Three Types of Memory

The memory storage hierarchy that holds our data in today’s computing systems is dominated by two major technologies, DRAM for memory and NAND for storage. After more than 2 decades of research and development, a new technology 3D Xpoint found in intel optane technology is now available. It offers characteristics of both memory and flash-based storage and will revolutionize computing going forward.

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The memory storage hierarchy that holds our data in today's computing systems is dominated by two major technologies, DRAM for memory and NAND for storage. After more than two decades of research and development, a new technology, 3Dxpoint, in Intel Optane technology is now available. It offers characteristics of both memory and flash-based storage and will revolutionize computing going forward.

On the surface, DRAM and NAND may appear similar. But memory technology capabilities are largely defined by their underlying memory cell architecture. Memory cell architecture can be described as a combination of three things, materials, electronic components, and a structure. Changes in any of these areas generally results in a different memory architecture and characteristics.

From a materials perspective, DRAM is electrostatic, meaning it stores electrons to store a 0 or 1. Its construction includes a transistor and a capacitor, and the array is a 2D structure. As the transistors are in the substrate, DRAM is only built as one layer, which limits its ability to scale.

Floating-gate 3D NAND memory is electrostatic, using a transistor and string for data storage and access. It is a 3D structure with multiple layers and is extremely dense based on the deep stacking that it supports.

3Dxpoint is quite different. Instead of storing a 0 or 1 as an electrical charge, the change in atomic bonding of the memory material when voltage is applied is used for data storage and access. It uses a selector material and memory material that support low latency and granular access to data, as compared to NAND. This 3D structure supports far higher densities than DRAM.

A side-by-side comparison of these three technologies provides a clear indication of the architectural differences. DRAM is 2D, limiting its scale. 3D NAND is extremely dense memory based on the deep stacking made possible by its structure. It does not, however, support bit-level addressing required for memory function. 3Dxpoint is very dense based on the size of the memory cells. It supports granular addressing for memory function and supports stacking for capacity.

The world's data continues to double every three years, and businesses require actionable insights from their data to remain competitive. Intel Optane technology is already closing the memory and storage gap and Enabling Compelling performance and capability combinations that cannot be delivered by DRAM or 3D NAND technologies.

For more detail on related products and solutions, go to intel.com/optane.

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