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Hybrid Memory Cube: After the Revolution, Your Memories Will Be Made Of It

Hybrid Memory Cube: After the Revolution, Your Memories Will Be Made Of It

Hybrid Memory Cube: After the Revolution, Your Memories Will Be Made Of It

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Hybrid memory cubes. This is a revolution! This is a fresh take on…system memory. Damn, this is the tuning for most readers. But there you are! Yep, you’re left with a reader because the Hybrid Memory Cube sounds a bit like something Borg used to replay Locutus’ biggest hits — let me tell you all about it.

First, let me hit you with very important stats. A single Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC) module should provide fifteen times the performance of a single DDR3 module. It will use less energy and less space to do it.

According to the HMC Alliance, a group of companies that have come together to try to set a global standard for this new type of memory, modern technology has hit a wall. The improvements sought by traditional DRAM are increasingly difficult to achieve, so we see only very slight improvements in energy efficiency and bandwidth. This is seen as an obstacle to progress at the system level.

Next year we may see a migration to DDR4 memory, which will only offer small improvements in performance and efficiency. Compared to the revolutionary nature of the Hybrid Memory Cube, the HMC Alliance calls it an evolution.

The HMC Alliance has now finalized the HMC specification, and this standardization means that companies now have a starting point from which to begin designing future products that can incorporate HMC technology. Given that the two giants behind HMC—Samsung and Micron—are both giants in the system memory space, it’s not surprising that it took only 17 months from the formation of the alliance to the final standard.

“This milestone marks the removal of the memory wall,” said Robert Feurle, Micron’s vice president of DRAM marketing.

And, to be fair, HMC modules are built in a completely different way than traditional DRAM. The bottom of the cube has a small logic layer on top of which a stack of DRAM chips is arranged. Through all these layers are directly connected through the silicon itself.

Due to the stacking nature of the HMC, it is estimated that such modules will take up nearly 90% less space than existing memory DIMMs. Since they also boast an impressive 15x performance boost and require around 70% less energy per bit compared to existing DRAM technologies, the revolutionary status claim certainly seems to hold.

It’s still a while before we actually see the results of the Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium in our desktops, but the benefits to system memory and graphics memory could be huge. The final standard is at least a good start.

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Wilbert Wood
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