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Intel to Sample Flash-killer PRAM This Year

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the on-the-horizon dept.

Intel 78

Station writes "Intel's new phase-change memory technology (PRAM) will begin sampling this year. Samsung, IBM, and Hitachi are all working on phase-change memory as a successor to flash as it has a lower (~20ns) read latency than flash (50-90ns). 'Intel says they plan to ship the first PRAM modules as a straight-ahead NOR flash replacement so that they can work the kinks out of the design before trying to move it up the memory hierarchy. The company claims a much higher number of read-write cycles (100 million) than flash, as well as a potential 10 years' worth of data retention. NOR flash is typically used as program storage memory for mobile devices like cell phones, while more durable but slower NAND flash is used for mass storage in devices like the iPod nano.'"

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78 comments

FIRST TROUT! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18287496)

I am a fish!

Killer Pram? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18287508)

Killer Pram? Won't somebody think of the children!!

Re:Killer Pram? (4, Funny)

JamesTRexx (675890) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287564)

Yeah, it's going to be fun to go to the store here in the Netherlands and ask for a couple of "prammen". (slang for hooters :-) )

Re:Killer Pram? (1)

varghan (834564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288094)

My thoughts exactly! Isn't it nice how tech-talk can sometimes sound plain dirty to people who don't know _what_ you're talking about. ;)

Re:Killer Pram? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18288168)

Not just tech talk. My Thai wife still doesn't understand why Honda renamed their "city car" Jazz to Fit for the European and US market. She likes the name Jazz much better!

Re:Killer Pram? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18288450)

In Sweden, Honda tried to introduce a car called Honda Fitta. Interestingly, "fitta" means pussy in Swedish. And not just in some far-fetched sense. It is THE word.

H&M, a SWEDISH company, last year introduced whole line of jeans called Sliq Fit. "Slicka" in swedish means "to lick" and "Sliq" sounds a lot like it. Apparently, nobody had thought of it(!?). This was quite funny since their really embarrassed behaviour indicated that it wasn't a PR-stunt.

Strangely, no religious group made any comments except to make fun of the incidents.
Which probably is because it's not the U.S.

Re:Killer Pram? (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 7 years ago | (#18289628)

What are "Hooters"? Aren't they "owls" ??? I don't get what's so funny.

I jest!

Re:Killer Pram? (2, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288128)

Oh great, yet another "iPod killer."

-Eric

Re:Killer Pram? (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18295076)

Killer Pram? Won't somebody think of the children!!
Flash-killer Pram at that...
I'm visualising the 6-month-old son of Ming the Merciless trying to run over Flash Gordon in a pram.

Agreed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18295302)

Yes, please help protect Young Sebastion!!!11one

more acronym confusion...(at least for mac users) (5, Interesting)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287522)

one of the later steps in fixing technical glitches in mac systems is to zap the pram..

imagine the confusion between 2 friends when one says "i zapped my pram" .. one fixes your computer, the other breaks your flash device..

If you think that's confusing... (2, Interesting)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287572)

In the UK, "pram" means a baby stroller.

Re:If you think that's confusing... (1)

vivaoporto (1064484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287628)

That's nothing. pram [wikipedia.org] is a type of ship too. Won't someone think of the pirates [hastingssc.org] ??!

Re:If you think that's confusing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18288216)

Pram was also the name of a great UK band from the 90s. The best description I ever heard of them went something along the lines of: Imagine the band on the Titanic playing as the ship sank. Pram is the ghosts of the band continuing to play at the bottom of the sea.

Re:If you think that's confusing... (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 7 years ago | (#18289700)

Well, of course. You use PRAM when you want to baby your system.

Re:If you think that's confusing... (1)

RogueSeven (965183) | more than 7 years ago | (#18289776)

AM = Parallel Ra [wikipedia.org]
t's confusing you'll
>if you think tha
really get a kick that PR
ndom Access Machine [wikipedia.org]

That's if you side with Intel (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18287618)

Fortunately the rest of the industry is calling it PCM for Pulse-code modulation^w^wPhase-change memory.

