Intel and Micron unleash memory innovation dubbed 3D XPoint

Intel has announced what it claims is a brand new form of memory, the first major development in the field for decades.

Developed in conjunction with Micron, 3D XPoint memory (pronounced cross-point'), is designed to be non-volatile, with its makers claiming it is viable for both memory and storage.

Intel and Micron say that 3D XPoint has up to 1,000 times the speed and endurance of NAND flash, the current standard for non-volatile memory.

Part of these huge speed increases is due to the fact that the new technology reads and writes data at the individual bit level, rather than dealing with it in blocks as other types do.

Various use-cases for the new memory have been cited, including low-latency storage and medical tasks, such as "real-time gene sequencing".

There are also potential benefits for Big Data companies. The prospect of 3D XPoint pulling double duty as both memory and storage could lead to huge datacenter cost savings, reducing the square-footage needed for physical server racks.

Consumer applications were highlighted too. Indeed, Mark Durcan, CEO of Micron, was quick to mention the potential for seamless PC gaming experiences, with more densely-packed content and fewer loading screens.

3D XPoint is also 10 per cent more dense than conventional DRAM. However, both companies stressed that they were not aiming to replace existing memory formats.

Greg Matson, Intel's director of strategic planning and marketing for datacentre SSD products, confirmed that "we don't see a future without DRAM in it".

Those wishing to adopt the new technology may not face too much of an uphill struggle though. Albeit in limited capacities, the memory will apparently be ready to use without a great deal of back-end tinkering, and is "applicable in any space that uses DRAM or flash".

While manufacturers and software developers may need to do some optimisation to make use of the full benefit, Matson reassured critics that "you can plug it into Windows 10, it's gonna work guaranteed. It'll work really well."

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.

Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.

You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.