Future MacBook Air could retrieve data a thousand times faster...

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by LarryC, Jun 13, 2011.

  1. LarryC, Jun 13, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2011

    LarryC macrumors 6502


    Jul 19, 2002
    North America
    From 9 to 5 Mac. Here is the link. Their page has some more info.

    Future MacBook Air could retrieve data a thousand times faster, thanks to new CAM chips from NEC

    Solid-state storage is all the rage these days. Tiny flash-based memory chips connected via a daughter card to the MacBook Air’s motherboard enable Apple’s ultra-thin notebook to boot and respond way faster than the flagship 27-inch iMac equipped with a hard drive. NEC Corporation, a Japanese IT company, has a new technology which promises to obsolete SSDs. Teamming up with Tohoku University, NEC has developed a chip around Content Addressable Memory (CAM) technology that can save data without power and retrieve stored bits as fast as everyday RAM chips. Per official press release:

    CAM is a part of spintronics logic integrated circuit technologies that utilize the negative properties of electrons together with the spin magnetic moment. The new CAM utilizes the vertical magnetization of vertical domain wall elements in reaction to magnetic substances in order to enable data that is processing within the CAM to be stored on a circuit without using power. This contrasts to conventional technologies that required data to be stored within memory. As a result, data can be saved on circuits even when power is cut from the CAM.
    A jump in performance and power consumption reduction is quite dramatic so you can image what CAM chips could mean for the Air. How dramatic? Think thousand times faster, at least…

    We’re talking on average a five nanosecond data retrieval times for CAM chips, which is in the neighborhood of RAM chips. Nanosecond is one billionth of a second. For comparison, solid-state drives typically have access times measured in microseconds (one millionth of a second). The step-up from millisecond-SSDs to nanosecond-CAMs roughly equals to the performance jump experienced when replacing your hard drive with an SSD (access time of hard drives is measured in milliseconds, which is a thousandth of a second). What’s best, CAM chips consumer far less power than the traditional SSDs we use today because CAMs only require electricity when saving data, typically just 9.4mW of power.

    For comparison, hard drives require two watts of power and SSDs less than a watt. CAMs are also simpler to manufacture than RAM chips due to only three transistors per two cells versus eight for RAM modules. Apple, which has a penchant for instant-on devices with on-board memory chips, could theoretically speaking use CAM chips in a future MacBook Air revision to extend battery life while making the computer nimbler and speedier than ever before.

    If this proves to actually work, I wonder what other products might benefit from its use? It also makes me wonder how this might effect the price of SSD's if there is another technology that would give it some competition. Some of the comments at 9 to 5 Mac mention that this new technology could also easily replace RAM. The future of personal computing seems brighter every year.
  2. Repo macrumors 6502a


    Feb 11, 2009
    The press release says the "latest results" will be announced June 17. I'll be waiting.
  3. cirus macrumors 6502a

    Mar 15, 2011
    Two things

    1. I wish I could think a thousand times faster.

    2. How many people are really going to need this?
  4. 2IS, Jun 13, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2011

    2IS macrumors 68030

    Jan 9, 2011
    It looks good on paper, and it may be nice when simply copying large chunks of data from one of these devices to another equally quick device, but most of the time you retrieve information from your drive it needs to be processed. Today's SSD's can already feed data to the CPU faster than most can process it.

    Also, it sounds very expensive. Certainly something to consider a few more years into the future but unnecessary today and not to distant future.
  5. Hankster macrumors 68020


    Jan 30, 2008
    Washington DC
    I agree. Often times "faster" doesn't really mean much. If it takes 3 seconds to open up Word, I'm not going to care if it takes 1 second with the new MBA. There's a point where a few seconds doesn't really matter anymore.

    Though, one wonders what this technology would do for phones...
  6. brand macrumors 601


    Oct 3, 2006
    Um, make them faster. ;)
  7. seepel, Jun 14, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2011

    seepel macrumors 6502


    Dec 22, 2009
    Big picture here... Your entire system would essentially reside in RAM. Unless I'm mistake this technology could kill RAM. This statement alone is so striking that I'm not sure I could really predict the results...

    Just as one example, the average iOS application needs to be designed with a maximum memory footprint of about 20MB, imagine what we would see with this limitation removed.

    And on the desktop size where memory isn't as much an issue, you still spend a lot of your time reading from disk into memory so you can use it, if this requirement were removed I think it would speed up any application. If you take a look at software that monitors CPU usage (Activity Monitor, MenuMeters, etc...) how often do you see the CPU spike? Not much, so why isn't everything instantaneous? While I know this question is complicated, I/O has to be at least part of the answer.

    EDIT: I think the possibilities got the best of me, but even if my above statements are pie in the sky. If you simply replaced RAM with persistant storage of the same speed that would still be remarkably cool. There would be no such thing as a "boot" except for the first time you powered your device.
  8. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    And when is this technology supposed to go into mass production? And how expensive would it be? There is always something faster in the works but it usually takes years, even decades, before we see that technology sitting in the shelves of Walmart. That is why I wouldn't get too exited. This sounds like something we won't see for years because it's most likely still in development state.
  9. Patrick946 macrumors regular

    Jun 21, 2009
    I have 4GB of RAM in my current machine, and I remember having a 3GB hard drive in my parent's first PC. So I believe that we will someday have storage as fast as RAM that can serve as the whole storage drive. This sounds like it will be incredibly expensive when it first comes out though, so I don't expect to see it in anything that I own for years.
  10. halledise macrumors 65816

    May 7, 2009
    Hamilton Island, Whitsundays, QLD Australia
    true that.
    though I do remember the days (admittedly back in my dark PeeCee days) when to launch a word processor app one had enough time to make a cup of tea (as long as the billy had boiled first) and return in time to see a blank page just appearing.
    how things have turbo-changed and in such a relatively short time

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