Top tech firms team up to develop a new memory ‘fabric’


IBM Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. have few shared interests from a competitive standpoint, but they’ll both be affected by the radical changes in data storage technology that are expected to occur over the next few years. That’s why the companies banded up today along with 18 of the industry’s other biggest names to form a group that will focus on addressing this coming shift.

The newly formed Gen-Z Consortium’s goal is to develop a new kind of interconnect fabric that can link the processors inside servers, phones and other systems with the so-called persistent memory products that are starting to hit the market.

Intel Corp.’s upcoming Optane Solid State Drives are perhaps the most well-known of the bunch. The series is designed to serve as a permanent storage medium like traditional flash-based drives, but can carry out read and write operations hundreds of times faster.

Notable in their absence from the new group are Intel, which may not be a surprise since the consortium appears aimed at challenging the dominant supplier of data center processors, and Cisco Systems Inc.

The 3D XPoint technology on which the SSDs are based is so fast, in fact, that Intel believes it could one day even replace DRAM memory. The chip maker (and the other vendors working on similar products) thus hope to remove the need for two separate media types in computer architectures. Instead of having to keep bits on volatile memory during processing and sending it to a secondary, non-volatile medium for long-term storage, the idea is that future machines that use the technology will be able to handle all of their data operations in one place.

The Gen-Z Consortium will design its upcoming interconnect to support “tens to several hundred GBs of bandwidth” in order to let devices take full advantage of persistent memory. Moreover, the group promises latencies of below 100 nanoseconds, which should enable processors to interact with data in their default, high-frequency manner. This in turn will eliminate the need for the intermediary software that flash and other slower non-volatile memory types require, thus improving access speeds even further.

The Gen-Z Consortium’s two other main priorities is to make the interconnect scalable and add compatibility with leading operating system so to remove the need for major rewrites. The core specification for the technology, which includes the primary hardware architecture and a complementary software protocol, is expected to be finalized by the end of this year.

More details about the development roadmap can be found on the group’s official website along with the complete member list. Notable participants include ARM Holdings plc, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Dell Technologies Inc. and Lenovo Group Ltd.

Image via Geralt