Unless they make PRAM out of PRAM (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287632)

one of the later steps in fixing technical glitches in mac systems is to zap the pram..
PRAM being "parameter RAM", the nonvolatile memory used to store the Mac equivalent of BIOS settings. To "zap" it means to change all settings back to factory settings by holding Command+Option+P+R while turning on the power.

imagine the confusion between 2 friends when one says "i zapped my pram" .. one fixes your computer, the other breaks your flash device..
Unless Apple starts using PRAM for the PRAM, which could happen.

Re:Unless they make PRAM out of PRAM (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287706)

holding Command+Option+P+R while turning on the power.
Is that four keys? As well as turning on the power? Do Mac users needing to wipe their BIOS have to grow an extra arm?

Re:Unless they make PRAM out of PRAM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18287764)

> Do Mac users needing to wipe their BIOS have to grow an extra arm?

Not really, just use 3 fingers on the left hand and 2 on the right.

Re:Unless they make PRAM out of PRAM (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288248)

Alternately you can just use one hand and do the metal "devil horns" sign (thumb on cmd-opt, index on R, pinky on P).

Re:Unless they make PRAM out of PRAM (1)

thegnu (557446) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288664)

Alternately you can just use one hand and do the metal "devil horns" sign (thumb on cmd-opt, index on R, pinky on P).

Don't let any evangelicals latch on to that one, or Apple's doomed. I always knew Mac users were a little odd...

Re:Unless they make PRAM out of PRAM (1)

ozamosi (615254) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288102)

Actually, the Mac people are all übersocial brats, and as such, they have friends. When reseting their "bios", they just invite five friends: four to hold down one key each, the fifth to press the power button, and the owner of the machine is then free to watch the monitor.

Re:Unless they make PRAM out of PRAM (1)

kinabrew (1053930) | more than 7 years ago | (#18294802)

Is that four keys? As well as turning on the power? Do Mac users needing to wipe their BIOS have to grow an extra arm?
No, but they would need to have a BIOS to wipe.

Re:more acronym confusion...(at least for mac user (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287750)

Isn't that one of the Mac repair myths? Repairing permissions and PRAM resetting are two things that are often recommended even though it usually doesn't fix anything. I haven't heard of anything that was fixed by doing either.

Re:more acronym confusion...(at least for mac user (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287804)

The PRAM used to be used to store a lot more in the pre-OS X days. Resetting it used to actually fix a few things caused by badly behaved system extensions. These days, it's a lot like clearing the CMOS contents on a PC; unlikely to change anything unless you have been messing with firmware settings.

Re:more acronym confusion...(at least for mac user (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287816)

well.. i had it recently fix a fan that wouldn't shut up even after a reboot (it got stuck on max after roughly 3 months of uptime)...

(of course it could also have been the PMU reset i did while i was at it)

Re:more acronym confusion...(at least for mac user (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288074)

Resetting the PMU often does fix things. I had a machine that was overheating after about an hour of use and then crashing. Resetting the PMU made it turn the fans on at the correct time and keep working.

Re:more acronym confusion...(at least for mac user (1)

thegnu (557446) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288674)

"rhetoric": a label used by the intellectually dishonest to dismiss valid points which they are incapable of countering.

Now, I'm no poly-tician, but that there's rhetoric, ain't it?

Re:more acronym confusion...(at least for mac user (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288758)

one of the later steps in fixing technical glitches in mac systems is to zap the pram..

imagine the confusion between 2 friends when one says "i zapped my pram" .. one fixes your computer, the other breaks your flash device..
How about the eMacs / Emacs confusion? I can't think of any other good ones off the top of my head.

PRAM (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18287528)

ha ha ha ha he said "pram"

PRAM? Parameter RAM? (1)

vilms (106676) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287530)

Geez, twenty-five years of Parameter RAM and the name gets to mean something else like *snaps fingers* that. There oughta be a law.
It's like when "frontside" became "backside" </old_skater_grumble>

Re:PRAM? Parameter RAM? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18287756)

There oughta be a law against posting all in Courier. My eyes!

How does this compare to NOR flash in other ways? (4, Interesting)

jonwil (467024) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287620)

Will it be cheaper per megabyte than current NOR flash?
Will it mean that devices like mobile phones (or devices like the Lego Mindstorms which also stores programs/data on NOR flash) can have more memory space in them?

