TORONTO – The overall market for SRAM is shrinking, but Cypress Semiconductor sees new opportunities in some as areas as traditional segments contract.
The company just announced it is sampling its latest SRAM with on-chip error-correcting code (ECC). The 4Mb asynchronous SRAMs with ECC do not need additional error correction chips, which allows for simplified designs and reduced board space.
P.K. Sidharth, business development manager for the asynchronous SRAM business unit at Cypress, told EE Times in a telephone interview the company is looking to expand onboard ECC across its SRAM product portfolio as on-chip EEC improves reliability as compared with standard SRAM. Cypress first introduced ECC with its 16Mb asynchronous SRAM.
The hardware ECC block performs all error correction functions inline without user intervention. The new devices are pin-compatible with current asynchronous fast and low-power SRAMs and include an optional error indication signal that indicates the correction of single-bit errors.
Sidharth said systems using SRAM, such as industrial, military, communication, data processing and automotive applications, require high densities while at the same time cannot tolerate bit errors caused by background radiation. These soft errors corrupt memory content and lead to the loss of critical data, he said.
Cypress Semiconductor sees the requirements of wearable electronics driving the resurgence of SRAMs
SRAM has been a niche, yet critical memory market because of its performance and speed for certain application such as networking, where it continues to fill a need as Internet traffic continues to grow exponentially. As network gear has moved to 400G linecards, the demand for SRAM bandwidth has scaled right along with it.
Although the overall SRAM market has been shrinking, Cypress has seen some growth in demand for automotive applications and the Internet of Things (IoT), such as wearables, Sunil Thamaran, senior director of Cypress’s asynchronous SRAM business unit told EE Times. In fact, the company sees the requirements of wearable electronics driving the resurgence of SRAMs, since size and power are critical factors.
However, Jim Handy, principal analyst with Objective Analysis, doesn’t think IoT is necessarily going to be a large boon to the SRAM market, as many wearables have already snuck into the lives of consumers in the form of smartphones, which use DRAM. Low-power SRAM has been losing ground to DRAM, which used to not care about power consumption.
He also suggested that IoT won’t be called that once it takes hold and could possibly become fragmented into distinct categories, such as the “smart thermostat market” or “fitness monitor market.”
Overall, Handy said the SRAM market is being chipped away at all sides by cheaper alternatives. Cypress is relative unique in that it has a broad product range, while most SRAM companies focus on specific product niches, he added.
One opportunity Cypress may be able to seize upon, however, is providing SRAM for environments where background radiation such as alpha particles cause bits to flip, said Handy. Other more expensive options, including technology from Adesto Technologies, have been developed for applications where memory is required to be exposed to radiation. He said if Cypress finds success with on-board ECC on its SRAM, it might further postpone the need for expensive, alternative memories that never seem to quite get a toehold.
—Gary Hilson is a contributing editor on EE Times covering memory.
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