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Crossbar's RRAM could disrupt flash memory market

Crossbar's Resistive RAM (RRAM) technology can fit 1TB of memory on a postage stamp and could soon replace Flash memory.

Flash memory runs the world right now. It's a $60 billion market at the heart of virtually all electronics. Thanks to Crossbar's resistive RAM technology, though, Flash may soon be a fading memory (pun intended).

Consider how much you and your business depend on flash memory. Smartphones rely on it. Tablets rely on it. So do USB thumb drives. Most ultrabooks use SSD or hybrid drives that combine traditional hard drive technology with flash memory. Without flash memory, your business might come to a grinding halt.

As ubiquitous as flash memory is, though, one of the hurdles for the technology has been capacity, especially larger capacity at a reasonable price. Most smartphones and tablets come with 16GB, 32GB, or sometimes 64GB of storage. Each step up typically adds $100 to the cost of the device.

With SSDs the problem is greater. The most common SSD capacities are 128GB and 256GB, both significantly smaller than the 1TB-plus capacities of most traditional hard drives. Yet a 128GB SSD costs as much as a 1TB or even some of the less expensive 2TB hard drives, and a 1TB SSD costs at least 10 times as much.

That's a problem in a world where higher resolution photos and videos and digital music and movie content can quickly fill up hundreds of gigabytes of space.

RRAM has a number of benefits and advantages over flash memory. Crossbar claims the technology can put 1TB of data on a single chip the size of a postage stamp and can access the data stored on it 20 times faster than the best flash memory. In addition, RRAM reportedly uses 20 times less power--enabling mobile devices to last weeks or months on a charge--and Crossbar says it has 10 times the endurance of NAND flash technology.

Flash memory has a massive, global presence, and Crossbar is just getting started, so don't expect to find any ultrabooks or mobile devices with RRAM on the shelf any time soon. As flash memory struggles to break capacity and cost barriers, though, RRAM could be a major game changer that enables the next generation of smartphone, tablet, and PC storage.

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