Re:How does this compare to NOR flash in other way (2, Insightful)

asliarun (636603) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287902)

Generally speaking, cost will be similar to NOR flash, if volume manufacturing picks up, and especially if Intel, Samsung, and other biggies get into the act. The key questions to ask are reliability/life of data and speed (and power consumption, if it is drastically different). From Intel's claims, reliability (or longevity) of data looks amazing for PRAM, but speed is still an unanswered question... both read and write speeds.

My other lay question is how Intel and others are managing this chalc* glass manufacturing in their usual silicon DRAM process. Is this glass fused/bonded to silicon or something?

Re:How does this compare to NOR flash in other way (1)

tknd (979052) | more than 7 years ago | (#18294854)

How about density; can I get more or less space with the same physical size?

Obviously I'd like to see something with more capacity than flash.

3D stacking (1, Interesting)

Kim0 (106623) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287624)

I really wish they would stack it in 3D to get humonguous memories, f.ex. like this:
http://memory.oyhus.no/ [oyhus.no]

Re:3D stacking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18287640)

" Sounds like it can be assembled by cheap labour.
Yes, and the memory films can be made sloppily as well, "

Yes now you too can make your super dense memory by chisel and screwdriver.

Interesting.. but the page doesnt talk about... (2, Informative)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287714)

speed or latency.. (and what about heat exchange issues?)

even with considerably slow throughput though.. it might be have useful applications in storage media..

i'd love to replace a set of hot spinning platters with a tiny cartridge about the size of a gamecube memory card.

Re:Interesting.. but the page doesnt talk about... (1)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288212)

From TFA:

I haven't been able to find any access time numbers for Intel's PRAM technology, but competing technology from Hitachi boasts a 20ns read latency. This is much better than the 50ns to 90ns read latency typical of flash memory, but it's not even close to DDR2's ~3ns latency. If Intel's PRAM is in the same ballpark as Samsung's technology, then it won't be used as the main memory on your computer anytime soon.

Now, I'm not up on my memory archtecture, but I think that flash is not currently optimized for a high throughput, because if people need that kind of speed, they just dump the contents into SRAM. DRAM has been optimized for latency and throughput because of where it's used. Is it possible that that the throughput could be sped up using similar tricks as those used in DRAM, even if the latency can't be improved? How important is latency versus throughput?

Re:Interesting.. but the page doesnt talk about... (1)

Kim0 (106623) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288234)

>... speed or latency.. (and what about heat exchange issues?)

Very high speed is possible, since the surface of the chip has an awful number of wires for data to pass in parallell. It should be very fast, almost no matter how slow each memory cell is.

Latency cannot be higher than the speed of each single memory cell, just as in flash memories. I guess there must be some kind of block transfer mode.

As for heat, I guess that depends on the memory material. But for extreme cases, there could be cooling fluid flowing between the memory layers.

Re:Interesting.. but the page doesnt talk about... (1)

Eccles (932) | more than 7 years ago | (#18289406)

As I understand it, Vista has a system that allows you to use a flash drive as a fast paging device for small files. It sounds like something like this might be similarly useful; good for small stuff that needs fast access, while you use a hard drive to store your bigger files where access time is less of an issue.

Re:Interesting.. but the page doesnt talk about... (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 7 years ago | (#18297978)

heat exchange is how the entire design works, by applying heat to change the structure from crystalline to amorphous and back to read as 1's and 0's. Heat is a necessary factor in this, sadly. But, it is still non-volatile, and it's the same material used in re-writable optical discs, it's not as fast as a hard drive but there's no chance of mechanical failure. This technology looks very promising, and if it comes thru, it'll kick Flash's ass to hell and back.

http://www.ovonyx.com/tech_html.html [ovonyx.com] Link to the tech paper Oxonyx has concerning the technology and their take on the future uses.

Re:3D stacking (2, Funny)

proxy318 (944196) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287862)

3D stacking is so yesterday. I want RAM that's stacked in 4D, so I can get tomorrow's lottery numbers today.

X-Killer (0)

cabinetsoft (923481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287676)

I kind of got tired of these product-or-technology killer... most of them aren't killer at all and those that manage to get a decent marketshare or acceptance over the "killed" one do it just because the old one gets old... kind of same way smoking kills - it might or you just might die anyway.

Re:X-Killer (1)

10Ghz (453478) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287988)

Well, at least Intel didn't "UNLEASH flash-killer!". God, I hate it when all the time someone "unleashes" something. Next marketdroid who uses that word will see me unleashing a load of urine in his eye.

