Intel, Micron stop 3D NAND development, but we still don't know how 3D XPoint works

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Intel and Micron have called time on the joint development of 3D NAND technology. Perhaps that’s not a great shock, but what is of interest is that development and manufacture of 3D XPoint will continue in their joint venture fab in Utah.

Readers will recall that 3D Xpoint – unveiled to a huge fanfare in July 2015 – was said to be ‘the first new class of mainstream memory introduced since 1989’. Devices made using the technology, it was claimed, would be ‘up to 1000 times faster than NAND flash’ and to have a similar improvement in endurance. Since then, the performance claims have been scaled back significantly.

What the companies have yet to explain – more than two years after the launch – is how 3D XPoint operates. Most observers suggested that 3D XPoint would be an update on phase change memory (PCM), a technology developed previously by both companies. But Intel said no. Apart from hinting that 3D XPoint ‘doesn’t use electrons’, it also ruled out PCM or memristor technology. The latest guess is that it might be some kind of resistive RAM technology.

Originally, Intel planned to launch 3D XPoint based solid state drives under the Optane brand ‘early in 2016’. For whatever reason, they only saw the light of day in March 2017. Micron’s version – QuantX – has still to be seen.