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Intel / Micron Live Reporting - 3D XPoint Memory

Intel Corporation and Micron Technology, Inc. today unveiled 3D XPoint™ technology, a non-volatile memory that has the potential to revolutionize any device, application or service that benefits from fast access to large sets of data. Now in production, 3D XPoint technology is a major breakthrough in memory process technology.

Intel and Micron unveil 3D Xpoint™ technology and create the first new memory category in more than 25 years.

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HardOCP's Thoughts:

Intel and Micron’s long history of collaboration has led to a self-proclaimed breakthrough in memory technology, fundamentally different than existing technologies like NAND or DRAM. The new 3D XPoint (pronounced "cross-point") technology promises speed and endurance up to 1000X faster than NAND, and 10x the density.

Marc Durcan, CEO of Micron, and Rob Crooke, the head of Intel’s Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group were on hand at a press conference in San Francisco’s Imaginarium Museum. 3D XPoint uses a cross-point to address memory cells individually, rather than in blocks. Writes get smaller, latency goes down across the board, and power consumption improves as the package is able to transition in and out of power states more quickly and efficiently.

The physics that have constrained scalability and data retention are improved because data is no longer stored as an electron charge state. While Intel and Micron were not prepared to discuss materials or the specifics of 3D XPoint’s underlying action, Durcan described it as looking at the state of the entire memory cell.

Crooke and Durcan noted repeatedly that the problems addressed by 3D XPoint were widely considered impossible to solve by engineering talent in the industry. Major hurdles in materials science and architecture were overcome to bring 3D XPoint to fruition. Intel and Micron will be developing and releasing products based on the technology individually, as they have done with prior technologies.

While Intel and Micron were introducing the 3D XPoint technology and not discussing specific end products or implementation, SSDs and non-volatile storage are clearly a main application. Durcan and Crooke highlighted applications in big data, in-memory databases, and medical research that would be enhanced by the blurring of the line between RAM and non-volatile storage.

Intel and Micron have been aggressively driving development of NVMe, with questionable benefits to end users thus far. Crooke stated that NVMe is "incredibly important" to 3D XPoint- looking at NVMe’s maximum of 65,536 queues holding 65,536 commands each, it’s clear that seizing the opportunity to set an optimized standard for accessing storage devices has the potential to change systems architecture in substantial ways. Both Crooke and Durcan spoke about the importance of bringing data closer to the processor, which is a core feature of the NVMe stack compared to prior architectures.

Crooke and Durcan showed a sample wafer produced at the joint Intel/Micron facility in Lehigh, Utah- critically, this is not just bleating about a product that can’t be built. The first products built with 3D XPoint should arrive in 2016, and will be built on a 2-layer, 20nm process in a 128Gbit package. Both companies are hopeful for scalability in 3 dimensions (more layers, as well as larger package footprints).

Enthusiasts should be hopeful as well- not just for cheaper, faster, more efficient storage with higher capacities, but for the possibilities afforded by the eventual convergence of RAM and persistent storage. At the least, we’re one giant leap closer to magnetic storage finally being put out to pasture. Intel and Micron also noted that the previously-announced 3D NAND roadmap will be unaffected by today’s launch.

From Intel:

SANTA CLARA, Calif., and BOISE, Idaho, July 28, 2015 – Intel Corporation and Micron Technology, Inc. today unveiled 3D XPoint™ technology, a non-volatile memory that has the potential to revolutionize any device, application or service that benefits from fast access to large sets of data. Now in production, 3D XPoint technology is a major breakthrough in memory process technology and the first new memory category since the introduction of NAND flash in 1989.

The explosion of connected devices and digital services is generating massive amounts of new data. To make this data useful, it must be stored and analyzed very quickly, creating challenges for service providers and system builders who must balance cost, power and performance trade-offs when they design memory and storage solutions. 3D XPoint technology combines the performance, density, power, non-volatility and cost advantages of all available memory technologies on the market today. The technology is up to 1,000 times faster and has up to 1,000 times greater endurance3 than NAND, and is 10 times denser than conventional memory.

"For decades, the industry has searched for ways to reduce the lag time between the processor and data to allow much faster analysis," said Rob Crooke, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group. "This new class of non-volatile memory achieves this goal and brings game-changing performance to memory and storage solutions."

"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 the digital world quickly grows – from 4.4 zettabytes of digital data created in 2013 to an expected 44 zettabytes by 20204 – 3D XPoint technology can turn this immense amount of data into valuable information in nanoseconds. For example, retailers may use 3D XPoint technology to more quickly identify fraud detection patterns in financial transactions; healthcare researchers could process and analyze larger data sets in real time, accelerating complex tasks such as genetic analysis and disease tracking.

The performance benefits of 3D XPoint technology could also enhance the PC experience, allowing consumers to enjoy faster interactive social media and collaboration as well as more immersive gaming experiences. The non-volatile nature of the technology also makes it a great choice for a variety of low-latency storage applications since data is not erased when the device is powered off.

New Recipe, Architecture for Breakthrough Memory Technology

Following more than a decade of research and development, 3D XPoint technology was built from the ground up to address the need for non-volatile, high-performance, high-endurance and high-capacity storage and memory at an affordable cost. It ushers in a new class of non-volatile memory that significantly reduces latencies, allowing much more data to be stored close to the processor and accessed at speeds previously impossible for non-volatile storage.

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.

3D XPoint technology will sample later this year with select customers, and Intel and Micron are developing individual products based on the technology. (Editor's Note: It was mentioned that we will see this technology in the market place in 2016.)

Fun Facts: How Fast and Robust is 3D XPoint™ Technology?

July 28, 2015 — Technology, and memory technology in particular, can be overwhelming with so many

speeds and specifications to keep track of. 3D XPoint technology presents many potential advantages

for certain high-performance applications. The examples below help visualize these advantages in a

more abstract way, using examples from daily life.

3D XPoint Technology Performance

 3D XPoint technology is up to 1,000xi faster than NAND.

o The average daily commute of Americans would reduce from 25 minutes in traffic to 1.5 seconds.ii

o Traveling by plane from San Francisco to Beijing could happen in about 43 seconds, instead of the 12 hours it takes now.

o The Great Wall of China could have been built in 73 days instead of 200 years.

 HDD latency is measured in milliseconds, NAND latency is measured in microseconds, and 3D XPoint technology latency is measured in nanoseconds (one-billionth of a second).

 In the time it takes an HDD to sprint the length of a basketball court, NAND could finish a marathon, and 3D XPoint technology could nearly circle the globe.

 If computer storage were modes of travel:

o HDDs could take you from New York to Los Angeles by car in 4 days (2,500 miles).

o SSDs could get you to the moon in the same amount time (240,000 miles).

o 3D XPoint technology could get you to Mars and back in the same time (280 million miles).

3D XPoint Technology Endurance

 3D XPoint technology has up to 1,000x the endurance of NAND.

o If 3D XPoint technology were your car’s engine oil, you would need an oil change a lot less often: once every 3,000,000 miles – the equivalent of driving around the world at the equator 120 times, or close to once around the sun.

o If your car got 1000x the gas mileage, the average driver would fill up once every 25 years.

 A consumer-grade SSD can write 40 gigabytes per dayiv—enough to write 8.6 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannicav or 10,000 MP3 filesvi to the drive, every day for five years.

o An SSD with up to 1,000x increase in endurance could write the entire printed collection

of the U.S. Library of Congress (20TBvii) twice every day. After five years, that’s the

equivalent of 1.46 billion standard four-drawer file cabinets full of text or 73 petabytes.

Intel's page on 3D XPoint is now live.


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