Whole New World of Storage Coming?
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.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.
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.