In a direct response to Intel and Micron’s July 28 announcement of 3D XPoint non-volatile memory, Hewlett-Packard and SanDisk announced a long-term agreement to jointly develop their own storage-class memory that could replace DRAM and would be 1,000 times faster than NAND flash.
Funny, those are the exact same words used by Intel and Micron a little more than two months ago to describe their new processor. 3D XPoint (pronounced 3D Crosspoint) is the first completely new memory form factor since Toshiba brought NAND flash to the market way back in 1989. Intel and Micron claimed it is 1,000 times faster than NAND flash, and if that guess is only 10 percent accurate for both it and HP-SanDisk’s new product, that’s still pretty fast.
The HP-SanDisk partnership announced Oct. 8 will center on HP’s Memristor intellectual property and patents to go with SanDisk’s non-volatile ReRAM memory technology and its manufacturing and design expertise.
Resistive random-access memory (ReRAM or RRAM) is based on the memory resistor concept, which is where the term “memristor” emanates. The name “memristor” was created by UC Berkeley scientist Leon Chua in the early 1970s.
All of this IP will be used to create new enterprise-wide solutions for the new sector called memory-driven computing. The two companies also will partner in enhancing data center solutions with SanDisk’s solid-state drives.
Besides the performance gains, the HP-SanDisk processor also is expected to offer significant cost, power, density and persistence improvements over DRAM technologies, which have always run hot and been power-hungry.
Storage-class memory and its characteristics are intended to allow systems to employ tens of terabytes of SCM per server node for applications such as in-memory databases, real-time data analytics, transactional and high-performance computing. Each of these use cases is increasing in frequency in 2015.
SCM is a versatile product base. HP and SanDisk said the portfolio eventually will be distributed as enterprise SAS, SATA and PCIe-attached products that can be used to replace DRAM. They also will supplement NAND flash as a higher-tier memory in some use cases.
The problem HP and SanDisk have is that they are months, if not years, behind Intel and Micron in the development of these new SCM chips. 3D XPoint is slated to ship in sample quantities late this year and become available for installation in devices in 2016; HP and SanDisk are just getting started.
However, if these all work as well as they are expected to work, there will be plenty of business for both partnerships in the years to come. Even if they are expensive, and they will be, if these chips work as well as advertised, IT managers of big data-type enterprise systems with large workloads will be lining up to use them.