Pawlowski gave a tip of the hat to memory architectures beyond the DRAM, but he said in the interview that it's still unclear which will win or when. The alternatives "certainly have been whittled down to fewer than we were exploring before." Micron has said it is working on spin-transfer torque RAM and phase-change memory. Phase-change memory "is in low-volume production" but is not suitable as a DRAM or NAND flash replacement. Even though "it has its place, it's its own thing."
Micron's process technology experts have expressed "wild disagreement" about when a DRAM replacement will be needed. "The earliest points to 2015, and the latest points to far enough out you could call it never."
Pawlowski was more specific about the Automata Processor (AP) that Micron announced last fall. He described it as a kind of symbol processor or state machine or, more accurately, a nondeterministic finite AP. It has the potential to solve highly complex problems in network security, bioinformatics, and other fields that can't be cracked by conventional CPUs, GPUs or FPGAs, he said. This suggests it could have a vast addressable market. Micron is debugging a revision of the part produced in its DRAM fabs with hopes of sampling it as early as April.
In theory, a single AP card will offer quick solutions to problems that baffle a large computer cluster.
A suite of four AP development tools will be released before June. One tool enables writing regular expressions for security apps; another uses Python as a scripting language along with visual tools for developers in bioinformatics.
Micron also designed a hardware developer's kit based on a PCIe board that will hold 48 of the processors. It also is exploring use of the AP on various kinds of memory cards such as DIMMs.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times