Flash successor announced

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.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

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?

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