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512 megabit PRAM cell
Bigger, better, faster

Samsung today announced that it has introduced a new type of nonvolatile memory called PRAM or Phase-change Random Access Memory. The new memory technology is currently under heavy research from Samsung, but the company has finally demonstrated a working 512 megabit sample. According to Samsung, PRAM is slated to replace current NOR flash memory technology within the next several years.

PRAM, says Samsung, is much faster than the fastest NOR flash memory. Samsung indicated that PRAM achieves its performance by changing the way it writes and reads to memory. Unlike current NOR flash, PRAM does not have to erase data before writing new data. This alone achieves 30 times the performance of current memory technology said Samsung. Durability and endurance are also a key development for PRAM, allowing products to last at least 10 times longer.

Samsung indicated that PRAM will be a positive forward step for consumer products as well -- lowering prices thanks to new manufacturing techniques. Samsung said that PRAM cells are half the size of NOR flash memory and requires 20 percent fewer manufacturing steps to produce. PRAM will make an introduction into the market sometime in early 2008. According to the press release:

Adoption of PRAM is expected to be especially popular in the future designs of multi-function handsets and for other mobile applications, where faster speeds translate into immediately noticeable boosts in performance. High-density versions will be produced first, starting with 512 Mb.

Flash memory in general has exploded in the last two years. The market has grown significantly and companies are continuing to invest heavily into flash RAM development and manufacturing. Recently, SanDisk announced that it would acquire M-Systems for $1.35 billion, bolstering its market position significantly. Intel and Micron have also joined forces to produce volumes of NAND flash memory. In July, both SanDisk and Toshiba announced plans to invest a total of $8.2 billion in building new manufacturing facilities.

Flash memory is expected to scale well past 2010, with high density products on the way. Samsung indicated that 64GB memory cards are already in sight and larger capacities are just over the horizon. Consumer multimedia products aren't the only devices using flash memory however -- Intel is gearing up to introduce a new desktop platform called Robson next year that will utilize flash memory to store parts or all of an operating system to boost performance.

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When they will replace current HDDs
By KHysiek on 9/11/2006 3:57:04 PM , Rating: 2
Then we will see some real revolution in PCs. Unitl then it will give just a bit bigger and faster pendrives and flash memories. Not a huge gain but welcomed for sure :).

RE: When they will replace current HDDs
By Doormat on 9/11/2006 4:21:22 PM , Rating: 2
Unlikely, at least for now.

Even in 5 years you'll see 200GB flash drives based on PRAM or MRAM (magnetic RAM - IBM's advancement in the field). But your HD will be like 5-10TB. So there still will be a huge difference.

The other issue is write cycles - how many times can PRAM be overwritten and still remember what it was set to.

RE: When they will replace current HDDs
By ahkey on 9/11/2006 6:27:15 PM , Rating: 2
But your HD will be like 5-10TB

An interesting statement, to say the least. Can we really as consumers expect to need more than 5TB; do we really have that much HD footage? Isn't it about time we devised better ways of dealing with the space we have, in particular with regard to defragmentation and formatting?

I tend to think of my music/video collection as slightly over average (perhaps not by American standards) and I'm nowhere near the 200gb mark out of the 234gb total available to me. Large drives are great for servers and media buffs, but isn't it about time the most limiting factor in PC performance is addressed? I'm fully subscribed to WD's Raptor, owning a 2nd gen and wishing I had enough for a 3rd; despite their speed advantage however, they are small, noisy and terrible value for money.

Let's hope this PRAM can be pushed a little further.

RE: When they will replace current HDDs
By PrinceGaz on 9/11/2006 8:45:36 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps it's because I tend to download stuff using a P2P client, but I can assure you that it is easy to fill a 250GB hard-drive. In fact my main problem is finding the time to free up space on it so I can get more stuff.

I'd be in the same situation with a 500GB drive, or a 1TB drive in a couple of years, etc. As broadband speeds rise and the files distributed also grow in size (thanks to HD formats and the like), no matter how large my hard-drives are, they will always be nearly full.

By GoatMonkey on 9/12/2006 8:19:10 AM , Rating: 2
I'm betting that you will both get what you're looking for. Hybrid drives are on their way. This memory looks useful as a combined hybrid/ram drive that Microsoft has been pushing for use with Vista.

By AncientPC on 9/12/2006 11:04:45 AM , Rating: 2
I said the same thing when a friend of mine bought the first 1GB drives when they were released. I was still playing Doom2 which only took up ~27MB and couldn't fathom filling up a 1GB drive. Now I'm up to 1TB and still out of space, forcing me to burn everything onto DVDs but like you said I'm a media buff.

PRAM can still be used in hybrid drives or perhaps in smaller drives for OS / cache / programs, but that doesn't mean that we won't need more space.

By jak3676 on 9/12/2006 12:06:27 PM , Rating: 2
Can we really as consumers expect to need more than 5TB; do we really have that much HD footage?

Well, I'm sure there will be more to worry about than just HD footage in the future. Someone is always developing a bigger/better/more memory intensive way of storing media. Even before the days of magnetic recording this was true - think 33RPM records vs. 78 RPM. I'm sure when we have have the space and processing power to handle more complicated encoding and storage, a new standard will come around - maybe 3D imaging in high def?

I can remeber back to the days of 4-8 MB hard drives when people said we'd never use that much space. The same was said when we went over the 100MB limit, then the 1GB limit, now the 1TB limit is pretty easily reached and filled.

Besides don't a lot of software companies start their project by assuming an infinate amount of processing power and storage *cough, *cough *Microsoft*. (sorry couldn't resist an unnecessary slam)

If they build it we will buy it, use it, then demand bigger.

By Viditor on 9/12/2006 10:03:20 PM , Rating: 2
Can we really as consumers expect to need more than 5TB; do we really have that much HD footage?

It sounds like an astronomical amount, but it's around 600-700 DVDs. If you figure 6 DVDs per season for things like a TV series, then 5TB actually seems reasonable. This is especially true as these series are becoming more available for download on the net (allowing people to build their own libraries).
While saving to disk is a more common option, having instant access to them with your HTPC is very attractive...

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