The decade-long partnership between Intel and Micron to build better NAND (or Flash) memory used in solid-state drives has yielded an entirely new form of computer memory. This is a big deal. It?s as if a 10-year effort by Ford and GM to build a better car also produced a Segway.
New types of computer memory pop up every few years as firms such as HP, IBM, Motorola/Freescale and even startups try to create alternatives that are cheaper, faster, more dense or otherwise offer a different series of trade-offs than the dominant forms of memory used today. Some will find specialty applications in embedded systems, but most are too expensive or fragile to find mainstream use cases.
What Intel and Micron are hoping with this product is that is can achieve mass popularity.
The two companies are calling their new memory 3D XPoint memory (pronounce 3D crosspoint memory) because its structure creates an lattice-like stacked layer of wires that looks like Xes when viewed from above. It combines properties of NAND Flash memory that is currently used inside solid state drives (SSDs) inside computers and phones, but it is 1,000 times faster and can last through 1,000 times more data writes.
That speed and endurance isn?t as important in your personal computer, but as SSDs are gaining use inside data centers because of their speed, both factors open up new use cases for the 3D Xpoint memory. One might be use for in-memory databases such as those made by Oracle and SAP, where the memory is located close to the compute. Usually in-memory databases require a lot of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) which is co-located with the processor, but DRAM is in limited supply and it loses everything when the power is turned off.
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