Feeds

Look out, Flash! Phase-change RAM IS HERE ... in Nokia mobiles

I, for one, welcome our new amorphous blob overlords

The essential guide to IT transformation

Micron is shipping phase-change memory to Nokia for use in its Asha smartphones.

Phase-change memory (PCM) stores each binary bit using the electrical resistance of a chalcogenide chemical: when the material is an amorphous blob, its resistance is high and it represents a 0; in its poly-crystalline state, its resistance is low and it represents a 1. The composition of each bit in the chalcogenide array is controlled by running a current through it.

PCM is non-volatile and is faster than NOR flash memory often found in mobile phones. It can cope with many, many more write cycles as well as being bit-addressable just like NOR flash. PCM reading and writing is generally faster than NAND flash. It can also, in theory, scale down its process geometry well past the point where flash becomes unreliable, roughly in the 19 to 15nm area, allowing it to squeeze more data onto the dies.

Micron started producing its PCM chips in July. These were 1Gbit components using a 45nm process combined with 512Mbit of low-power DDR2 memory in a single 1.8V package.

The PCM endurance was in excess of 100,000 write cycles. Micron is now talking about a million cycles.

Nokia Asha 308/309

Nokia's Asha mobile phone

Micron insists PCM delivers a blazing fast device boot time and is faster to access than NOR or NAND due to its ability to overwrite bits rather than erase block by block. The tech draws little power and is, Micron claims, extremely reliable.

Future plans involve more smartphones and tablets, but for now Micron is sampling a 512Mbit PCM die plus 512Mb LPDDR2 memory in a multi-chip package that's suitable for less demanding applications than the Nokia Asha low-end smartphone.

Its roadmap will need higher capacity PCM dies than 1Gbit and that probably means shrinking the 45nm process. An EE Times report suggested Micron could go to a 29 to 20nm process for its next PCM die, skipping an intermediate 39 to 30nm process. This would be aggressive.

We understand Micron has a second mobile phone design win for its PCM product but it is not revealing the customer. The chip biz reckons it will ship tens of millions of PCM dies in a year thanks to these two design wins.

Competitors Samsung and IBM-Hynix are also working on PCM technology, and storage-class memory is one PCM target on the horizon. Samsung has produced an 8Gbit PCM array [PDF] in a research project. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
Time Warner Cable customers SQUEAL as US network goes offline
A rude awakening: North Americans greeted with outage drama
Shoot-em-up: Sony Online Entertainment hit by 'large scale DDoS attack'
Games disrupted as firm struggles to control network
BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes
Poor punters won't be affected, telecoms giant claims
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.