Intel and Micron imagine a future beyond flash memory

In the shadow of Windows 10, Intel and Micron announced a new type of persistent memory that’s 1,000 times faster than the flash memory in today’s SSDs. It’s still not as fast as DRAM, but it’s fast enough that it’s going to make things possible that weren’t before.

Intel and Micron weren’t the first to develop something like this–HP has been working on something similar for years–but HP hoped the product would be out by now, and as far as I know, it didn’t happen. It looks like Intel and Micron’s similar technology is going to happen.

Here’s the thing. Yes, eventually flash memory is going to run its course. But by the time it does, we’ll have something else to replace it with. It’s not unlike the memory we use for RAM. Today most of us use DDR3 and in a year or two we’ll be using DDR4. Before DDR3, there was DDR2 and plain old DDR. There was a technology called Rambus that competed with DDR. Before that there was SDRAM, before that there was EDO DRAM, and before EDO DRAM, there was plain old DRAM.

That’s just in the last 30-35 years.

CPUs go through similar lifecycles. Intel and AMD talk about how perfect today’s CPUs are, while their engineers address today’s CPUs’ flaws in a design they’ll release next year, or the year after.

Maybe Xpoint memory will change the world, or maybe it’ll be another innovative failure like Rambus. Time will tell, but more than one company is working on it, and one of them is going to get this right. And when they do get it right, the computers we have right now are going to feel antiquated really fast, because storage is the biggest bottleneck and has been for as long as I can remember.

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