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Instant access to memory contents - fast boot
Posted on 11-Jun-2003 14:08. | Tags Filed under: News.

Instant access to memory contents - fast boot
IBM and Infineon Technologies improve the MRAM (Magnetic Random Access Memory) technology by integrating magnetic memory components into a high-performance logic base.

The announcement could accelerate the commercialization of MRAM, with the potential to begin replacing some of today’s memory technologies as early as 2005. MRAM could lead to ‘instant on’ computers, allowing users to turn computers on and off as quickly as a light switch.

A memory technology that uses magnetic, rather than electronic, charges to store bits of data, MRAM could significantly improve portable computing products by storing more information, accessing it faster and using less battery power than the electronic memory used today. MRAM combines the best features of today's common memory technologies: the storage capacity and low-cost of Dynamic RAM (DRAM), the high speed of Static RAM (SRAM), and the non-volatility of flash memory. Since MRAM retains information when power is turned off, products like personal computers using it could start up instantly, without waiting for software to “boot up”.

“MRAM has the potential to become the universal memory technology of the future,” said Dr T. C. Chen, VP Science and Technology, IBM Research. “This breakthrough demonstrates that MRAM technology is rapidly maturing and could fundamentally alter the entire memory marketplace within the next few years.”

“Nonvolatile memory technologies like MRAM will play a major role in technology lifestyle solutions and we want to be the number one semiconductor company in this area by having a product demonstrator jointly developed with IBM available early 2004. Together with Altis Semiconductor, a joint venture of IBM and Infineon, we will pave the way for production readiness of MRAM as early as 2005," said Dr. Wilhelm Beinvogl, CTO of the Memory Product Division, Infineon.

The non-volatility attribute of MRAM carries significant implications, especially for mobile computing devices. Memory technologies like DRAM and SRAM require constant electrical power to retain stored data. When power is cut off, all data in memory is lost. A laptop computer, for example, works from a copy of its software stored in memory. When turned on, a working version of the software is copied from the hard-disk drive into memory, so the user can access it quickly. Every time the power is turned off and then back on, the process must start over. By using MRAM, the laptop could work more like other electronic devices such as a television or radio: turn the power on and the machine jumps almost instantly to life with settings just as you had left them.

Non-volatility can save power as well. Since MRAM will not need constant power to keep the data intact, it could consume much less than current random access memory technologies, extending the battery life of cell phones, handheld devices, laptops and other battery powered products.

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