Re:X-Killer (1)

PornMaster (749461) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288082)

You keep your wang on a leash?

Re:X-Killer (1)

10Ghz (453478) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288256)

No, I keep my urine on a leash. A huge difference.

Re:X-Killer (1)

creationer (985324) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288660)

Kind of like Jack Bauer wasn't born, he was unleashed?

Re:X-Killer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18290418)

That is hilarious....unleashing urine in someone's eye....

"Promote this man Johnson!"

Obligatory Monty Python Reference... (4, Funny)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287768)

Do they like to push it a lot?

Re:Obligatory Monty Python Reference... (2, Funny)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287852)

Let's not go there... It's a silly place.

-jcr

Re:Obligatory Monty Python Reference... (1)

brouski (827510) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288924)

Fuck, beaten.

As usual.

A day late and a dollar short (1)

Luscious868 (679143) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287858)

Flash is now fairly cheap, it's in widespread use and it's a known quantity. Good luck trying to replace it.

Re:A day late and a dollar short (4, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287958)

If their designs are pin compatible, good luck not not replacing it.

Let's see faster, more durable, *and* drop in compatible? Short of insane license requirements I can't see it being a no sale.

Tom

Re:A day late and a dollar short (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18288008)

If the erase cycle figure is correct and price is similar to NOR flash, I, and other embedded designers would switch in a heartbeat.

Re:A day late and a dollar short (3, Insightful)

squizzar (1031726) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288068)

So were 5.25", 3.5" floppies, zip disks, cd-rw, dvd-rw etc. If the cost is right and the benefits are great enough it will be adopted. If they package it in similar formats to that flash currently uses (eg. usb sticks, sd cards) for portable storage, and stick a SATA interface on it for internal (or even bulk external) storage, it will be adopted without most people noticing it's something new.

Re:A day late and a dollar short (1)

psydeshow (154300) | more than 7 years ago | (#18291962)

Exactly. Like the difference between NiCad and NiMH rechargeable batteries.

These new-fangled ones sure do last longer! Very few people care why.

Re:A day late and a dollar short (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296398)

NiMH don't last longer than NiCd.

oh you meant per-cycle...

Re:A day late and a dollar short (1)

batje14 (1018044) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288246)

That was once true for the hoolahoop, too. Seen those lately?

Re:A day late and a dollar short (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288378)

***Flash is now fairly cheap, it's in widespread use and it's a known quantity. Good luck trying to replace it.***

According to the article, this PRAM stuff can be configured to be flash compatible. IF it works out -- big IF, most of these wonders don't -- it might turn out to be a faster, drop in, replacement for flash.. If so, and if it isn't significantly more expensive than flash,it wouldn't be suprising to see PRAM replace flash in new products over the period of a few years.

Re:A day late and a dollar short (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18291614)

Intel and other manufacturers HAVE to replace it as it's becoming exceedingly more difficult to scale ETOX processes down, especially in producing a multi-level cell product, which is where Intel's NOR flash generates the majority of its revenue. At the 65-nm node, the floating gate holds only a few hundred electrons. Phase change memory will allow Intel to scale NOR flash to 45nm and below.

Re:A day late and a dollar short (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#18292244)

Flash is now fairly cheap, it's in widespread use and it's a known quantity. Good luck trying to replace it.


I remember not too long ago when floppy disks were fairly cheap, in widespread use, and a known quantity, too.

Yet, they seem to have been largely replaced by (depending on the application) flash devices, network transfer, and optical disks.

And replacing flash with PRAM will be a lot more transparent to users, so if its got performance advantages, it will replace flash much more easily.

Re:A day late and a dollar short (1)

csalcedo (1073652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18297378)

like 5 1/4" floppies

Re:A day late and a dollar short (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298006)

http://www.ovonyx.com/tech_html.html [ovonyx.com] Read up on the technology. Flash is limited by write/read cycles. This technology uses pre-existing fabrication techniques. It doesn't deviate much at all from the standard CMOS design. It's less power-hungry, still non-volatile, and can be used in ANY current flash-based device (as you can easily pin-out it to any particular flavor card's spec)

Only 10 years? (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18287880)

Only 10 years? Are these things going to have a rejuvenate button?

