A new kind of memory technology is going into production, which is up to 1,000 times faster than the Nand flash storage used in memory cards and computers’ solid state drives (SSDs). The innovation is called 3D XPoint, and is the invention of Intel and Micron. The two US companies predict a wide range of benefits, from speeding up scientific research to making more elaborate video games.
One expert described it as a “huge step forward”. “There are other companies who have talked about new types of memory technology, but this is about being able to manufacture the stuff – that’s why they are making such a big deal out of it,” says Bob O’Donnell, from the consultancy Technalysis.
If all goes to plan, the first products to feature 3D XPoint (pronounced cross-point) will go on sale next year. Its price has yet to be announced. Intel is marketing it as the first new class of “mainstream memory” since 1989. 3D XPoint retains data when the power is switched off – one of its key advantages over RAM (random access memory), which remains faster. Rather than pitch it as a replacement for either flash storage or RAM, the company suggests it will be used alongside them to hold certain data “closer” to a processor so that it can be accessed more quickly than before.