.

        Although it is kind of an interesting idea to consider a computer where there is no distinction between mass storage and RAM, where RAM is rewritable but permanent.

        You could even leave programs in a running state but just stop executing them on the CPU. You could install new software in an already-running and configured state (how's that for a backup?).

        Hmmm...makes me wonder what types of new and exciting malware and viruses will be making the rounds...

      • So not only will they sell new computers without a Windows install disc, they won't even install it on a disk drive, it will be preinstalled in RAM and all you have to do is turn it on.

        Someone else has noted that the Commodore 64 and Apple II and other computers of that vintage had this feature. A computer as late as the Mac Classic [wikipedia.org] (released in 1990) also had this feature. You could boot the system software off of a hard drive or a floppy, but without these it would boot from a ROM to System 6.0.3. It wa

        • by swb (14022)

          Well, pre-installed ROMs aren't exactly the same thing. Apple ][s would run a flavor of BASIC from ROM, but software was executed from RAM. It was also immutable, so any variables or data had to be stored in RAM and were subject to loss with power. DOS required booting from media, although I'm sure somebody figured out a way to pack DOS into maybe INTBASIC and burn to an EEPROM that would be the active boot ROM in slot 0.

          I don't recall any of my early Macs (starting with the Mac Plus) bootable to Mac O

      • by Terwin (412356)

        How do you 'Reboot' windows if not even unplugging the machine can re-set your state?

        This will cause every windows Help-Desk script to be re-written, and I can only hope that the new script does not change to 'go out and buy a new machine'.

      • by dublin (31215)

        I'm old enough to have seen this done in moving a running program from one machine to another. The computers involved were old (even then) DEC PDPs (I don't remember whether they were 8s or 11s), and the program was running on a 8KB (IIRC) magnetic core memory card - literally, a thousands of little tiny magnetic toruses strung on what seemed like billions of hairlike laquered wires.

        It went like this:
        1 - Program running on computer one
        2 - Halt computer one (stop program counter), pull out memory card, carr

  • by swschrad (312009) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @11:32AM (#44486769) Homepage Journal

    write-only memory has an infinite density.

  • is a technology that makes me think "Where can I get this ?! Now !??! "
  • by LoRdTAW (99712) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @12:00PM (#44487151)

    "20 times the write performance"

    I wish we could actually use that performance instead of being hamstrung by the limits of SATA 6gb. Even with today's flash memory we have hit the limits of SATA 6gb (around 600MB/sec). Can we please get cheap bootable PCIe x4/x8 cards instead of SATA. And stop making PCIe cards that are nothing more than SATA RAID + SATA SSD's. Design an ASIC that looks like an ATA or SCSI controller and directly talks to the memory and PCIe bus. If a 1 terabyte PCI card which has at least 2GB sec read speed for around $300 came out I would buy it immediately on impulse. I want to jump into a game and not even realize its loading. I want my programs to simply pop up. I want to forget that there is a difference between main memory and storage speeds.

    At that point I won't have to worry about space limits on my SSD and eliminate the need for mechanical storage for non critical stuff like multimedia, backups, archives etc. That is how I do it today, one 256GB SSD for just my games, 1TB for boot/programs/VM's etc. I also use a 2TB eSATA drive for extra stuff when I ran out of room on my 1TB (too many experimental VM's). A high capacity SSD would allow me to stop juggling which games I have installed on my SSD. I mainly use steam so its not that big a deal but sucks when you want to dust off a game and wait for it to download.

    Maybe in the future AMD or intel can provide Hypertransport or QPI connections to SSD's or like in that article a few months back, put the non-volatile memory on the main memory controller along with RAM. Then we can finally shed the need for mechanical disks.

  • Don't they know that resistance is futile?

    Pfft. Hand in your geek cards at the door, please... :p

  • This is the thing that could cause people to ditch Facebook.

    Just imagine an FB-like app on a mobile device that can store all your data, your friend's data and your family's data.

    Who needs a cloud?

  • There's still time for Micron or Samsung or someone else to buy it and kill it to prevent it from crushing their business model of slowly releasing marginally better stuff every month. Definitely still in vaporware territory.

Prototype designs always work. -- Don Vonada

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