Dubbed phase-change memory (PCM) the technology could give enterprises and consumers faster access to data at lower cost. IBM says it’s achieved a density rating of three bits on each cell, which is 50 percent more than the company showed off in 2011 with a two-bit form of PCM. The denser the RAM is the more capacity can be squeezed out of the pricey tech.
PCM works by changing a glass-like substance from an amorphous to a crystalline form using an electrical charge. Like NAND flash, it keeps storing data when a device is turned off. PCM responds to data requests faster than flash: In less than one microsecond, compared with 70 microseconds.
It also lasts longer than flash, to at least 10 million write cycles versus about 3,000 cycles for an average flash USB stick.
Three-bit PCM could find its niche as a faster tier of storage within arrays, including all-flash arrays, so the most-used data gets to applications faster. It could also take the place of a lot of the DRAM in systems, cutting the cost of technologies like in-memory databases.
IBM said that a customer who stores their OS on three-bit PCM would have their phone up and running a few seconds.
Three-bit PCM needs the backing of a chip maker. IBM wants it for its Power architecture, but that will make it less popular.
Biggish Blue isn’t predicting when three-bit PCM will be in mass-market systems, partly because the company doesn’t make memory and will have to find a partner. It might take two to three years for large-scale availability, the company said.