Tuesday, December 6th 2011

R&D: IBM's Racetrack Memory, Data Storage At Superfast DRAM Speeds

Racetrack memory, is a new type of magnetic memory that has magnetic domains "racing" along tiny nanometer sized wires, giving performance similar to conventional DRAM. Invented by IBM Fellow, Stuart Parkin, it has been in development since about 2004, with a working prototype having now been unveiled containing 256 "racetrack" cells, each containing a single wire. The technology works by sending very fast electric pulses down these wires, measured in nanoseconds, which transmit very fast moving magnetic domains which are then read by a magnetic head either as a one or a zero, depending on their direction. IBM said in a statement: "This breakthrough could lead to a new type of data-centric computing that allows massive amounts of stored information to be accessed in less than a billionth of a second."

IBM has an article on this technology and in it, they give a very clear and detailed explanation of how this technology works, so we'll let them explain:
IBM Researcher Stuart Parkin pioneered the development at the company’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California, starting in about 2004. Parkin conceived of a device consisting of a city of skyscrapers—each one only hundreds of atoms wide—of magnetic material, with each floor of each skyscraper containing a single bit of data. The data is shot up and down the skyscrapers—almost like a supersonic elevator—by using special currents of electrons for which the spins of the electrons, a quantum mechanical property, are aligned in the same direction. By passing such “spin polarized” currents through the data, the magnetic data can be moved up and down the skyscrapers which are vertical racetracks. These currents are generated by a transistor connected to the bottom of each skyscraper. “In this way, each transistor can store not just one bit of data, as in all other solid state memory, but rather 100 bits,” Parkin said. “This means that one can have a solid state memory with the same low cost of a disk drive but with a performance 10 million times better!”

A personal storage device using racetrack memory could fit into a lapel pin and record every conversation its wearer has for years before filling up. In enterprises, massive storage could be dispersed, with terabytes of information built into every device, sensor, camera and doorknob.
Makes today's expensive "cutting edge", low capacity, limited lifetime and above all, way slower Flash-based SSD's seem so yesterday, doesn't it? One can imagine Windows booting up near-instantaneously with one of these.Sources: BBC, IBM
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17 Comments on R&D: IBM's Racetrack Memory, Data Storage At Superfast DRAM Speeds

#1
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
Thanks to repman244 for the tip. :toast:
Posted on Reply
#2
Mussels
Moderprator
by: qubit


Makes today's expensive "cutting edge", low capacity, limited lifetime and above all, way slower Flash-based SSD's seem so yesterday, doesn't it? One can imagine Windows booting up near-instantaneously with one of these.
they'll bloat windows more to slow it down so users have that 'traditional windows feel' :P
Posted on Reply
#3
Easy Rhino
Linux Advocate
by: Mussels
they'll bloat windows more to slow it down so users have that 'traditional windows feel' :P
while i understand the sentiment, you want your OS to use the resources you provide it. otherwise, what's the point of having more and faster hardware?
Posted on Reply
#4
hellrazor
by: Mussels
they'll bloat windows more to slow it down so users have that 'traditional windows feel' :P
Is it sad that I wouldn't be surprised by this?
Posted on Reply
#5
n-ster
by: Easy Rhino
while i understand the sentiment, you want your OS to use the resources you provide it. otherwise, what's the point of having more and faster hardware?
This is true, however I'd love to have a "Lite" mode and the the normal mode that is more bloated. To get into the Lite mode it would be nice to do something like Safe Mode where you just press F8 and choose Lite mode. That way you get the best of both worlds
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#6
Jarman
because vista was so much quicker than xp for all those additional resources it used??? Ye right.
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#7
LifeOnMars
They should have a gaming mode similar to n-sters point. You click automated gaming mode and it shuts down all but the very bare essentials needed for a gaming session or offer a custom selection process for advanced users. Potentially cutting down on compatability issues.
I've always felt that Microsoft need to tighten up the process as alot of PC gamers are clueless as to how much unwanted services/software can impact the gaming experience.
Posted on Reply
#8
Mussels
Moderprator
by: LifeOnMars
They should have a gaming mode similar to n-sters point. You click automated gaming mode and it shuts down all but the very bare essentials needed for a gaming session or offer a custom selection process for advanced users. Potentially cutting down on compatability issues.
I've always felt that Microsoft need to tighten up the process as alot of PC gamers are clueless as to how much unwanted services/software can impact the gaming experience.
or just make it so programs have to list what services they use, so that windows can shut off unused/idle ones until 'woken'
Posted on Reply
#9
Easy Rhino
Linux Advocate
by: Jarman
because vista was so much quicker than xp for all those additional resources it used??? Ye right.
think of how slow vista would have been on older hardware.
Posted on Reply
#10
Jarman
What did it do that XP couldn't? Apart from directx10 of course, but we all know that xp COULD run dx10 if M$ wanted it to.

