PDL Abstract

Phase Change Memory Architecture and the Quest for Scalability

Communications of the ACM (CACM), Research Highlight, Vol. 53, No. 7, pages 99-106, July 2010.

Benjamin C. Lee1, Engin Ipek2, Onur Mutlu, Doug Burger3

Electrical & Computer Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

1 Stanford University
2 University of Rochester
3 Microsoft Research

Memory scaling is in jeopardy as charge storage and sensing mechanisms become less reliable for prevalent memory technologies, such as dynamic random access memory (DRAM). In contrast, phase change memory (PCM) relies on programmable resistances, as well as scalable current and thermal mechanisms. To deploy PCM as a DRAM alternative and to exploit its scalability, PCM must be architected to address relatively long latencies, high energy writes, and finite endurance. We propose architectural enhancements that address these limitations and make PCM competitive with DRAM. A baseline PCM system is 1.6× slower and requires 2.2× more energy than a DRAM system. Buffer reorganizations reduce this delay and energy gap to 1.2× and 1.0×, using narrow rows to mitigate write energy as well as multiple rows to improve locality and write coalescing. Partial writes mitigate limited memory endurance to provide more than 10 years of lifetime. Process scaling will further reduce PCM energy costs and improve endurance.