back to article Micron mass-produces Phase Change Memory

Memory maker Micron has become the first firm to put Phase Change Memory (PCM) - one of the possible non-volatile successors to Flash - into mass production. Caveat: we're talking the technology's use for mobile devices only. Micron is pitching its initial offering at mobile devices, combining 1Gb of 45nm PCM and 512Mb of low- …

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  1. Neil 7

    "PCM uses heat generated by an electrical current"

    What level of heat? Will there be any problems implementing PCM as a Package-On-Package where the RAM/Storage package sits on top of the (usually heat-generating) ARM SoC to save board space? If it can't be implemented as POP, PCM may turn out to be less optimal than current technologies in terms of board design. However, given it's performance characteristics that may not be a significant issue.

    1. Nexox Enigma

      Re: "PCM uses heat generated by an electrical current"

      I don't know the details, but I believe the things being heated up are nano-structures, apparently heated for 1us or less, according to the write latency figures. I doubt that's going to cause any sort of packaging problems.

  2. archengel46
    Thumb Up

    I was thinking....

    of buying an SSD, but now I'm thinking again! Come on PCM!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I was thinking....

      I wouldn't hold my breath on getting a PCM SSD anytime soon, or for the $1/GB MLC is pushing whenever they do finally make it.

      Summary: get a damn flash SSD already. It's completely worth it : )

  3. AndrueC Silver badge
    FAIL

    1Gb is only 134MB. Not very useful in this day and age.

    512Mb is only 67MB which is utterly pointless.

    Or could it be that someone has forgotten how important capitalisation is when using SI units?

    1. Steve Todd
      Stop

      You're getting your SI units confused

      1Gbit = 128MBytes

      512Mbits = 64MBytes

      The device is fabbed at 45nm and targeted at feature phones so I guess the numbers/units are correct.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You're getting your SI units confused

        Actually, you are BOTH getting your units confused, in different ways.

        OP is going from 1Gib (2^30 bits) to 139MB (1.39*10^6 bytes).

        You are confusing Gib (2^30 bits), MiB (2^20 Bytes), and Gb (10^9 bits) and MB (10^6 bytes).

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: You're getting your SI units confused

          Yeah, you're right. Amazing that I didn't spot that. Too late in the day I suppose.

          The fail is for me :(

  4. Trollslayer Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Interesting times

    I have seen various reports on memory technologies for over a decade, it is nice to see something worth putting into mass production.

    As the author says, it is early days for PCM but as it enters voulme production we can expect to see a lot of improvements over the coming yers.

  5. Nigel 11
    Alert

    Is this a problem?

    Life expectancy "in excess of 100K cycles" but each cycle takes only 1us. So might it be vulnerable to burn-out within a few seconds, if someone makes a programming error? 100k x 1us = 0.1 second!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is this a problem?

      There will have to be the same wear leveling mechanisms in place as for flash. If anything, it's less of a problem since the number of sustainable write cycles (at least from what I've heard from other sources) increases much more than the write cycle time decreases.

    2. Dr_Barnowl
      Pint

      Re: Is this a problem?

      Since it doesn't have to erase a whole cell at a time, I'd say it's longevity is enormously greater than standard flash ; those 100,000 cycles will take a lot longer to accumulate.

    3. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Is this a problem?

      Looks to me like it's still not for developers. Especially with the GNU toolchain and thousands of little writes, even in a small build.

      Running the toolchain on a pocket-puter (aka smartphone) but using a disc NFS-exported from the desktop for all those writes gets tedious.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Call me...

    ...when they actually get thos sorted out so it's usable, reliable and affordable.

  7. Bill Stewart

    How does the price compare to Flash or RAM?

    Is this stuff priced like flash, or like DRAM, or somewhere in between, or cheaper than flash?

  8. VeganVegan
    Holmes

    Something doesn't compute

    2 Gb of storage per 1Gb of RAM?

    So if I want a 32 Gb storage, it comes with 16 Gb of RAM?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Something doesn't compute

      Just for now. The target as the article notes is phones which usually have ratios along this line at the low end. They note that versions without either the RAM or the PCM will also be available. This is just the first mass rollout, and we can expect different capacities later on.

  9. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Some of you are too critical...

    Look, this is the first foray of this tech in production.

    If they can up the density, you can see this on PCIe cards to replace Fusion-IO. Of course Fusion-IO will have their own product since I doubt that they will be standing still.

    Its still cool even if its not that large.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Some of you are too critical...

      I don't see how this disrupts Fusion-IO's business model - they deal in advanced storage systems, not flash memory. If anything, this will probably go into Fusion-IO's products (replacing flash) as among the first things it goes into.

  10. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Power Consumption?

    So tell us: do we know whether this will consume substantially different power compared to flash? If so, is it more or less?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Power Consumption?

      Significantly less IIRC because PCM doesn't require a charge pump. Also because it is capable of altering things at the bit level (Flash requires a wipe-and-rewrite of larger areas).

  11. Super Fast Jellyfish
    Alien

    Chips in Spaaaaace

    Hmm, if the phase state change is caused by heating then any use of this storage in space will need excellent thermal protection (although there's no mention of the temperatures required) otherwise the entire chip could be flipped to 0 or 1, depending on whether its being frozen or baked.

    But good stuff for us earth bound folk.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Chips in Spaaaaace

      The phase changes are supposed to occur at temperatures of at least 600 degrees Celsius, but in very tight spaces which limits the amount of power needed. Cold environments would only slow down the process while an environment would have to get pretty damn hot to cross into PCM's operating range.

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