The great thing about technology is that, except for a few cases like the iPhone, you can see major game changers some years ahead of time. This is not an accident. Hardware tech disruption can be quite costly since companies have to spend billions for new fabrication machines and the staff structure that come with these aren’t exactly cheap. This is why much of the action in hardware tech development take the form of deciding hardware protocols and standards first before the first fab manufacturing units start cranking out product. This process lets manufacturers duke it out on a small scale before a protocol or standard emerges and every manufacturer produces according to that standard.
In terms of memory, there is a major change underfoot. The world will soon wean itself off from DRAM. The new standard will be MRAM or magnetoresistive random access memory. It appears the major hardware players have already agreed on this standard. Micron Technology, Hitachi, Tokyo Electron, Shin-Etsu Chemical, and other players have signed on to the initiative. What makes MRAM interesting? Unlike current flows or electric charges used by current storage devices, MRAM does data storage through magnetic elements. Why is this a big deal? MRAM uses around 33% of the electricity used by standard DRAM chips. While this should be exciting enough due to the massive power savings involved, there’s more to the story. MRAM not only sips energy, it also packs 10 times DRAM’s storage capacity. It does all this and writes 10 times faster as well.
In terms of practical applications, MRAM can revolutionize tablets and smartphones since these devices suck up battery life. Moreover, apps can do more due to better hardware. Of course, these are the features the many white papers for this technology trumpet. Whether these claims actually translate into reality is another thing. After all, you can’t help but roll your eyes at many of these claims since we’ve heard them before. The storage industry’s history is littered with the carcasses of failed initiatives. Still, the numbers do sound interesting and commercial production is slated for 2018. The world could definitely use the pleasant surprise.