UltraRAM breakthrough could finally fuse RAM and storage into a single package

nanoguy

Posts: 1,217   +21
Staff member
Why it matters: For the longest time, memory and storage have been working as separate parts of a computing device. Manufacturers have tried combining the advantages of RAM and NAND into a single package, but only with limited success. A new type of non-volatile memory called UltraRAM is showing potential, but it'll be a while before it can be integrated into a commercial product.

Fusing random-access memory (RAM) and storage isn’t a new idea, but so far no company has managed to materialize this concept into a successful, widely-used commercial product. However, that doesn’t mean research on this topic has gone cold.

Earlier this month, researchers from the Physics and Engineering Department of Lancaster University in the UK published a paper detailing important progress that’s been made into bringing UltraRAM closer to mass production.

UltraRAM is described as a memory technology that “combines the non-volatility of a data storage memory, like flash, with the speed, energy-efficiency, and endurance of a working memory, like DRAM.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because Intel has already tried bridging the gap between DRAM and flash storage with Optane, albeit with limited success. Samsung has something called Z-NAND, and Kioxia and Western Digital also want to integrate XL-FLASH into future consumer and enterprise storage solutions.

The materials used to make UltraRAM are the same compound semiconductors used in optoelectronic devices like LEDs, lasers, photodiodes, and phototransistors. The latest breakthrough made by the scientists behind it was in improving its performance when built on silicon substrates as opposed to Gallium Arsenide wafers, which can be up to 1,000 times more expensive.

This means UltraRAM has the potential to be a cost-effective memory solution. The scientists claim the prototype devices they’ve tested can offer 1,000 years of data retention and “degradation-free endurance” of more than 10 million program/erase cycles. The last figure alone is likely enough to pique the interest of tech companies, especially if it can really be as fast as traditional RAM.

Another advantage of this new technology is that it exploits the quantum mechanical effect of resonant tunneling to allow a barrier to switch from opaque to transparent when voltage is applied. This process is very energy efficient when compared to switching technologies used in RAM and flash storage, so it could lead to better mobile devices that last longer when used on battery power.

The same process allows for a highly compact architecture with a high bit density, which in theory should allow manufacturers to cram more memory capacity into a single chip. The Lancaster University researchers said they need to further improve the fabrication process of the memory cells, but this is nevertheless an interesting technology with a lot of potential for in-memory computing, as it would remove the need for data to go back and forth between the processor, memory, and non-volatile storage of a device.

Permalink to story.

 

Daniele 00

Posts: 159   +121
... I know some friends who believe if they free space in their storage, their pc will run faster and smoother and perform better. Finally they will be right.
 

Skjorn

Posts: 678   +551
... I know some friends who believe if they free space in their storage, their pc will run faster and smoother and perform better. Finally they will be right.
You think your pc performs the same at 100% full compared to 60%
?
 

Neatfeatguy

Posts: 840   +1,451
... I know some friends who believe if they free space in their storage, their pc will run faster and smoother and perform better. Finally they will be right.

If you have very little free space on your OS drive, it may cause your system to run sluggish, hang or even crash. Generally speaking, as long as you have at least 5-10% free space you should be good.

However, having more than that 5-10% free space isn't going to get you any improved speed/performance, though. The system needs enough free space for paging file to allow the OS to operate smoothly and other programs to use it as well. Some people will say a paging file is not needed if you're OS is installed on a SSD, but that's not true. Some programs look to utilize the paging file and if it's not large enough or it's disabled, you may have issues and see lots of low virtual memory messages popping up or programs crash/hang.

So, your friends are partially correct saying more free space in their storage will allow their PC to run faster/smoother/better.
 

Daniele 00

Posts: 159   +121
When did I say the HD has to be 100% full versus 60% ? When did I say you gotta have "very little space" ? are you imagining things boys ? :eek:)
well whatever...

edit: anyway there was a missunderstanding: there are people (friends of mine too) who dunno the difference between ram and hd, and they believe if they free space in their HD ... or they buy a bigger Hd, their performance will increase. As for myself I know about file paging n virtual ram, rest assured I have enough free space.
 
