The biggest computer hardware revolution in a decade just happened

Intel and Micron showcase new 3D XPoint

Intel and Micron introduced a new type of memory called 3D XPoint, read as 3D Crosspoint. The technology allows memory to move closer to the processor, which the companies claim will allow computers access to large amounts of data even faster than existing 3D NAND.

This leads to faster read and write times. The speed boost is about 1,000 times that of NAND, which is already 1,000 times faster than traditional hard disks. It also has 1,000 times the endurance of current NAND storage and 10 times the density of solid state drives.

3D XPoint

3D XPoint is the first memory architecture breakthrough in 25 years since the arrival of NAND, said Rob Crooke, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Intel's Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group, on Tuesday in a small auditorium in San Francisco, California. 3D XPoint can be used for both memory and non-volatile storage.

Intel and Micron

For users, the benefits of 3D XPoint include gaming with faster render times, high fidelity pattern recognition for data analysis and genomics research.

More storage

The need for data storage is only increasing. Intel forecasts that in the next five years, the world will generate 44 zettabytes of data, with each zettabyte consisting of one billion terabytes.

3D XPoint

Crooke says that the architecture brings memory closer to the processor so that users can process data in a useful format. There are 100 billion cells stacked on each chip using a unique switch. The design doesn't require transistors to arrive at a crosspoint format. The first version contains 128 billion Gb on each die spread across two memory layers.


As a result, data can be written to the cells individually rather than in block arrays currently. Memory is written at the bit level.

The chips are in production at a joint facility with Intel, according to Adams. "This one is real. It's in our [fabrication facilities]. And we plan to ship it to our customer."

3D XPoint

The partners described the 3D XPoint as a new category "in the place it fills in the memory hierarchy."

When asked to compare 3D XPoint to existing solutions like 3D NAND and DRAM, Mark Adams, President of Micron, said that 3D XPoint should be considered as a whole new class of memory, describing it as "wicked fast storage."

Even though 3D XPoint can be used for both storage and memory, "you shouldn't think of this as NAND or DRAM," Adams cautioned. "We think it will be used as both for different applications and different users."

Crooke said that 3D XPoint delivers enhanced cycle-ability and better performance. "It's dense, fast and non-volatile."

3D XPoint is jointly developed by Intel and Micron, but each company will deliver its own product to market.

The companies would not disclose specifics about the partnership, the materials used to create 3D XPoint or the financial terms. Intel said that the cost for 3D XPoint would be between DRAM and NAND.

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