Everspin Unveils First “Spin-Torque” ST-MRAM Memory Chips

Posted on November 15, 2012 8:00 AM by Rob Williams

Just when we were all about content with current SSD speeds, here comes Everspin with a new non-volatile memory solution that promises to be up to 500x faster than traditional NAND. Whew. “ST-MRAM”, or “Spin-Torque Magnetoresistive RAM” for long, uses an interesting electron-spinning technology that magnetically captures data, unlike traditional NAND which electrically stores it.

The technology is interesting in itself, but what’s most exciting is the sheer performance it offers. If things were perfect now, we could see ST-MRAM totally replace volatile chips on DRAM modules – and that’s an example the company has so far given, with a produced stick. The problem? It weighs in at a not-so-hearty 64MB, thanks to the fact that it’s about 50 times as expensive as current NAND flash chips.

Like most new technology though, pricing will indeed come down, and densities will rise. At the moment, Everspin doesn’t see these chips being used as primary storage, but rather a complement. While a DRAM module could have 80% regular chips, it could feature 20% ST-MRAM to act as a super-fast cache. The same could be applied to SSDs, where the cache would suddenly become 500x faster than the rest of the storage.

Whatever its uses though, that kind of speed on similar-sized chips as what we have now is simply mind-blowing. Bring, it, on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=712433199 Bilal Khan

    sounds Awesome!

  • Tharicnar

    Instant on Computers in the making – but it’s the security that has me concerned. Imagine if RAM suddenly became non-volitile. Powering off your computer means that information is still in memory. Looks like there are a number of software tweaks to be made in the future.

    As a replacement to NAND, I doubt we’ll see any major improvements just yet. Remember, it’s the controllers and interface that are the limiting factor at the moment. At least we have SATA Express and SFF-8639 to look forward too.

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      I could see OSes being designed to clear the DRAM on shutdown, and given the performance overall, it should take less than a second. That wouldn’t do much in the event of a PC simply crashing though.

      • http://techgage.com/ Marfig

        But this would introduce a new potential attack vector into the operating system. Not to mention the always existing possibility of bugs in the code responsible for clearing the memory.

        There’s an answer to this though: the possibility of developments in the field of hardware encryption. At the speeds ST-MRAM operates, if we get into a stage where hardware-based encryption becomes a reality, we may have for the first time in the computer history a truly functional non-volatile random access memory. The performance impact will be negligible.

        What is more interesting is that with this solution, we could approach the greatest grail of Storage: A unified storage solution. All types of memory being served by the same technology.

        We need however to understand exactly what determines the 50x price tag on ST-MRAM. If this is exclusively attributed to manufactoring costs, I suspect ST-MRAM will not see its price come down anytime soon so it could become ubiquitous on our computers. If however there’s production costs involved here, it’s possible.

        • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

          Very good points.

          I wondered the same thing about what justifies the 50x cost, and I do believe it has everything to do with the actual manufacturing costs rather than the materials. The fact that the DIMM shown above is only 64MB is pretty telling of this.

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