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IBM Research Rocks RAM Industry With New Memory Technology.

Forget RDRAM. Forget SDRAM. Forget DDR SDRAM. In as little as three years, these memory technologies may be antiques if IBM has anything to say about it. Big Blue and Munich-based memory chip maker Infineon have announced a breakthrough in memory technology that has the potential to revolutionize the memory industry, not to mention the PC and server industries that rely on it. The two companies will collaborate in the commercial development of Magnetic Random Access Memory (MRAM), which uses a magnetic charge, not the normal electronic charge, to store data.

Unlike traditional electronic RAM, MRAM retains information when its power source is eliminated (non-volatility). Non-volatility is a characteristic of solid state Flash RAM but one that generally comes with a price premium attached. The companies say that MRAM offers the best of all memory technologies: the high speed of Static RAM (SRAM), the storage capacity and low-cost of DRAM, and the non-volatility of Flash memory. IBM says that computers using MRAM could start up instantly without waiting for software to boot up, much like today's home electronic appliances like TV and home audio equipment. Another benefit of MRAM is longer battery life for devices that use it: without the need for a constant power stream to memory, portable devices could potentially last for weeks--and retain all data--on a single charge.

The project to develop MRAM has been going on for decades. IBM Research developed a miniature component called the magnetic tunnel junction in 1974, but did not adapt it as a means to store information and build an actual working MRAM chip until 1998. IBM and Infineon believe actual MRAM products will be commercially available in 2004, with engineering samples available in 2003. But like all new technologies, MRAM will likely demand a price premium until manufacturing ramps up and economies of scale kick in. Widespread adoption isn't expected for 10 years.
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Title Annotation:Company Business and Marketing; Magnetic Random Access Memory (MRAM)
Author:Piven, Joshua
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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