IBM has solved two related problems with phase-change memory and now says the fast next-generation data-storage technology will be ready for use in 2016 in servers.
In a paper for the IEEE International Memory Workshop, Big Blue researchers describe how they squeezed two bits of data into each phase-change memory cell rather than just one. Though that's not the first incarnation of this idea, called multilevel storage, the researchers said they've made it practical by sidestepping a problem called "drift" that otherwise causes data errors the longer data is stored.
The engineering advancements help overcome significant barriers in introducing a technology that holds the potential to significantly transform computer designs. Phase-change memory (PCM), could snuggle up alongside conventional dynamic random access memory (DRAM) to improve computer performance in ways that flash memory so far can't. It's not as fast as DRAM, but IBM says it's 100 times faster at reading and writing data than flash memory, its chief competitor today.
IBM's PCM technology isn't yet ready for real-world use, but the improvements in multilevel storage and drift tolerance means the technology should be competitive in 2016 for the server applications IBM has in mind, said Haris Pozidis, one of the IBM Research paper authors.
"Our main application, being in the server business, is enterprise storage and memory applications," Pozidis said. "In the consumer market, the most important attribute is cost per bit. In enterprise applications, the most important attributes are speed, because [PCM will be] sitting close to the main memory where there are lots of transactions per second, and the endurance of device. We must make sure the device can write and read many numbers of times." … Read more