Digital Storage Wars
There has been more storage of data in the last five years than in all previous history. It is expected that the digital universe (all digital content created) will double ever two years through 2020. While the sheer volume of digital content is mindboggling, so is the swift evolution of uses and devices for storing it.
While there may be more talk about “big data” storage like the Cloud, there are multiple applications for small digital content storage as well. Formats like High Definition (HD) video make it easier to save and readily access data. The availability of cost effective solutions has caused digital storage to explode in many fields, such as for surveillance.
Social Media and Large Digital Storage
Consider the huge amount of digital content generated by social media. Facebook alone boasts:
- 1.15 billion users (84% are outside of the United States)
- 700 million daily users
- >240 billion photos saved
- >350 million photos added each day
- 4.5 billion likes, posts and comments/day
Facebook spends $1.24 billion for capital expenditures related to the purchase of servers, networking equipment, storage infrastructure and the construction of data centers.
Data Storage Impacts Lives
Not all storage, however, needs to be of the large variety to impact our lives. On June 6, 2012 without much fanfare, the Internet protocol was upgraded to IPv6. Essentially, this increased the capacity of unique addresses that could be handled from 4.3 billion to virtually an unlimited amount. Combine this newfound capability with wireless and MEMS technology, and virtually everything we touch could be networked together.
From self-directed healthcare to home pantry stocking, all of these quality-of-life improvements will need some form of memory to store data. Plus, for virtually all applications, there are important characteristics that will determine their marketability:
- Cost effective
- Non-volatile (retains memory with power off)
- Low power use
- Fast read and write speed
- Reliable storage in a wide range of temperature and mobile situations
- Properly sized storage capacity for the application
Emerging Types of Storage
Innovative memory storage applications are rendering existing solid-state storage less attractive - and eventually obsolete. Both DRAM and NAND Flash are widely thought to be approaching the end of their technology evolution. New types of storage are being developed to eventually replace the current workhorses of the industry.
One of the leading candidates to emerge from the R&D lab to semiconductor production fabrication is Spin Torque Transfer Random Access Memory (STT-RAM). The heart of this technology is a magnetic memory storage cell (magnetic tunnel junction - MTJ) that identifies a “1” or “0” depending on which direction the magnetic memory is pointing. This direction can be changed at will.
Figure 1 illustrates a typical MTJ.
Materion and STT-RAM
Magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJ) have been used for years as the “read sensors” in hard disk drives. Materion is the world’s leader in shipping PVD materials for MTJs. In fact, we have over two decades of experience in manufacturing high purity magnetic materials for thin film deposition. That experience, along with the expertise of our dedicated materials scientists, allows us to understand the unique characteristics of storage devices and help our customers develop new materials for next generation technology. For more information, contact Matt Willson, Director of Marketing, Matthew.Willson@Materion.com