Memory giant SK Hynix has announced a deal to licence phase-change memory (PCRAM) technology from IBM in an effort to jointly develop a commercial product line.
Phase-change memory, as the name suggests, differs from traditional random-access memory by exploiting the difference in resistance of a material in crystalline and amorphous states. Changing the state of the material changes its resistance in a way which makes it suitable for storing the zeros and ones that make up all a computer can understand.
Unlike traditional dynamic RAM (DRAM), PCRAM is non-volatile - meaning that data stored is retained even when the power is cut. As a result, it's being considered more as a replacement for the NAND flash memory used in solid-state drives (SSDs) than system RAM.
The technology offers much: projections of where it can be taken suggest that PCRAM could boost performance 100-fold over the best NAND flash, feature 1,000 times the durability and operate with significantly lower power demands. In other words: PCRAM could be the technology for which mobile gadget makers have been waiting.
SK Hynix is also investigating the technology's suitable for storage-class memory (SCM), a next-generation class of memory which could boost the performance and reduce the power draw of future PC systems by acting as a buffer between DRAM system memory and SSD or spinning-disk storage.
'By joining forces and making the best use of technological advantages and resources both companies offer in material, process, design and other areas through joint development and technology license agreements, we now have pushed the commercialisation of PCRAM forward even further,' claimed Sung Joo Hong, head of SK Hynix's research and development division, of the deal, referring to a 40nm class 1Gb PCRAM module the company developed back in 2007.
'Phase-change memory technology has the potential to enable a new class of low-cost, high-performance memory technologies for consumer devices, cloud computing, data storage and other enterprise applications,' claimed T.C. Chen, vice president of science and technology at IBM research. 'Working with SK Hynix will speed the development and production of PCRAM devices based on our breakthrough multi-bit, phase-change memory technology.'
SK Hynix isn't putting all its eggs in the phase-change basket, however: the company has previously signed deals with Toshiba and HP to jointly develop memory products based on STT-MRAM and ReRAM technologies, which it will be pursuing alongside IBM's PCRAM.