The breakthrough involves phase-change memory PCM which IBM has successfully achieved storing three bits of data per cell for the first time, compared to previous demonstrations of storing one bit per cell.
PCM is much more durable than flash – it can last something like 10 million write cycles compared to the average flash USB stick which endures around 3,000 write cycles – and it's way faster, coming closer to DRAM performance, but with one big difference: it doesn't lose data when switched off like DRAM.
Significant cost reduction
Dr Haris Pozidis, manager of non-volatile memory research at IBM Research, commented: "Phase change memory is the first instantiation of a universal memory with properties of both DRAM and flash, thus answering one of the grand challenges of our industry.
The new memory tech could have implications across a range of uses, including providing blazingly quick storage for cloud and IoT applications, and boosting performance of the likes of machine learning.
Businesses could see entire databases stored in PCM enabling ultra-fast querying, and of course this will also make a major difference to smartphones.
IBM envisions hybrid applications with PCM running alongside traditional flash storage in a phone, but with the OS stored in the PCM so when you switch your phone on, it loads almost immediately and you're staring at your home screen before you've had time to bat an eyelid.