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New computer chips that have instant-on capabilities found in tablet devices but also provide higher performance, will change the way people use personal computers, according to an industry analyst.

Continuing research in solid-state technologies are leading to the development of so-called magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM) and resistive random access memory (RRAM) chips that offer many advantages over conventional DRAM (dynamic random access memory) chips, according to Tom Coughlin, founder of Coughlin Associates, a data storage consulting firm.

DRAM chips store data using an electrical charge in each memory cell. Capacitors used in DRAM chips lose their charge over time and memory assemblies using DRAM must refresh all the cells in their chips approximately 20 times per second. As DRAM cell decrease in size their need to refresh increases.

By contrast, MRAM chips store by magnetic storage elements. MRAM chips never require a refresh. This means it not only retains its memory with the power turned off but there is also no constant power-draw.

RRAM chips are non-volatile memory chips that operate at fast time scale and have a switch time of less than 10 nanoseconds. RRAM will eventually deliver 2o times faster write performance, 20 times less power consumption and 10 times more durability that current NAND flash memory, according to Crossbar Inc., a RRAM technology developer.

MRAM and RRAM technologies have been in development for some time and are now finding niche applications, Coughlin said in his talk at the Storage Visions conference in Las Vegas.

PCs that use DRAM to run programs and temporarily store data needed by systems and software lose their contents when the power is shut off. With MRAM and RRAM chips, Coughlin said, it would be possible to instantly resume computing sessions even after the machine is switched off.

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