Flash successor announced

Flash successor announced

Summary: Flash, despite its vast success, is hardly an ideal storage medium - for one thing it gets slower and more fragile as it shrinks - so many expect resistance RAM - ReRAM - to win long term. Crossbar announces the first ReRAM that could replace flash.


Crossbar, a start up in California, announced today their resistance RAM or ReRAM product. Their nonvolatile memory technology promises several advances:

  • Up to 1 TB of storage on a single chip
  • Simple 3-D stacking for multiple terabytes
  • Very low-power that helps extend battery life
  • 20x faster writes than NAND flash
  • Low-cost manufacturability - CMOS compatible process
  • Half the dice size of current flash

The key is their simple electrical structure. They have a three-layer silicon-based material consisting of a top electrode, switching medium, and a bottom electrode.

Voltage across electrodes creates a filament across the electrodes that stores data. The filament is very small – on the order of 10 nm – so it can adjust to shrinking features sizes. Crossbar claims a 10 year retention at under 125°C and 10,000 write cycles for each cell.

10k may not sound like a large number, but it is 10 times the write performance of current multilevel cell flash. Using well-understood life-extending technologies from the flash world, the effective rate life will be over 10 times that.

Even better: the write speed is 20 times that of flash. That eliminates many of the issues that the bedevil flash controllers today. It also means the controllers should cost significantly less.

Crossbar is backed by Kleiner Perkins - one of the biggest and most successful venture-capital firms - and uses technology developed at the University of Michigan. Because it is CMOS compatible they will go to market first by licensing CMOS fabs for using the memory on system-on-a-chip and embedded device usage.

Embedded devices include smart phones, tablets and other consumer and industrial devices. Can you imagine a tablet with 8 TB of storage?

I can.

The Storage Bits take
There are variety of resistance RAM technologies vying for takeoff. Some promise very fast writes and long endurance but are not easily manufacturable.

Given the huge investments in current fab capacity – a state-of-the-art fab can cost $5 billion – the most important success factor is that it be manufacturable using today's technologies and materials. That's the approach that Crossbar has taken and it bodes well for their ability to come to market quickly at a competitive price.

Once they got off the ground we may be carrying phones with a terabyte of permanent storage. But their rollout strategy is conservative so unless Apple or Samsung buys them and pumps billions into the tech, don't expect to see consumer ReRAM products until 2016.

But its something to look forward to!

Comments welcome, of course. How would a 1TB phone change how your use?

Topics: Storage, Apple, Hardware, Mobility, Samsung

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  • Cloud

    I think it will make smartphones and tablets less dependent on the Cloud. You'll be able to really load up your tablet with movies or other very large files without a need to be switching out those files on a frequent basis. Imagine having your entire video library on your tablet all the time, in HD.

    If I'm right it could impact people's decision to buy cellular enabled tablets versus Wi-Fi only models.
    • I want to be dependant on the cloud.

      I don't want to be dealing with terabytes of crap on my tablet. That is what the cloud is prefect for - streaming media from a variety of sources. One day your tablet dies - oh its all gone. But you backed it all up? How much time was spent thinking about and dealing with moving around and backing up (replaceable) movies and music files. I did that for years, wasting hours and hours, organizing, copying, moving , tagging, setting up nas servers, raid, only to have all that stuff ultimately get lost anyway.
      For those irreplaceable home movies and pictures, back up in the cloud (two different auto-backup sites). I trust those a lot more than myself. Please do not lecture me on trusting the cloud or spying issues.
      • in the long run...

        In the long run I suspect you're right. But today cloud storage has several disadvantages, foremost among them that access to the cloud isn't fast enough or ubiquitous. Ever tried watching Hulu on hotel WiFi? You won't make it through an episode of Family Guy before giving up in frustration. Better to have a few movies ripped to your tablet's internal storage. And if you're on an intercontinental plane flight, forget it. Hope you like the in flight magazine if your movies are in the cloud.
        • Re: Ever tried watching Hulu on hotel WiFi?

          This is what local storage for caching on the device is for. No need to have terabytes of local cache, as you will have to organize that content too, and any processing on the local device takes processing which consumer previous battery power.

