IBM’s Next-Gen Memory Is 100 Times Faster Than Flash
By Kevin Lee
Phase Change Memory (PCM) technology–one of the new forms of faster, smaller, and denser memory chips destined to replace flash–has been on the table for a while now. Now IBM has come up with a breakthrough making PCM data transfer “instantaneous” and 100 times faster than flash memory.
IBM scientists in Zurich came to these new breakthroughs for their PCM chips while solving two major problems with the architecture. PCMs work by using a specialized alloy that can change its physical state, between a low-resistance crystalline to a high-resistance amorphous phase, by applying voltage.
When the resistance of the chip goes up the chip can store multiple bits of data over the one bit that flash can handle. Combine this with a write latency of 10 microseconds and PCM performs 100 times better than flash.
However, changing parts of the chip into the amorphous phase creates a problem of continual resistance increases called resistance drift, which eventually leads to read errors. To combat the problem, IBM developed an advanced modulation-coding technique, or software that can pick out and correct for drift-based errors.
The technology probably won’t be in computers and smartphone for a while but the fast next-generation data-storage technology could be ready for use with servers in 2016.