Numonyx, the memory joint venture between STMicroelectronics and Intel, is already shipping samples of phase change memory (PCM) chips to customers and will start shipping PCM chips commercially later this year, CEO Brian Harrison said at a press conference Monday. “We expect to bring it to market this year and generate some revenue. It is one to two years before it becomes widely commercially available.” Hearing a CEO talk about existing samples and near-term commercial shipments, however, is a big deal for PCM. The technology has been stuck in the proverbial “a few years away” phase for a long time. “It could be cheaper than flash within a couple of years,” analyst Richard Doherty in said in 2001, predicting the technology might hit the market in 2003.
Why will the world want PCM? Performance, says Numonyx CTO Ed Doller. PCM chips can survive tens of millions of read-write cycles, he said, or far more than flash. Reading data to PCM chips takes 70 to 100 nanoseconds, or as fast as NOR flash. Data can be written to the chips at a rate of 1 megabyte a second, or equivalent of NAND flash. There is also no erase cycle, making it similar to DRAM. In other words, you have the best attributes of three different types of memory–plus, PCM will potentially use far less power.
PCM, Memory, Memory Chips, Phase Change Memory