People at Intel started the pmem library project some time ago, it’s open to the broader community at GitHub and other developers, including Linux kernel devs, are actively involved.
While the library does allow interaction with an SSD using a good-old-filesystem, we know that addressing SSD through SATA or SAS is very inefficient. That said, the type of storage architecture that SSD uses does require significant management for write levelling and verifying so that the device as a whole actually lasts, and your data is kept safe: in theory you could write to an NVRAM chip, and not know when it didn’t actually store your data properly.
But there are other technologies, such as Memristor (RRAM) and Phase Change Memory (PCM, PRAM). Numonyx (founded by Intel and others, since acquired by Micron) was one of the companies developing PCM some years ago, to the point of some commercial applications. Somewhat oddly (in my opinion), Micron ditched their PCM line in 2014 focusing more on 3D NAND technology. In 2015, Intel and Micron announced that they were working on something called 3D XPoint but Micron denies that it’s based on PCM.
I like the concept of PCM because it has a lot of advantages over NAND technology. It’s very stable, doesn’t “bleed” to adjacent memory cells, if it writes correctly it’s stored correctly, and it’s fast. Not as fast as ordinary RAM, but it’s persistent! What I’ve been holding out for is just a small amount of PCM or similar storage in computers, phones, tablets and e-book readers.
In small mobile devices the advantage would be vastly reduced power consumption. ARM processors are able to put entire sections of the processor in standby to save power, but RAM needs to be powered and refreshed regularly. So with persistent memory, a device could maintain state while using hardly any power.
For RDBMS such as MySQL and MariaDB, persistent memory could be used for the InnoDB log files and other relatively small state information that needs to be persistently kept. So this storage would behave likely memory and be addressed as such (pmem uses mmap), but be persistent. So you could commit a transaction, your fsync is very quick, and the transactional information has been stored in a durable fashion. Very shiny, right?
It doesn’t need to be large, something like 512MB would be ample for RDBMS, and possibly much less for mobile devices.
I still reckon persistent memory space has huge potential – and I mention the mobile devices because that’s obviously a larger market. Previously Micron did work with Nokia on using NVM in phones, but as we all know Nokia was acquired and the Micron focus changed. I find the current state of it all quite disappointing, but I do hope the various players in this field will soon focus on this again properly and get the tech out there to be used!
If you happen to know of any current developments and activities, I’d like to hear about it!