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Why it matters: A new standard to connect RAM more closely with other system components could reach consumers within the next few years. The shift should increase the efficiency and usefulness of more recent, faster storage and memory modules. However, it will require new hardware.
During a webinar this week, AMD mentioned goals to get CLX memory technology into consumer products in three-to-five years. The company didn't outline its plans in detail but made a clear initial mission statement for a technology that has only been mentioned at the enterprise level thus far.
Compute Express Link (CXL) is a new open standard the CLX consortium conceived in 2019, leveraging PCIe 5.0 technology to let different system components share memory. For example, it could enable a computer's RAM to lean on a PCIe or M.2 SSD for extra help.
Currently, SSDs and RAM use different communication protocols, limiting connections between them. The new standard could give components like GPUs, RAM, CPUs, and smart I/O devices common protocols allowing them to share resources for faster and more responsive connections. The new protocols are built around I/O, caching, and memory.
Last year, Samsung introduced an industry-first CXL DRAM module, promising "terabyte-level" memory scalability. Vendors will initially offer components like this for enterprise-level tasks like AI and machine learning in servers and cloud infrastructure.
We might catch a glimpse of CXL when AMD unveils the next generation of compatible Epyc server processors at an event on November 10. Intel's Sapphire Rapids will also feature CXL. Consumer devices will likely follow, but CXL requires dedicated silicon for memory, CPUs, GPUs, and other parts to be compliant.
Just because AMD was the first to mention consumer-level CXL plans doesn't mean the company will try to lead in that space alone. It acknowledged that the industry would need to work together to bring CXL to the whole PC ecosystem. Indeed, the CXL consortium includes companies like AMD, Nvidia, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Cisco, Intel, Alibaba, and many others.
Although AMD plans to work with others to advance CXL, mentioning it at this early stage could be a sign of the company's efforts to push PCIe 5 and DDR5 memory --core components of CXL. The newly-released Ryzen 7000 CPUs demand users upgrade to the new AM5 socket platform and DDR5 RAM, as opposed to Intel's Raptor Lake processors that still work with older sockets and DDR4.