Back in the 1950s IBM invented a technology that we all use every day (or at least we used to), the hard disk drive. Today more and more people have been switching to solid state drives, because they are much faster and more durable since there aren’t any moving parts, like in a traditional hard drive. Solid state has been taking its time to penetrate the market, however, because it’s so expensive whereas the traditional hard disk is always getting cheaper. However, IBM is now trying to phase out their old hard disk technology in favor of something that they call Racetrack.
What Is Racetrack Memory?[td_divider top=”no’]
IBM began working on Racetrack over 6 years ago, already knowing that it would be the memory solution of the future, but it wasn’t ready yet. In fact, it’s still not ready according to all of the official information that’s currently available. However, it’s a very interesting technology that is actually known as Domain-Wall Memory, which uses a series of tiny magnets that are being build one atomic layer at a time.[td_quote cite=”Wikipedia” url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racetrack_memory”]Racetrack memory uses a spin-coherent electric current to move magnetic domains along a nanoscopic permalloy wire about 200 nm across and 100 nm thick. As current is passed through the wire, the domains pass by magnetic read/write heads positioned near the wire, which alter the domains to record patterns of bits. A racetrack memory device is made up of many such wires and read/write elements. In general operational concept, racetrack memory is similar to the earlier bubble memory of the 1960s and 1970s.[/td_quote]
According to the leads of the project, the technology is able to increase memory by 100 times compared to flash memory, which is a huge part of the reason that solid state drives haven’t caught on. As far as price is concerned solid state is nearly 8 times more expensive per gigabyte than a traditional hard disk is on average. With the efficiency of racetrack memory being what it is, it is killing two birds with one stone, increasing the memory available to users and decreasing the price compared to solid state.
How Does Racetrack Compare To Other Emerging Technologies?[td_divider top=”no’]
One major technology that has been working tirelessly to make it to market over the same time period that IBM has been working on racetrack is called phase-change memory. Phase-change memory is similar to racetrack memory in that they are both non-volatile memory, meaning that they don’t need to be powered in order to recall data that has been saved to them and that both claim to be cheaper and more able to increase storage capacity than solid state.
Phase-change memory is different from racetrack, however, in that it uses chalcogenide glass, which is the same technology used in re-writable compact disks and DVDs. It seems, however, as though companies are beginning to pull back on PCM as a replacement for a hard drive. The technology has problems with varying temperatures and that has caused manufacturers to rethink their approach to it as a viable storage option. In July of 2012 Micron announced the first PRAM solution in volume production, but then in January of this year pulled the plug and removed all products from the market.
Whatever the prevailing new technology will be, for the sake of consumers, we hope it will be soon, fast, and cheap.