3D XPoint Memory Technology = No Waiting

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Waiting is everywhere! Waiting for your laptop to start or shut down; waiting for a disc to finish copying; waiting for an operation to complete; waiting for Apple® to release its next iOS. Unfortunately, the release of Apple’s next iOS is up to Apple, and we can’t do much about that. What about the other waits? Yes, we will handle them, and it will be negligible with the release of 3D Cross Point (3D XPoint™). Do you want to know why? Read on.

The news about this new technology was revealed by Intel® and Micron® together. They have said that this 3D XPoint will be 1000 times faster than NAND flash. 3D XPoint is a non-volatile memory (the data still stays when the power goes off) technology, which is not only expected to be 1000 times faster, but also have more endurance than all the previous storage methods. Moreover, this is widely expected to be released in 2016.

This technology will be a new type of storage architecture. More than just faster hard drives, it might even change the way computers are designed and built. Let’s see how they look.

3D XPoint diagram

This is the reason they call it cross point. When viewed, the wires appear in the form of an X. The wires run both in parallel and perpendicular, which helps address the state or charge (either 1 or 0).

Other storage technologies use transistors to detect the status of the charge inside a capacitor. The transistor is also responsible for charging or removing the charge from the capacitor based on the state the capacitor should be in. Over time, the charging/discharging cycles wear down the capacitor, and eventually the cell won’t be able to hold a charge. This means you will not be able to predict if it’s a 1 or a 0. At some point, the storage device will die out.

This is not the case with 3D XPoint. This technology doesn’t have a capacitor or transistor to check the state. When you choose 2 wires (one from parallel and the other from perpendicular), it will always point at a unique cell.

In short, no transistor and capacitor means:

  • The storage is more compact with just wires parallel and perpendicular to each other.
  • There is less wear and tear on the technology, which means your storage has a longer life.
  • The storage will be faster because it doesn’t have to wait for a transistor to read the cell.

Let’s look at some pictures. Here are the results from a test done on a prototype. The first picture is Optane SSD stacked up against the P3700 NAND flash SSD. The second picture is the result of a test done using Oracle® software.

3d xpoint prototype 1

3d xpoint prototype 2

Image source: The Platform

These pictures indicate that 3D XPoint-based NVMe SSD performs 4.42 times better than the IOPS performance (15,900 vs 70,300), with 6.44 times less latency (58ms vs 9ms) against the P7300 NAND Flash SSD. Also, the second picture states that with Oracle as the base system software, the performance is much better with the 3D XPoint SSD, performing 7.13 times faster in IOPS throughput (13,400 vs 95,600) and delivering 8.11 times less latency (73ms vs 9ms).

We have used the same storage architecture for decades. But 3D XPoint will definitely be a game changer. It could also change the way computers are constructed. It is slower than system memory (volatile memory), but a 1000 times faster than all other non-volatile memory. And, we will eventually forget what it was like to wait for our laptops or computers to boot-up.