Whole New World of Storage Coming?

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-06-30 Print this article Print

With endurance of that nature, both companies believe that a whole new world of computing and data storage isn't more than about five years away.

A phase-change memory chip-also known as PRAM-is nonvolatile memory that works well for both executing code and storing large amounts of data, giving it a superset of the capabilities of both flash memory and dynamic RAM. This means it can execute code with performance, store larger amounts of memory and also sustain millions of read/write cycles.

Intel debuted its first PCM chips at its developers' conference in San Francisco in September 2006. Both Intel and IBM have been working on this for more than a decade.

The wafer shown to eWEEK that day represented Intel and Italy's ST Microelectronics' first grasp of the new type of nonvolatile memory chip. The two companies later joined forces to create Numonyx. Micron subsequently bought Numonyx in February 2010.

A great deal of development has been completed at IBM and Numonyx in the last five years. Numonyx CEO Ed Doller told eWEEK that the adoption by mainstream IT companies has been slow but that it would take only a couple of big names-Apple and Microsoft would be two of them-for PCM to take off into the market stratosphere.

"PCM is on the verge, and we think it's inevitable that it will replace a lot of what is in devices today," Doller said. "But to start, it would take a company that is good at producing both hardware and software to make best use of it. It's bound to happen."

Doller thinks PCM will need a few more years to attain widespread adoption. Right now, the biggest drawback in PCM is the price, which is about 10 times higher than DRAM at this point. The pricing, however, will come down over time and as fabricating processes improve.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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