It’s Here: The Convergence of Memory and Storage

For years, people have been talking about the coming convergence of memory and storage. To this point, the discussion has been largely theoretical, because the affordable technologies that enable this convergence were not yet with us.

Today, the talk is turning to action. With the arrival of a new generation of economical, non-volatile memory (NVM) technologies, we are on the cusp of the future—the day of the converged memory and storage media architecture.

The biggest news in this story is the announcement by Intel and Micron of 3D XPoint technology, which will enable a new generation of DIMMs and solid state drives (SSD). This NVM technology, couples storage-like capacity with memory-like speeds.

While it’s not quite as fast as today’s DDR4 technology, 3D XPoint (pronounced 3D Cross Point) is 1000x faster than NAND and has 1000x greater endurance. Intel DIMMs based on 3D XPoint will support up to 4X more system memory per platform, compared to using only standard DRAM DIMMs, and are expected to offer a significantly lower cost-per-gigabyte compared to DRAM DIMMs.

With the enormous leaps in NVM performance offered with 3D XPoint technology, latencies are so low that for the first time NVM can be used effectively in main system memory, side by side with today’s DRAM-based DDR4 DIMMs. Even better, unlike DRAM, the Intel DIMMs will provide persistent memory, so that data is not erased in the event of loss of power.

The biggest net gain is that a lot more data will be stored in memory, where it is closer to the processors. This is a hugely important advance when it comes to accelerating application performance. Intel DIMMs will allow for faster analysis and simulation results from more complex models, fewer interruptions in service delivery to users, and drive new software innovations as developers adjust their applications to take advantage of rapid access to vastly more data.

Elsewhere in the storage hierarchy, 3D XPoint technology will be put work in Intel SSDs that use the NVM Express* (NVMe*) interface to communicate with the processors. Compared to today’s alternatives, these new SSDs will offer much lower latency and greater endurance.

Intel SSDs will be sold under the name Intel® OptaneTM technology, and will be available in 2016. The upcoming 3D XPoint technology based DIMMs will be available in the next all-new generation of the Intel data center platform.

The good news is, these next-generation NVM SSDs and DIMMs are coming soon to a data center near you. Their arrival will herald the beginning of the era of the converged memory and storage media architecture—just in time for an onslaught of even bigger data and more demanding applications.

For performance info on 3D XPoint, please visit: