Avalanche Samples MRAM

AVALANCHE TECHNOLOGY, INC. LOGO

Today Avalanche Technology announced that it is sampling MRAM, making it the world’s second company to actually produce this much-researched technology.

For those unfamiliar with MRAM, it is one of a number of technologies being positioned to replace currently-entrenched memory technologies once they reach their scaling limits.  Regular Memory Guy readers know that this juncture has been anticipated for a few decades, but always seems to get postponed.

MRAM, like many other alternative technologies, offers the promise of scaling beyond the limits of DRAM and NAND to become cheaper than ether of these technologies.  Add to this its fast write speed, low power, lack of refresh, nearly unlimited endurance, and nonvolatility, and it becomes a very compelling alternative over the long term.

As opposed to the other MRAM-maker Everspin, Avalanche’s MRAM uses Continue reading “Avalanche Samples MRAM”

Cypress to Merge with Spansion

NOR flash and SRAM revenues are in decline, but MCUs are growing(Excerpted from an Objective Analysis Alert issued 1 December 2014.)

In a move touted as a merger of equals, Cypress will acquire Spansion in an all-stock transaction slated to close in the second quarter of 2015.  The purchase price is estimated at $1.6 billion.

Cypress points out that it is the leading producer of SRAMs, and that Spansion is the leading NOR flash provider.

One striking feature of this transaction is the Continue reading “Cypress to Merge with Spansion”

Fundamentals of Memory – Free Online Course

Fundamentals of Memory Course - EE TimesSome time ago The Memory Guy was asked by Numonyx (later acquired by Micron) to put together an online course for EE Times on memory technologies, explaining how each one works and where it is used.

Although the course was very well received, I never posted a link to it on The Memory Guy blog.  This post is intended to correct that error.

The course runs 75 minutes and covers the basics of DRAM, non-volatile RAM, SRAM, NAND flash, NOR flash, mask ROM, and EEPROM.  It explains each technology’s advances in size, cost and performance, leading up to the development of Continue reading “Fundamentals of Memory – Free Online Course”

Cheesecake and Floating Gates

Dr. Simon Sze, Co-Inventor of the Floating GateOne of the more fun aspects of last week’s Flash Memory Summit was the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award.  This is something that the show’s management has allowed me to do for the past four events.

This year’s award went to Dr. Simon Sze, who co-invented the floating gate transistor (the basis for all flash, EEPROM, and EPROM) at Bell Labs back in 1967.

Sze and his partner Dawon Kahng were finishing lunch in the company cafeteria with a cheesecake dessert.  The two discussed what would happen if a MOSFET was built with extra layers like the layers in the cake.  Their intent was to use semiconductors to replace Continue reading “Cheesecake and Floating Gates”

Spansion’s Super-Fast HyperFlash NOR

Comparing Spansion's HyperFlash against the speed of alternative interfacesSpansion recently introduced a NOR flash that the company boasts is the: “World’s fastest NOR flash memory”.  Named HyperFlash, the chip taps into high-speed SPI interface, doubling its width and adding a differential clock to run at an I/O rates as high as 333MB/s.

In this post’s graphic (click to enlarge) Spansion compares the HyperFlash chip’s sustained read rate (right-hand column) to that of (from left to right) asynchronous parallel NOR, single-bit SPI, industry-standard DDR Quad SPI, and Spansion’s faster rendition of DDR Quad SPI, which Spansion tells us, until now, has been the fastest flash on the market.  The company points out that HyperFlash is five times the speed of industry-standard Continue reading “Spansion’s Super-Fast HyperFlash NOR”

The Father of Flash Memory

Dr. Fujio Masuoka, the inventor of NAND and NOR flash memoryAt the Flash Memory Summit in August I had the honor of awarding Fujio Masuoka, the inventor of both NAND and NOR flash, the Flash Memory Summit Lifetime Achievement Award.  This award is given to the giants of the flash memory industry to acknowledge their contributions.

Dr. Masuoka first described NOR flash at the 1984 International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM) in San Francisco, and NAND flash at the same venue in 1987.  His paper “A new flash EEPROM cell using triple polysilicon technology” introduced a technology that is now used everywhere.

The award has also been given to Intel’s Flash team who brought the first commercial products to the market, and SanDisk co-founder Eli Harari, for devising a way to manufacture a floating gate.

David Schwaderer made a video of the presentation and posted it HERE.  Have a watch!

3D NAND: Benefits of Charge Traps over Floating Gates

Real California Cheese SealA prior post in this series (3D NAND: Making a Vertical String) discussed the difficulties of successfully manufacturing a charge trap flash bit.  Still, Spansion, and now other flash makers, have determined to take this route.  Why is that?

In Spansion’s case, a charge trap was a means of doubling the bit capacity of its products.  It was an inexpensive alternative to standard MLC flash.  To date this strategy has worked very well.

As mentioned in that earlier post, 3D NAND uses a charge trap because it’s extremely difficult to create features, like a floating gate, sideways – lithography works from the top down.  A charge trap, when used to replace a floating gate, doesn’t need to be patterned, since the Continue reading “3D NAND: Benefits of Charge Traps over Floating Gates”

Why Do Memories Have Those Odd Names?

Where do all those memory names come from???From time to time I am asked: “Why is NAND flash called NAND?” or “Why do we say RAM?” and similar questions.  A lot of this has to do with history, and a lot of terminology which is now obsolete.  To understand these strange names, you have to understand the history of memories.  The Computer History Museum (CHM) in Silicon Valley is a great help in this vein.

Since the Memory Guy has been in Silicon Valley since 1977, a lot of this information is stored in my head.  Let me try to share it with you in a way that I hope will make more sense, and will help outsiders to understand these odd names.

Here’s the history of memory nomenclature, as I understand it: Continue reading “Why Do Memories Have Those Odd Names?”

Spansion Introduces 8Gb NOR Flash

Just in case anyone thought that NOR flash was not going to get any denser, Spansion announced a single-chip 8Gb parallel NOR today.  This product, built using Spansion’s MirrorBit technology on a 45nm line is not only the densest monolithic NOR chip on the market, it’s also the NOR flash with the finest process technology.

Spansion’s GL-T product is aimed at applications that need high densities at read speeds faster than those that NAND flash can deliver.  Spansion tells The Memory Guy that read performance is 95MB/s and program performance is 1.8 MB/s.

Sampling will commence in December, with production in the first quarter of 2013.

Figuring Out Who Shipped What

Some Companies Count Some Chips and Not OthersToday I saw an announcement from another market research firm about a new report with flash memory market shares for 2011.  I found it remarkable that the way these chips are counted varies enough that the company decided to openly discuss this issue right in the press release for the report!

Memory market statistics are compiled by numerous firms: The World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) sold in the US and Europe by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), Gartner Dataquest, IHS iSuppli, Web Feet, Semico, Forward Insights, and even DRAMexchange.  Lots of entities use conflicting definitions of what is and what is not a chip.  This causes each company’s numbers to differ from the others’.

In the case of WSTS, a chip that is packaged with another chip into a board becomes Continue reading “Figuring Out Who Shipped What”