IBM Works On A Cheaper Alternative To DRAM

IBM announced on Monday, May 16, a new version of its phase-change memory (PCM). The 3-bit PCM is denser and costs less per byte, making a cheap DRAM alternative.

According to Fudzilla, PCM is an emerging technology aiming to be less expensive than DRAM and faster than flash. The new memory type would provide consumers and enterprises with cheaper and faster access to data. However, before this happens, there are still some challenges to overcome.

One of those challenges is density, but now IBM just announced achieving a new performance in that area. The new version of IBM's PCM can fit on each cell 3 bits of data. Greater density provides more data storage capacity. The new 3-bit PCM provides 50 percent more data storage capacity than IBM's 2-bit PCM developed in 2011.

Computerworld reports that PCM has already been used in several products, but it is still found on a relatively small scale. So far PCM remained more expensive than DRAM, so it is not used on a large scale yet. According to Jim Handy, analyst at research firm Objective Analysis, this new PCM iteration could transform it into a broader success.

PCM uses an electrical charge to change a glass-like substance to crystalline from an amorphous form. This type of memory keeps storing data when a device is turned off, in the same way as a NAND flash, while DRAM cannot do the same.

One of the advantages of PCM is the fact that this type of memory responds to requests for data more quickly than flash. According to IBM, PCM's response time is less than 1 microsecond, compared with 70 microseconds for flash.

Another advantage is that PCM also lasts longer than flash. While an average flash USB stick lasts for about 3,000 cycles, PCM could last at least 10 million write cycles.

In order to get the most used data to applications faster, 3-bit PCM could be used as storage within arrays, including all-flash arrays. Handy added that the new IBM 3-bit PCM could also take the place of the DRAM in systems, reducing the cost of in-memory databases and other technologies.

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