Spin Transfer Technologies' delivery of functional MRAM samples is one more indication of emerging memory technology's momentum.
Finally, the delivery of fully functional samples is one more piece of evidence that momentum around MRAM is growing.
”There are lots of things going on in MRAM right now,” Coughlin said. Big firms such as Samsung, Toshiba and Qualcomm all have significant activity around MRAM, he added. Non-volatile memory in general is being increasingly considered as a replacement for volatile memory in a wide spectrum of applications.
Jim Handy, principal analyst with Objective Analysis, told EE Times that there is interest around using MRAM to replace SRAM in some applications, but that for other applications the higher cost of MRAM makes it less appealing.
”I think the real reason that these emerging memory technologies [like MRAM] are getting a lot of attention is because of Intel’s 3D Xpoint announcement,” Handy said. According to Handy, Xpoint creates the need for a new memory layer.
While Coughlin believes MRAM could possibility be a long-term successor to DRAM, he sees it in the short term as an augmentation for DRAM and as a replacement for memory in applications where the non-volatility adds a lot of value.
“There are definitely applications where a little bit of MRAM has a lot of value,” Couglin said. He added that the cost of MRAM will decline as manufacturing volume increases, making it a more attractive option for more applications.
MRAM’s momentum has been steady over the past year as hopes have grown that the development of the technology and market needs may finally be synching up. Last year, Everspin completed a successful IPO.
In addition to STT, there are a handful of other startups with MRAM in development, including Avalanche Technology, also headquartered in Fremont. In addition, a number of other firms, including major companies like IBM, Intel, Samsung, Fujitsu, Hynix, Qualcomm, Renesas and Toshiba, have MRAM development of some form or another.
In a document filed in preparation for its IPO last year, Everspin estimated that the market opportunity for MRAM would grow at a compound annual growth rate of 19 percent from 2015 through next year, reaching $1.8 billion.
STT is still a ways away from commercial products. The company’s goal is to begin shipping devices next year.
Barry Hoberman, STT
Barry Hoberman, STT’s CEO, said in an interview with EE Times that the samples represent a culmination point of investment, development and success in a bunch of different technology areas.
”We have a long, complicated development program here and we certainly aren’t at any end point,” Hoberman said. “These samples are indicative of having completed the first several heats successfully.”
Hoberman said MRAM is gaining momentum and that the company is fielding interest from multiple application areas, mostly places where MRAM’s efficiency make it more attractive than flash, especially for battery powered devices. He added that these applications mostly fall into what is generally classified as the Internet of Things.
—Dylan McGrath covers the semiconductor industry and business news for EE Times.