Friday, February 10, 2006

Future of Classical Computing HW: FeRAM

Toshiba has announced a 64-megabit FeRAM. It reads and writes at 200MB/sec in burst mode, and incorporates ECC. I'm unclear on when, or if, it will be generally available, and what the price will be relative to flash, SRAM, or DRAM.

FeRAM, as I understand it, replaces the dielectric layer in DRAM with a ferroelectric film, creating "magnetic capacitors" that retain a particular polarization when powered off, making it non-volatile. The similarity with DRAM means it should be able to reach similar densities and price points, and the performance is much more like DRAM than flash, as well.

Back in the old days, there were stories of mainframes with magnetic core memory being powered, disassembled, shipped to a new site, reassembled, and powered on, and returning to execution right where they left off. With FeRAM, we can get similar behavior. FeRAM would aso allow the write cache memory in a host operating system or a RAID controller to be stable, without a UPS or battery backup. Given the rate those fail at, that would be a huge benefit. Peter Chen's Rio file system caching work is one way to go about managing such memory.

A short article comparing MRAM and FeRAM can be found here.

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