OS/2 (a full 32 bit OS when microsoft could only offer win 3.11) or linux and ditching CRISC, the world would be a much better place
Posted on Reply
#11
Easy Rhino
Linux Advocate
by: Jarman
What did it do that XP couldn't? Apart from directx10 of course, but we all know that xp COULD run dx10 if M$ wanted it to.

OS/2 (a full 32 bit OS when microsoft could only offer win 3.11) or linux and ditching CRISC, the world would be a much better place
im not going to argue that vista was an improvement over XP. my point is that you want your OS to use the system resources you provide it otherwise they go to waste.
Posted on Reply
#12
Jarman
I see your point. But in my opinion the OS should be as lean and efficient with resources as possible so that real programs have as many resources as possible available. Although as tech is probably ahead of software now, that point is slightly irrelivent.
Posted on Reply
#13
Easy Rhino
Linux Advocate
by: Jarman
I see your point. But in my opinion the OS should be as lean and efficient with resources as possible so that real programs have as many resources as possible available. Although as tech is probably ahead of software now, that point is slightly irrelivent.
i agree. it depends on how you approach it. with my linux systems for instance they are very lean yet use a lot of resources (especially memory) while under a light load because they are storing the unused resources in cache or running management programs in the backend. and if an application needs those resources the OS grants it without any hit in performance from the application's end.
Posted on Reply
#14
cheesy999
by: Easy Rhino
i agree. it depends on how you approach it. with my linux systems for instance they are very lean yet use a lot of resources (especially memory) while under a light load because they are storing the unused resources in cache or running management programs in the backend. and if an application needs those resources the OS grants it without any hit in performance from the application's end.
That's the main improvement Vista and 7 have over XP, on XP if you have 8 GB of ram, it doesn't use it, on Vista or 7 it will pre-load that ram with files it thinks you will use, it's the reason why my vista rig, although it takes longer to start up them my XP rig, will start most of the programs i use near instantly

EDIT: Just to prove a point Vista still loads and runs pretty well if i lower my processors down to 800MHZ, with Vista and 7 processors and graphics mean nothing, it's just RAM and storage speed, and luckily, RAM is dirt cheap
Posted on Reply
#15
n-ster
Most of the time people use their computer for simple stuff like web browsing, music, office etc. People usually also like to see nicer things with effects etc. Why are people comparing Vista to XP? Compare Windows 7 to XP. Windows 7 uses more resources, but it looks nicer, some people find it easier to use, it has a lot of features, you can properly use an SSD etc etc.

Do you not like that Windows 7 uses more resources to be better? Don't try to prove your point with the bad one that didn't succeed well.

There is of course a balance to be kept, but Windows 7 is fast enough while packing a lot more features then Windows XP
Posted on Reply
#16
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
People, can we please attempt to get this thread back on topic? I recommend reading the two sources linked to, to help you better understand the technology and give you something to say about it.

The tech certainly looks promising and I think it's about time we had a breakthrough like this. Think, it has the capability to make for an instant suspend mode on PCs without using power. Currently, the RAM has to be left switched on to make this work.
Posted on Reply
#17
nemesis.ie
Agreed - if they can get mainstream backing (e.g. JEDEC kind of support) this could be awesome.

If it could be made cheap/small enough you could use it like flash for drive-size storage at better than current RAM speeds (connections not withstanding). If there is only one kind of storage needed and massive amounts are produced for external storage use, the price should (in theory) drop.
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