I've been saying for some time that flash memory is unlikely to be the long-term solid state memory technology
. In an interview with Chris Mellor at The Register
, Fujitsu's CTO agrees with me
[Joseph Reger] reckons Phase Change Memory (PCM) is the closest, in terms of time to become a usable technology, than other post-flash contenders such as HP's Memristor.
In the more interesting part of the story, he agrees with me that the real potential of these post-flash technologies is that they can be packaged as persistent RAM rather than block storage:
[Reger] asks if everything will be rewritten and re-orchestrated to work with data memory management. Is there effectively only going to be one tier, memory in one form or another?
"Currently, having data in storage means it's not in memory. Is it going to stay like that?" After all, storage was invented to deal with memory-size limitations. If those limitations go away then who needs storage?
Reger said: "I truly believe we are going to have a data orientation rather than memory and storage orientations." But this is really far out in the future.
I'm old enough to remember when computer memory persisted across power cycles because it was magnetic cores
. I'd love to see this feature return. The major software change that would be needed is far more than simply using in-memory databases. The RAM data structures would need to be enhanced with metadata and backups, especially for long-term integrity, if we were to get rid of block storage entirely.
HP doesn't agree with Fujitsu about which post-flash technology will hit the market first, but they do agree that the key is that these technologies will be packaged as RAM. HP is making good progress with memristors:
"We’re planning to put a replacement chip on the market to go up against flash within a year and a half," said [Stan] Williams, "and we also intend to have an SSD replacement available in a year and a half."
"In 2014 possibly, or certainly by 2015, we will have a competitor for DRAM and then we’ll replace SRAM."
"... we think we can do two orders of magnitude improvement in terms of switching energy per bit."
Micron also has a runner in this race. Chris Mellor reports for The Register:
"CMOx is a resistance-change memory and Unity has a roadmap, with Micron fabricating the chips, to deliver a terabit cross-point array chip in 2014, and a four-terabit model in 2018. The cells will be 2-bit. There is a whitepaper [PDF] describing the concept."
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