          The key is in the balance.
      • Why can't you back up your Phone / Tablet to the cloud?

        I don't see why storing stuff on your portable device VS A PC would be any different beyond the obvious current lack of storage on portable devices. It would be just like a laptop. Install the App, Let it run forrevvver to get the initial back up. After that, incrementals take a few minutes at night while you sleep.
      • Huh?

        Please do not lecture me on trusting the cloud or spying issues.

        Why not, they are very important issues to a lot of people.
        • Huh?

          Because some people like to keep their head in the sand :(
      • Guys, we are coming to new epoch of computing

        30 years ago computing pioneers ware dreaming about artificial intelligence, but instead of it we spent all that time on redeveloping the same UI to different hardware and OS-s. Finally large memory and storage availability can create a drive for new technologies.
        Another very important factor, large volumes of video and especially personnel video traffic will make imposable for government organizations to spy on us. They will be just flooded with huge volumes of information. I hope so.
    • Not really

      Why would I get a cellular enabled tablet when it would still use a data plan which still offers small amounts of data? This won't help with things like HBOGo or Netflix or Pandora.
      • I understood the opposite you did

        When I read his sentence, I read who would need a tablet will cellular when you have all on the tablet, no need for streaming so just wi-fi is enough to load the stuff while at home.
    • I'm pushing for hybrid.

      I'm pushing for hybrid.

      Keep your data local, sync/backup to the cloud.

      If you lose your connection, you still have access to your data locally.

      If you lose your device, you can still access your data from another device.

      Why not have the advantages of both? Why settle for one or the other?

      Your data - available anywhere, anytime, even offline.

      I've yet to see a good argument against the idea of combining the benefits of both.
      • Replicas everywhere

        Yes, I agree. I want to completely control my data by having multiple copies of my stuff spread across several different devices. I want my cloud account to just be another container that has a copy of my stuff in it in case my house burns down or a natural disaster strikes or I want to access something while on the road and my handheld device does not have a copy.

        The problem we have right now is a lack of a coherent data management system that works across all kinds of devices and handles all kinds of data. Right now if I want to do an incremental backup of all my personal data to the cloud (or anywhere else), I need to setup and run a dozen different backup programs. One to backup my files on my MacBook pro, one to backup my Windows files, another that works with my phone, others to backup each of my databases (iTunes, Picassa, email, etc.).

        Don't get me started on other data management tasks like sync, version control, inventory, search, archive, etc. I'm working on a system that will hopefully solve these kinds of vexing data problems.
        Andy Lawrence
        • Dropbox is a good start.

          "The problem we have right now is a lack of a coherent data management system that works across all kinds of devices and handles all kinds of data."

          Dropbox is IMO a very good start. It can handle practically any type of data, and you don't have to micromanage things like versioning. A lot of apps are compatible with it as well.
  • "All-in-one" keyboard + SD slot + monitor

    Seems like an entire PC could be put in a standard-sized keyboard plus a monitor. Why would you need a hard disk OR an optical disk? And if you don't care about a separate numeric keypad it could be even smaller. Output to your Bluetooth/wifi-enabled HDTV and you've got everything you need.
    • Sounds Like

      Sounds like a C64 or VIC20! :)
      • The good old days!

        VIC20, I loved that thing!

        His description also sounds close to a Chromebook or what a tablet, though the tablet is computer in a screen with a possible external keyboard.
  • not really impressed by the larger volume

    But the lower power requirements and faster writes do make sense for mobile devices. FLASH is just too power hungry...
    I believe the amount of storage on an mobile device should be kept at minimum. More storage requires more processing, thus more power used.

    But, larger capacities will benefit solid state server storage greatly and could spell the death of spinning rust disks.
    • Please GIVE ME MORE STORAGE!!!!

      I crave bigger storage on my device. They haven't upped storage in several years... it is time!
    • cost/volume will be the deciding factor

      If flash ends up costing around $1/GB for consumer storage, and ReRAM costs closer to magnetic HD prices, it's a no-brainer.

      Throw in the 10x write cycle endurance and you have nirvana.
    • But "cloud storage"

      Require more Bandwidth, as well as even more processing power. You have to stream the source material, decode it and then play it, as opposed to having it locally.
      Troll Hunter J