Everyone knows that solid state drives are quick, but capacity remains a major concern. Intel and Samsung have tackled the problem with a technology called 3D NAND which builds upon existing SSD technology by adding more planes to each memory chip’s die. The new Samsung 850 Evo drives, which can achieve a capacity of 120GB on a piece of hardware barely larger than a thumb drive, have proven 3D NAND can produce results. But it’s not the only game in town. Crossbar, a hardware startup founded in 2010, has been pouring time and money into an alternative called resistive random access memory, or RRAM.
The makers of a new non-volatile RAM said the memory is ready to move from a prototype to a fabrication facility, where 1TB chips the size of a postage stamp will be produced and tested. Silicon Valley start-up Crossbar expects some of its 3D Restive RAM (3D RRAM) products to be out in 2016 as memory in wearable devices, with high-density storage devices like solid-state drives arriving within 18 months after that. RRAM starts out with an advantage over NAND flash, which has been approaching a density dead-end. RRAM is natively denser than NAND, with higher performance. Crossbar’s 3D RRAM also has high native endurance, with the ability to sustain 100,000 write cycles, according to Sylvain Dubois, Crossbar’s vice president of marketing and business development. Because of its greater density, RRAM will be able to use silicon wafers that are half the size used by current NAND flash fabricators. In a single chip, it has nearly 10 times the capacity of NAND flash and uses 20 times less power to store a bit of data. It also sports 100 times lower latency than NAND flash, meaning performance is massively improved, according to Crossbar.