Last edited:

Vrmithrax

Posts: 1,597   +662
... I know some friends who believe if they free space in their storage, their pc will run faster and smoother and perform better. Finally they will be right.

Not quite on topic, but that totally reminded me of a situation that I still laugh about to this day. Back in the old super heavy clunky early laptop days, I actually had an employee ask if they should delete some unnecessary files to help make the laptop lighter...
 

BadThad

Posts: 1,039   +1,193
Not quite on topic, but that totally reminded me of a situation that I still laugh about to this day. Back in the old super heavy clunky early laptop days, I actually had an employee ask if they should delete some unnecessary files to help make the laptop lighter...

I told an employee they had a virus and I'd have to remove it. They said "what, do you open the computer and pour some kind liquid in". SMH
 

3ogdy

Posts: 56   +47
When did I say the HD has to be 100% full versus 60% ? When did I say you gotta have "very little space" ? are you imagining things boys ? :eek:)
well whatever...

edit: anyway there was a missunderstanding: there are people (friends of mine too) who dunno the difference between ram and hd, and they believe if they free space in their HD ... or they buy a bigger Hd, their performance will increase. As for myself I know about file paging n virtual ram, rest assured I have enough free space.

You are right, more allocated free space on an SSD probably won't do much. On an HDD it will, to some extent. There are many out there who don't know the difference between volatile and non volatile data storage.

Now, an SSD that's full of data will perform worse compared to one that has some available space because the latter will have enough area to do the switching, swapping and optimizing.

The more spare area you reserve for an SSD, the more consistent its performance will be in time.
 

Watzupken

Posts: 606   +502
This is what Micron and Intel's 3D X-Point was supposed to achieve. In the end, it turned out to be a product that is nowhere here or there for most people. The beauty of it is the lower latency as compared to conventional SSDs. But I don't recall it being anywhere near RAM latencies.
 

J Oelschl

Posts: 17   +15
Only 10 million program/erase cycles? How would this possibly be able to be used as normal RAM
where the store operations could be in the billions during a session in HPC. Or could a value be stored in memory without a "program/erase" cycle?
 

Emu81

Posts: 6   +2
Only 10 million program/erase cycles? How would this possibly be able to be used as normal RAM
where the store operations could be in the billions during a session in HPC. Or could a value be stored in memory without a "program/erase" cycle?

eXecute In Place (XIP). XIP allows for a program to be run from storage without copying the program data which would prevent a whole lot writes and if your storage is fast enough then you can just write changed data as a separate piece of data instead of modifying the original data - you suffer from data fragmentation but that is why I mentioned the "if your storage is fast enough". These two techniques are old enough that any patent covering them should have expired by now.
 

Danny101

Posts: 2,026   +838
If you have very little free space on your OS drive, it may cause your system to run sluggish, hang or even crash. Generally speaking, as long as you have at least 5-10% free space you should be good.

However, having more than that 5-10% free space isn't going to get you any improved speed/performance, though. The system needs enough free space for paging file to allow the OS to operate smoothly and other programs to use it as well. Some people will say a paging file is not needed if you're OS is installed on a SSD, but that's not true. Some programs look to utilize the paging file and if it's not large enough or it's disabled, you may have issues and see lots of low virtual memory messages popping up or programs crash/hang.

So, your friends are partially correct saying more free space in their storage will allow their PC to run faster/smoother/better.
My current setup consists of 2 SSD's and 2 hard drives. OS and programs on the 2 separate SSDs, First hard drive is separated into 2 different partitions. One contains the paging file, the other contains documents. The second is split into 2 partitions. One contains videos and music, and other for backup. Ideally, I need a home server for the last part. The idea here is parallel processing without too many read/writes on the SSDs and too much thrashing on the hard drives. it seems to work.