12 Jan 2015

Atomic-scale magnetic memory; the storage revolution of 2015

One of the biggest technology revolutions we are going to see in 2015 is in the humble field of storage, and it’s coming to us courtesy of IBM’s researchers. That technology is Atomic-scale magnetic memory. Everyone in technology knows about Moore’s Law, which states the number of transistors on a microchip will double every two years, and therefore the rate in which computing power improves is a relatively constant series of incremental improvements.

Atomic-scale magnetic memory shatters the rate of improvement in terms of storage. Currently in computing one bit of data is stored across one million atoms – i.e. the fundamental building blocks of all things in the universe. IBM’s researchers have worked out how to store the same one bit of data on 12 atoms. The initial breakthrough of this technology occurred in 2012, and was the cumulation of decades of research, IBM claims. But after another couple of years of development, it seems likely that the vendor will be producing commercial technology making use of the research by the end of the year.

What does such a development mean in practice? IBM will be able to develop storage solutions that are around 100 times more dense than current hard drive technology, 160 times more dense than NAND Flash, 417 times more dense than DRAM, and 10,000 times more dense that SRAM. The USB thumb drives that you use for portability will be obsoleted as you could carry entire movie collections around on a device smaller than that.

The timing is good for IBM to start commercialising its Atomic-scale magnetic memory. With wearable technology set to become a global phenomenon in 2015, and the Internet of Things expected to take over just about every appliance or object that you can find in a household, there is going to be such a demand for ultra-compact storage solutions the sheer density of what IBM is going to be in hot demand.

It also goes without saying these solutions will be a great boon to any enterprise running a datacentre. The sheer improvement in data density should help generate greater efficiencies and larger capacities without requiring an increase in real-estate – the perfect solution to help manage the sheer explosion of data is not going to abate any time soon.