Intel has just announced a new breakthrough in computer storage technology developed in collaboration with Micron that is 1,000 times faster than the current-generation NAND flash chips upon which modern solid-state drives are built. The tech is called 3D XPoint (that’s “crosspoint”), and is the first new type of non-volatile memory created since 1989.

Incredibly, 3D XPoint isn’t just a theoretical product being developed, or an end-goal for a current project. It’s already in mass production and is expected to go on sale in 2016. Intel says the technology will enable a whole host of new applications, ranging from real-time disease tracking to 8K-capable gaming PCs if built into GPUs.

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3D XPoint is also 1,000 times more durable, giving it a much longer lifespan than current NAND storage.

Intel says that at the moment, each 3D XPoint die is able to store 128 Gb of data, though there are plans to increase that through further advancements in later versions.

Intel’s interactive 3D XPoint explainer

Though Intel hasn’t given a price for it yet, it’s expected that this new technology is going to cost quite a bit when it launches, but as time goes on, it’s very likely that we’ll see the price come down, eventually allowing it to replace SSDs. The transition will take time, much like the move from hard drives to solid-state storage, but it when it finally happens, you can expect to see some pretty serious performance gains in personal computers and mobile devices.

Intel and Micron Produce Breakthrough Memory Technology

New Class of Memory Unleashes the Performance of PCs, Data Centers and More

NEWS HIGHLIGHTS

  • Intel and Micron begin production on new class of non-volatile memory, creating the first new memory category in more than 25 years.
  • New 3D XPoint™ technology brings non-volatile memory speeds up to 1,000 times faster1 than NAND, the most popular non-volatile memory in the marketplace today.
  • The companies invented unique material compounds and a cross point architecture for a memory technology that is 10 times denser than conventional memory2.
  • New technology makes new innovations possible in applications ranging from machine learning to real-time tracking of diseases and immersive 8K gaming.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., and BOISE, Idaho, July 28, 2015 – Intel Corporation and Micron Technology, Inc. today unveiled 3D XPoint™ technology, a non-volatile memory that has the potential to revolutionize any device, application or service that benefits from fast access to large sets of data. Now in production, 3D XPoint technology is a major breakthrough in memory process technology and the first new memory category since the introduction of NAND flash in 1989.

The explosion of connected devices and digital services is generating massive amounts of new data. To make this data useful, it must be stored and analyzed very quickly, creating challenges for service providers and system builders who must balance cost, power and performance trade-offs when they design memory and storage solutions. 3D XPoint technology combines the performance, density, power, non-volatility and cost advantages of all available memory technologies on the market today. The technology is up to 1,000 times faster and has up to 1,000 times greater endurance3 than NAND, and is 10 times denser than conventional memory.

“For decades, the industry has searched for ways to reduce the lag time between the processor and data to allow much faster analysis,” said Rob Crooke, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group. “This new class of non-volatile memory achieves this goal and brings game-changing performance to memory and storage solutions.”

“One of the most significant hurdles in modern computing is the time it takes the processor to reach data on long-term storage,” said Mark Adams, president of Micron. “This new class of non-volatile memory is a revolutionary technology that allows for quick access to enormous data sets and enables entirely new applications.”

As the digital world quickly grows – from 4.4 zettabytes of digital data created in 2013 to an expected 44 zettabytes by 20204 – 3D XPoint technology can turn this immense amount of data into valuable information in nanoseconds. For example, retailers may use 3D XPoint technology to more quickly identify fraud detection patterns in financial transactions; healthcare researchers could process and analyze larger data sets in real time, accelerating complex tasks such as genetic analysis and disease tracking.

The performance benefits of 3D XPoint technology could also enhance the PC experience, allowing consumers to enjoy faster interactive social media and collaboration as well as more immersive gaming experiences. The non-volatile nature of the technology also makes it a great choice for a variety of low-latency storage applications since data is not erased when the device is powered off.

New Recipe, Architecture for Breakthrough Memory Technology

Following more than a decade of research and development, 3D XPoint technology was built from the ground up to address the need for non-volatile, high-performance, high-endurance and high-capacity storage and memory at an affordable cost. It ushers in a new class of non-volatile memory that significantly reduces latencies, allowing much more data to be stored close to the processor and accessed at speeds previously impossible for non-volatile storage.

The innovative, transistor-less cross point architecture creates a three-dimensional checkerboard where memory cells sit at the intersection of word lines and bit lines, allowing the cells to be addressed individually. As a result, data can be written and read in small sizes, leading to faster and more efficient read/write processes.

Interactive Photo Capsule: 3D XPoint™ Technology

3D XPoint technology will sample later this year with select customers, and Intel and Micron are developing individual products based on the technology.