1) It is catching on really, really fast. If your design isn’t taking advantage of this feature, beware – your competition is likely already using it.
2) Select an IP partner to work with who has a good track record and can help you learn about the technologies and the technical issues to watch out for. There are design considerations that can effect your success. If you know about them early in the architecture of your chip, you may save yourself pain later on.
3) Select a foundry that has experience in logic NVM. Some foundries understand the technology better than others.
David Sowards –
1) It should not require any additional masks or process steps.
2) It is more cost effective than embedded Flash for densities below 64Kb.
3) It should be just as robust as Flash; 10-year data retention and 100,000-cycle endurance.
16) What do readers interested in EDA need to pay particular attention to with regards to LNVM?
Charles Hsu – EDA facilitates the more efficient and precise design for the IC designer. By using LNVM as 1) code storage, 2) reconfigurable switch, and 3) trimming element/ eFuse, it is indispensable for IC designers who want to achieve highly efficient and precision product design. LNVM becomes a tool to achieve better design. This should be particularly interesting to EDA readers.
Larry Morrell – LNVM is typically delivered as hard IP. Customers should have a flow that is friendly to incorporating hard IP and have a process that vets the IP vendors both from a tools standpoint and from an NVM experience standpoint. Then everyone wins!
Dessert & Coffee
Xerxes Wania is President & CEO at Sidense Corp. We spoke by phone on December 15, 2006. Xerxes told me his principal competitors are Kilopass, eMemory, Virage, and Impinj, and he responded to the following questions:
Q – Will NVM replace logic as the revenue driver for the semiconductor industry in the upcoming years?
Xerxes Wania – This is a tough question. I don't think that it's going to happen for a few years. Logic will still prevail over memory as such, but lately we have seen more inquiries for large memory blocks. Our LNVM replaces Flash and mask ROM, which is widely used in today's consumer electronic systems and chips. So, in the next 5 years or so, I can see the memory market catching up to logic.
Q – What are the principal technical hurdles to even denser NVM at this point?
Xerxes Wania – In my 18 years of experience in semiconductors, the biggest driver has been cost from the consumer electronics side of things. However, what's basically stopping the large chips and deployment are the technical hurdles, which are huge.
There isn't a true NVM solution to replace embedded Flash in standard CMOS processes. The industry is still using .18 micron for Flash, while LNVM has gone down to 65 nm. Flash has not scaled down because technically it has been impossible to do. Instead, people have looked to new technologies – anything from MEMS to MRAM or proprietary technologies. The problem is that these solutions are foundry specific. But when you develop a new technology that's so linked to the foundries, it's hard to go mainstream and blast the world with it. It's not like logic, which you can port to different foundries and scale.
So the one thing we do have is LNVM, which is in standard CMOS. It is secure, low cost, very dense and faster than Flash which takes care of most of the consumer electronic chips needs.
Q – Will novel technologies be needed to make NVM competitive with more traditional memory technologies?
Xerxes Wania – Absolutely, but again it's going to be cost driven, and any changes to the standard CMOS process will not be well received.
Q – How do you rank the various metrics used to characterize an NVM product?
Xerxes Wania –
Number 1 is cost.
Number 2 is reliability. When we started, this was the number 1 concern as it was a new technology, now it has dropped to number 2, and soon it will not be a concern on the list.
Number 3 is robustness with respect to temperature and stress. Our technology covers the automotive range and is extremely robust.
Number 4 is retention. In some other solutions, NVM memory can become suddenly volatile. Sidense's memory has retention of over 50 years.
Number 5 is security. This is not obvious, but a lot of companies are looking at having secure NVM. Customers don't want their systems to be reverse engineered, people revealing security keys, and hackers trying to figure out the embedded code. There are so many ways to break through [the security], that the solution to security will have to include a combination of hardware and software. Our solution is validated by third parties and is extremely secure.
Number 6 is performance. Today this is a given. If you build something with less performance than Flash, nobody is going to talk to you. If you can't get performance [with your memory], then forget it.
Number 7 is test. It's now a given, as well, that it's going to be testable and will go through the various test cycles.
1) True or False: LNVM = Embedded NVM
2) True or False: LNVM is manufactured in standard CMOS.
3) True or False: Non-traditional NVM is more costly than traditional NVM.
4) True or False: LNVM is a traditional NVM.
5) True or False: Flash memory is better for a design requiring a large bit count than LNVM.
6) True or False: Flash is a form of NVM.
7) True or False: OTP LNVM is smaller than MTP LNVM, and therefore easier to test.
8) True or False: Industry standard memory retention for consumer electronics is 15 years.
9) True or False: LNVM yield is markedly different from CMOS yield.
10) True or False: A "voting" quorum for the state of a bit requires 6 fuses.
11) True or False: An encryption key can be reprogrammed.
12) True or False: Because it is IP, the LNVM business model does not include design services.
13) True or False: The LNVM market is expected to top $1 billion in 2008.
14) Which is true:
a) RFID usually requires 1) high density, and 2) low cost.
b) RFID usually requires 1) low density, and 2) high cost.
c) RFID usually requires 1) low density, and 2) low cost.
15) An LNVM patent describes:
a) cell structure
b) programming the device
c) managing high voltages
d) CMOS implementation
16) True or False: Moore's Law states that technical and economic viability precede an applications market by 18 months.