Skip to main content

Think your solid state drive is fast? It has nothing on MRAM

mram speed 100000 header
IBM scientist Janusz Nowak IBM
Experts have been saying DRAM is on its last legs for some time. Looking at the recent exploits of IBM Research and Samsung we could start seeing its replacement soon. Last week, the two companies published a paper detailing the next generation of MRAM meant to replace today’s common NAND-based memory.

MRAM is short for Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory. It’s a semiconductor type of memory that stores data using magnetic spinning. NAND, on the other hand, is the flash memory commonly found in our everyday wearable and mobile devices. According to the researchers, the most recent MRAM drastically improves memory performance. If it reaches the consumer devices it equals more storage, better speed, and improved battery life.

The two companies are using a technique called spin-transfer torque to build the circuits used for their memory. It’s created with 11-nanometer production technology and uses but 7.5 microampere worth of electricity. Daniel Worledge, a scientist and MRAM team senior manager at IBM Research, says that it’s 100,000 times faster than writing data in NAND-flash, and requires no more than 10 nanoseconds. Reading data isn’t as huge an improvement, but still bolsters an impressive improvement, being 10,000 times faster than conventional memory.

To be clear here, the idea here isn’t to replace DRAM but flash memory. As you may have noticed, the benefits of using the technology are big, but it’s not limited to improving the speed. The technology has unlimited read and write cycles as well as inherent non-volatility. That means the memory remembers the data stored in it despite turning it off and on again.


“With these capabilities a single MRAM chip can replace a combination of SRAM and flash for many ultra-low power, medium performance mobile and Internet of Things applications,” says Worledge. “However, our long term goal remains to scale Spin Torque MRAM to be so dense and fast it can be used as a cache memory in IBM’s servers.” As an effect of these benefits, data wouldn’t need to be deleted before being rewritten.

Manufacturers have had their eyes on this technology for some time, but up until recently it simply wasn’t so efficient as to provide enough incentive for more companies to invest in the research. That’s why it’s a big deal that they’ve finally reached a point where they think there’s now enough incentive to turn the situation around. At their current level of progress they can switch MRAM cells in devices with diameters ranging from 11 to 50nm in only 10 nanoseconds, which they call “a significant achievement.”

MRAM isn’t the only new memory technology on the block, however. Intel last year revealed 3D XPoint, a non-volatile memory option that could nearly meet DRAM speeds. Its performance is not as impressive as what MRAM touts, but Intel’s much closer to production. Drivers are expected to become available late in 2016.

IBM hopes to, together with an industry partner, get mass production rolling in three years. However, whether that partner ends up being Samsung, or another company, is unclear.

Editors' Recommendations

Dan Isacsson
Being a gamer since the age of three, Dan took an interest in mobile gaming back in 2009. Since then he's been digging ever…
Save big on Samsung solid-state drives on Amazon for Black Friday, Cyber Monday
Samsung SSD drive with cover open and board exposed

If you've purchased a new laptop or device for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, then you might also want to swap out its internal storage to a faster solid-state drive (SSD). Alternatively, you might also want to buy an external drive to transfer over or keep your photos, videos, and important documents safe. Well, Amazon is here to help. The online retailer is currently discounting all kinds of Samsung solid-state drives, helping you save big if you're looking to boost your storage space.

One of the biggest deals happens to be on the Samsung T5 Portable SSD. Normally selling for at around $200 at other retailers, Amazon's sale is cutting its price down close to $140.

Read more
Amazon drops prices on SanDisk solid-state drives by up to $140
Amazon sale SanDisk SSD solid state drive storage deals

If you’ve been waiting for a prime opportunity to scoop up some better storage options for your gaming experiences, Amazon is delivering one for a limited time with discounts on solid-state drives. One key deal in this sale is $140 off of the stout 480GB SanDisk solid-state drive. An SSD also optimizes your gaming with faster transfer speeds so you can get into the action faster. Read up on the differences between HDD and SSD in our nifty guide so you know just what you're getting into.

With options ranging from the SanDisk SSD Plus 120GB to the SanDisk SSD Plus 1TB, there’s a lot of value across the board. This deal isn't just for PC gamers -- owners of the PlayStation 4, PS4 Pro, and all models of the Xbox One can get it on the goodness. PS4 owners can easily install an SSD while Xbox One users can take advantage of this deal by using the drive as external storage.

Read more
Western Digital’s $55 solid-state drive gives new life to your aging PC
western digital wd blue sn500 ssd

Western Digital

One of the simplest ways to get extra performance and squeeze more life out of an aging PC is by upgrading the storage to a more spacious or faster solid-state drive. This is especially true if your system relies on a slower hard disk drive. Though solid-state drives, or SSDs, are generally more expensive than their hard drive counterparts, Western Digital is making the upgrade more affordable for consumers with the launch of the WD Blue SN500 NVMe SSD, which starts at $55 and uses the faster NVMe technology, rather than the cheaper SATA-based SSDs.

Read more