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IBM Racetrack Memory Research Promises Faster Multi-Terabyte Storage Devices

IBM racetrack memory hardware - this is not!A new form of memory from IBM Labs has been described by its researcher, which he explained may be the advance the world is hoping for, to revolutionize how much data we can store, and how quickly we can access it on our mobile and desktop devices, a few years from now.

Stuart Parkin, the head researcher on the Racetrack project at IBM, has been interviewed by CNet during which he explained in layman’s terms how it works and how after further development it might be used. The details have also been published in Science Magazine.

Racetrack memory as IBM are calling it, may allow manufacturers to build laptops, smartphones, and other devices with considerably more memory than at present, in the same or a more compact space, than currently needed.

The information provided raises many questions, due to the imprecise description, but this is of course understandable at this early stage of development from current concept research, to prototype to consumer product.   Those who understand memory technology have since been asking how big the device is in area, and seek data to enable them to compare the result with a real current technology density for a state-of-the-art disk, and flash drive (also known as an SSD).

Almost certainly the transfer rate will be determined by the system architecture. It is not clear how many “racetracks” would be needed for example. Some wonder whether the idea will really be that better than likely further developments in flash drives which, renamed as SSDs, have been advancing by miles in the past few years.

Experts have pointed out that you can get higher transfer rates from flash memory by adding more pins to the package, or if using a hard disk, more platters and heads to a disk array.

Although Flash memory can no doubt be developed still further and may be compact and fast to read data, and write, it has flash wear issues and those heavy users of flash drive type SSD’s already have been experiencing SSD failures from wear.

The IBM “Racetrack” technology doesn’t depend upon an electronic charge to retain data, but instead uses the “spin” of electrons and its associated magnetic moment. Racetrack memory also utilizes the most cutting edge advances in the realm of metal “spintronics”. It reportedly would also require far less battery power, and could be used to read and write data an infinite number of times.

Flash memoryit is claimed will soon be using more power than Racetrack. So, will Racetrack replace both flash drives and disk drives?

Many computing devices have been claimed to be winners at this stage of research, and have not shown the big benefits foretold for them, so it cannot yet be said whether this technology will one day become a household name, but with the backing of IBM this should be one worth watching.

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