Although IMFT still hopes to resurrect the three-bit-per-cell technology using the 25nm lithography process, Kilbuck said it's already eyeing technologies other than the floating-gate transistor technology now in use to continue down the path toward smaller, denser data storage hardware. Among those technologies are charge trap flash and phase-change memory . The company is also considering 3D-cell NAND, which involves stacking cells atop one another.
"It's just something we're looking at to extend the life of the NAND cell itself," Kilbuck said. "If we do end up going that route, we can leverage our DRAM process technology and cell technology, since DRAM has been utilizing a 3D-cell with some fine geometries. The goal is to keep scaling so we can stay ahead in cost."
According to Forward Insights, as lithography techniques shrink, bit errors increase, a problem that's compounded by the move toward three-bit and four-bit per cell MLC NAND. Higher bit error rates require more error correction code [ECC] in the flash memory to detect data errors and correct them.
Traditional ECC , however, requires code redundancy and data read latency as the number of errors that must be corrected goes up, according to Forward Insights.
One technology several non-volatile memory companies are exploring is Resistive Random-Access Memory (RRAM). Instead of using silicon as a resistive material, RRAM uses a filament or conduction path in the silicon.
Wong said RRAM technology may have an advantage over other emerging non-volatile memories because it has a lower voltage for programming than phase-change memory and it could have a memory cell size comparable to NAND. "In other words, it is a potentially scalable technology," Wong said.
"There's no clear winner among the up-and-coming technologies, but with stackable 3D RRAM there's a lot of advantages," Wong said. "The industry is quite innovative so [it'll] find some ways to extend NAND. And when it is not possible to scale, an alternative technology will be in place."
Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld . Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com .
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