TORONTO—Perennially emerging memories may be getting stuck in that mode in part because vendors are awaiting an elusive goal: perfection. But Everspin CEO Phillip LoPresti believes instead that it's important to get technology into production to gain market adoption.
The MRAM maker's ongoing partnership with GlobalFoundries is part of that strategy, and Everspin just announced that its most advanced ST-MRAM technology will be available as an embedded memory through that relationship. GlobalFoundries recently announced its 22FDX eMRAM, providing customers with access to memory that offers the benefit of a working memory such as SRAM, combined with code storage in the form of flash.
Everspin is arguably one of the few, if only, MRAM makers shipping product, although last year Avalanche Technology announced it was sampling what it claimed were the industry's first Spin Transfer Torque Magnetic RAM (STT-MRAM) chips. Its STT-MRAM memory on proprietary perpendicular magnetic tunnel junction (pMTJ) cells manufactured on a high volume, low cost, standard CMOS 300mm process. Spin Transfer Technologies recently outlined its 20nm MRAM milestones.
In a telephone interview with EE Times, Everspin's LoPresti said that while the company has been producing high volume eMRAM in 130nm with first generation MRAM technology for more than five years in its Chandler, AZ fab, it really needed the capabilities of GlobalFoundries' 300mm wafer line to meet volume demand. Together, he said, there are lots of opportunities to bring embedded MRAM to market.
Everspin has been continuing its efforts to expand the applications for its MRAM by displacing DRAM as a persistent memory in enterprise storage applications. In the meantime, LoPresti said the appeal of its embedded MRAM is its versatility. “Embedded MRAM has to the ability to be optimized to look like SRAM, DRAM, or embedded flash bit," he said, and the same embedded MRAM can be used to store code and data.
“Our strategy has been to deploy technology in standalone parts and target specific applications," said LoPresti. In addition to embedded MRAM's versatility, Everspin also sees it has been highly scalable.
A close up of Everspin's MRAM die. The company has been producing high volume eMRAM in 130nm with first generation MRAM technology at its own fab, sees the capabilities of GlobalFoundries' 300mm wafer line critical to meeting volume demand.
David Eggleston, VP of embedded memory at GlobalFoundries, said his company also sees embedded MRAM as versatile and scalable compared with other options. Historically, the role of embedded memory as to retain code, but customers are also now demanding speed and efficiency from a non-volatile memory. eFlash has been well-optimized and is great for data retention, he said in a telephone interview with EE Times, but its slow write speed and relatively high number of masks has limited adoption. There's also SIP flash, which also has a slow write speed.
By comparison, MRAM is 1000 times faster than flash, said Eggleston, boasts 1000 time the endurance of flash, and relatively fewer masks. However, “it's more complicated than other devices." GlobalFoundries sees an opportunity to help Everspin advance its program to make MRAM easy and cost-effective to manufacture. He noted there have been few new memory technologies in recent years, with the exception of Intel and Micron's 3D Xpoint, which is still in the “wait and see" phase.
Ultimately, emerging memories need to be several orders of magnitude better than something else, said Eggleston. “You have to a clear value proposition over the incumbent technologies." He said GlobalFoundries' approach is to be memory technology-agnostic. “Whatever provides the best solution for our customer, we'll go and do that."
Everspin's LoPresti said the introduction of embedded MRAM provides GlobalFoundries with a clear path to introduce more non-volatile memory technologies to market, and bringing a new memory technology to market is hard to do, he said, as it takes time to make it cost-effective and build credibility the marketplace, that's why it's critical to get it into production environment and gain experience around technology; GlobalFoundries is in a position to get ahead of the curve with regards to embedded MRAM to better understand its production bring down costs.
—Gary Hilson is a general contributing editor with a focus on memory and flash technologies for EE Times.