Bit of pram, please (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18288084)

Customer: (goes to door, runs his finger down the list of adverts) Pram for sale. Any offers. I'd like a bit of pram please.

Shopkeeper: Ah yes, sir. That's in good condition.

Customer: Oh good, I like them in good condition, eh? Eh?

Bad news for Atmel? (1)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 7 years ago | (#18288158)

I hope this doesn't kill ATMEL, I really like their AVR microcontrollers. That would be sad.

Re:Bad news for Atmel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18289762)

I've used AVRs in a few toy projects, and like them. So how the fuck will PRAM kill ATMEL? I'm going to assume that the emergence of PRAM will do no such thing until further notice.

KShit (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18288338)

there are only much as Windows fear the reaper To happen. My I thought it was my feel an obligation BitTorrent) Second, addresses will [gay-sex-access.com]?

Summary??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18289000)

NAND is faster and less reliable. NOR is slower and more reliable.

Data retention? (1)

springbox (853816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18289372)

The article mentions that the period for data retention is 10 years with PRAM, which seems to be about the same as what's claimed for writable discs (the ones with organic dye.) I was under the impression that flash memory could retain data for a longer period of time? How long can flash memory hold data until it mysteriously disappears?

It depends on the environment (1)

mbessey (304651) | more than 7 years ago | (#18290312)

It can be up to 20 years under ideal conditions. Flash that's been erased many times will have a shorter data retention time, as will Flash stored at higher temperatures. A Google search on Flash Data Retention will lead to many pages from various semiconductor companies discussing the performance of their particular parts. There's a nice easy-to-read table in this document:
http://www.spansion.com/application_notes/EndureRe tentn_AN_A0.pdf [spansion.com]

Does that mean that if I'm an extreme gamer (1)

ninjojitsu (933431) | more than 7 years ago | (#18291174)

[cue operatic voice]
I get to push the pramalot...?

Flash killer - about time (2, Funny)

baomike (143457) | more than 7 years ago | (#18291294)

Never liked flash anyway
what ? you say it's memory?
OH, nevermind

Killer what? (1)

ThisIsNotMyHandel (1013943) | more than 7 years ago | (#18291820)

First it is the jpeg killer and now it is FLASH killer. Any use of the term "killer" in a headline is a joke. Ok so Intel introduces PRAM, but at what price point? Flash is surly going to drop in price. For any *real-life* application - does it really matter? Probably not. So is a manufacture going to choose a lower priced Flash memory chip or a new and more expensive PRAM memory chip? It speed was the only concern everyone would be attaching serial attached SCSI hard drive to their computers. The gamers - the speed demons - cant even get serial attached SCSI in their high end pre-built machines(alien wear). As with everything it is cost per megabyte, performance per dollar, and Watts per hour. Flash will be around for a long time. PS3 was going to be the dominant player in the console market and what happened? Zune was the iPod killer, where does Microsoft rank in the MP3 player market? It is not like this is a new technology in a general sense (to the average consumer), to be announced as "killer" it must be a new technology that will instantly replace all existing technology in that particular nitch. DLP/LCD tabletop TVs were the "RPTV CRT killer". CRT based RPTVs vanished overnight.

PRAM/PCM already commercially available (1)

dag_in_va (1073666) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296890)

A couple of points. 1) Phase Change memory chips are already commercially available from BAE. One of the advantages of PCM not mentioned in the Intel announcement is radiation tolerance. BAE has been selling PCM for space applications since last summer. Rumor is they cannot keep up with demand. See: http://www.baesystems.com/Newsroom/NewsReleases/20 06/autoGen_10703020214.html [baesystems.com] 2) All of the memory manufacturers are licensing the basic tech from Energy Conversion Devices. It all derives from Stan Ovshinsky's patent number 5,166,758 more than a decade ago. Check it out. Disclosure: I own some ECD stock. Dag

Haha! About time! (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 7 years ago | (#18297950)

I've been waiting for this to finally come out, as noted in some of my other slashdot comments. Not onyl does this have better latency, but the write/read cycles are exponentially larger, in the trillions range, cmopared to maybe 250,000-500,000 of Flash. Perfect for making storage drives with, and it's small, uses mostly pre-existing fabrication techniques, and once production ramps up it'll be CHEAP!
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