The emPROM Memory System addresses the critical issues of SoC code security, performance, power consumption and special process requirements. Most SoC designs in production today use a two-chip solution to implement and execute program code, a Flash memory for program storage and the SoC containing the embedded processor, which executes the program instructions. This implementation introduces significant security vulnerability as data crosses chip boundaries from the Flash memory to the SoC. This is true even with system-in-package (SIP) implementations where multiple die are combined in a single package. In addition, a two-chip solution increases manufacturing costs, including system area and power consumption, while reducing overall performance and reliability. Virage Logic’s emPROM provides higher system performance and lower power consumption by enabling wider internal data paths and eliminating external I/Os. By eliminating the external Flash memory device, emPROM improves design security and reliability while reducing system size and manufacturing costs.
“Microcode is one of the most valuable assets that an SoC has to manage, and keeping that code secure has become a critical design objective,” said Richard Wawrzyniak, senior market analyst, ASIC and SoC for Semico Research. “Virage Logic’s emPROM Memory System offers an optimized solution, combining cost effective, secure high density code storage with programming flexibility, while still remaining true to standard manufacturing processes.”
There are a few embedded high-density memory solutions available today including embedded Flash, one-time-programmable (OTP) and ROM. While embedded Flash is available for production at some foundries on mature process nodes, this type of memory requires additional masks and process steps, which increase overall manufacturing costs. In fact, as a result of the additional manufacturing costs incurred by utilizing an embedded Flash process, SoC die costs can increase dramatically as the overall die size increases relative to the amount of embedded Flash memory required.
By its very nature, OTP memory can only be programmed once, rendering it useless in the event of bit failures or code changes. While ROM offers the lowest cost memory, it is configured during wafer production, making it the least flexible in terms of implementing code changes.
“The introduction of emPROM fills a critical void by providing a secure, flexible embedded NVM on a standard CMOS process,” said Joel Rosenberg, senior marketing director for non-volatile memory and military products for Virage Logic. “By combining user-defined functionality with proven ROM and NOVeA Flash technology, we are addressing the need to provide cost-effective, high-density, flexible NVM on a standard CMOS process. In addition to processor code storage, emPROM can be used to enable in-system programmable feature selection for specific markets and applications as well as microcode encryption. The emPROM Memory System’s support for user-defined functionality provides virtually unlimited flexibility to implement a variety of cost-effective memory functions.
“By building so much capacity and flexibility into standard SoC design, we feel the emPROM solution fulfills the true ‘system-on-chip’ purpose of SoC designs more than any other approach,” added Rosenberg. “More than that, by providing users the ability to modify and keep current the system in the most cost-effective and secure way, this approach to embedded memory protects the value of the manufacturer’s considerable SoC investment.”
Pricing and Availability
Virage Logic’s emPROM Memory System is available now along with a 90nm reference design. The reference design includes a project license for a 1Mbit Via ROM, 4Kbit NOVeA 3.0, emPROM processor, RTL source code and documentation. emPROM pricing starts at $90,000.
About the emPROM Memory System
The emPROM (embedded multi-time Programmable Read-Only
Memory) Memory System provides high density embedded NVM on a
standard CMOS process with no additional mask or process steps. emPROM
is currently available in configurations ranging from 16K to 16Mbits.
Designed for secure, single-chip code storage applications, emPROM
provides the low cost and high density of ROM with the flexibility of
Flash. The emPROM Memory System combines user-defined functionality with
a resident emPROM processor, up to 16Mbit ROM and up to 16Kbit NOVeA
Flash Memory. Applications include code storage, patch code, feature
selection and encryption. Many other functions are possible with the
implementation of user-defined functionality. emPROM is designed for
manufacture on standard CMOS processes ranging from 180nm to 45nm at
foundries and IDMs. emPROM addresses the limitations of other NVM
solutions used for code storage by eliminating security gaps introduced
by external Flash memory, overcomes the lack of design and manufacturing
flexibility of ROM, and is fully testable when compared to OTP memory.