The Big Blue has teamed up with Japan's TDK to develop what could be the next generation of non-volatile RAM called Spin Torque Transfer RAM (STT-RAM). Non-volatile memories are those that don't need any electric power to retain data.
An excerpt from CNET News.com:
In STT-RAM, an electric current is applied to a magnet to change the direction of the magnetic field. The direction of the magnetic field (up-and-down or left-to-right) causes a change in resistance, and the different levels of resistance register as 1s or 0s.
Earlier, IBM had been at the forefront promoting another RAM technology, MRAM (Magneto resistive Random Access Memory). However, it was found to be unfeasible to scale MRAM beyond the 65 nanometer limit. Thus, the scope for STT-RAM is that more memory in smaller non-volatile packages has immense potential for machines that will boot instantly. Their use becomes more obvious in cell phones and other mobile media devices.
IBM, TDK team on new chips (PC World | IDG News Service)
IBM, TDK partner on Spin Torque RAM (Semiconductor.net)
IBM and TDK to work on compact MRAM chips (TechWorld)
A chief competitor to the STT technology is the phase change technology pioneered by Intel and STmicroelectronics. There's no doubt that the future of memory is megabytes on nano-size, but which will it be - STT, phase change, or possibly something else?