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Memory upgrade

The demands of modern computing call for a seismic shift in data storage and retrieval

3:00pm, October 4, 2013

Google operates data centers at 13 sites globally, including this server farm in Hamina, Finland. Storing and processing so much data requires loads of energy and a dedicated cooling system. At Hamina, seawater from the Gulf of Finland cools the computers. Creating new kinds of computer memory could cut the demand for energy and make searching data faster.

Ramamoorthy Ramesh listens to Indian classical music on his smartphone, which is jammed with videos of his kids’ soccer games. He streams Netflix movies on his tablet and, on his laptop, he uses Google to search the Internet several times a day. Like many of us, he’s an active consumer of data in a data-centric world.

But Ramesh is also a materials scientist who has a thorough understanding of what’s going on under the hood of his electronic devices, and he has a lingering concern: “The computer is very advanced, but it’s not close to where it should be.”

The problem, he says, is that today’s users rely on computers that are much better at computing than at storing and recalling information. At the heart of every computer is a processor that carries out programmed instructions at blazing speeds so users can pay bills online, find a nearby Italian restaurant and post selfies on Instagram. But

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