Feeds

IBM unveils high-capacity, high-speed storage chippery

'Racetrack memory' off to the races

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

IBM has scored a blow in the high-stakes prizefight for the title of next-generation non-volatile memory technology, revealing a prototype "racetrack memory" chip baked using the same silicon fab technologies as run-of-the-mill chippery.

Racetrack memory, for those of you who haven't been scoring at home, is competing with such technologies as phase-change memory (PCM), triple-level cell (TLC) NAND, magnetoresistive random-access memory (MRAM) – even IBM's fading MEMS-based (and trés bizarre) Millipede effort.

The goal of IBM's racetrack memory research has been to fabricate a storage technology that marries hard-drive capacities with flash-memory speeds and knock-aroundability. In a nutshell, racetrack memeory involves sending magnetic "stripes" through nanowires, written by imparting spin to the electrons and read by an analog to a hard drive's read head – except that the racetrack memory's read head detects the edges of the magnetic stripes rather than their polarity.

IBM has been working on racetrack technology since the middle of the last decade, first exhibiting a working prototype in 2008. At that time, IBM's marketing minds produced a decidedly gee-whiz, non-technical video explaining the concept behind the technology:

The breakthrough announced this Monday at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in Washington DC, is that Big Blue has placed racetrack-memory nanowires and their support circuitry onto a chip built using standard fabrication tools – a necessary step toward productization and commercialization.

The IBM chip's nanowires are formed by depositing a nickel-iron coating on top of silicon, then etching it into separate wires using standard chip-baking photolithography. Each nanowire is about 10 micrometers long, 150 nanometers wide, and 20 nanometers, according to MIT's Technology Review.

Dafiné Ravelosona of France's Institute of Fundamental Electronics, who is also working on racetrack memory tech, told Technology Review that the IBM chip is "a nice demonstration," but since it can only move one bit at a time on the wire, not a series of bits, much more work needs to be done.

IBM's racetrack-memory daddy, Stuart Parkin, responded to Ravelosona by saying "We're focusing on exactly this question." In specific, Parkin and his team are looking at materials that hold domains more tightly, and thus can more easily contain multiple stripes on the same nanowire.

Exactly when the multi-stripe problem will be solved is not known, but don't expect racetrack memory to appear in your Ultrabook anytime soon. While IBM continues to work on it, of course, work will also continue on its competitors in the battle for the next-gen nonvolatile memory crown. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
FLAPE – the next BIG THING in storage
Find cold data with flash, transmit it from tape
Seagate chances ARM with NAS boxes for the SOHO crowd
There's an Atom-powered offering, too
Gartner: To the right, to the right – biz sync firms who've won in a box to the right...
Magic quadrant: Top marks for, er, completeness of vision, EMC
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.