January 16, 2006
Kilopass Finds a Niche in Embedded Non-Volatile Memory (NVM)Technology
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MRAM, FRAM and OUM are expected to gradually take away some share of total volatile memory.
I had an opportunity to discuss Kilopass with Charles Ng, Vice-President of Worldwide Sales & Marketing. Mr. Ng has more than 22 years of experience in the semiconductor industry. Prior to joining Kilopass, he held senior management and executive-level positions with Cadence, Compass Design Automation, and VLSI Technology Inc. He was the key contributor in establishing and expanding the business for these companies in North America, Japan, and Asia Pacific. He graduated from California Institute of Technology with a MS in Computer Science and a BS in Computer Engineering and an MS in Computer Science, and he also holds a MBA from UC at Berkeley.
Were you a founder or an early employee at Kilopass?
One of the very early employees.
Why did you leave Cadence, an industry leader, to work for this startup?
Opportunity! Good technology. Good startup.
What business is Kilopass in?
Kilopass is an IP Supplier of field programmable memory. You can program the memory content. It is an IP embedded in a SoC. Non-volatile memory which means that data content is kept after the power is off. Our claim to fame is that we require only standard logic CMOS process without any additional processing at all. Volatile memory requires a complicated process which is very expensive to develop and to use.
We can avoid that cost using standard CMOS process technology. Our technology is very cost effective because of standard CMOS logic. It's available everywhere and can be found in many foundries. Our technology supports 90 nm and 65 nm in the future much easier than flash memory. With flash memory it is much more difficult. They do not scale very well into advanced processes.
We can be very high density. We are shipping up to 1 Mbit. Other solutions that can provide similar capabilities can only provide about 1 Kbits or so. Our solution can go up to 1 Mbit, while this may not seem very high, it is high relatively speaking.
It is very secure which means that it is very difficult for anyone to break into the memory, to figure out the memory content. It prevents reverse engineering and protects memory content.
Editor: The flash types of non-volatile memory are limited in their ability to store charge due to the fact that as the logic oxides get thinner, direct tunneling occurs and the charge tunnels off. This occurs between 80 and 85 Angstrom for the thickness of the tunnel oxide required to hold the charge. Logic CMOS gate oxides are much thinner, currently in the range of 30 Angstroms. Moreover, the lower voltage required to achieve tunneling limits the pacing between storage elements (transistors).
Tell me a little about Kilopass Technology.
We started in 2001. We are headquartered in Silicon Valley. We are funded by US Venture Partners (USVP) our lead VC followed by BuleRun Ventures who used to be called Nokia Venture Partners and by InveStar Captial who is related to TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) and iGlobe Partners. Our current headcount is around 35 people in the US. We also have an outsourced location and they have about 35 people also. So altogether we have about 70 people. We have 14 patents granted with many more pending.
Where is that outsourced location?
That's in mainland China!
What is the Kilopass' annual revenue?
A few million dollars!
How many customers does Kilopass have?
About 30 customers!
What process nodes do you support?
The memory module is currently available in 0.18-micron, 0.15-micron and 0.13-micron. We have working silicon and passed 1,000 hours of burn-in testing. This is a very rigorous test for our IP. We just had a press release with TSMC announcing that they have certified XPM on their 0.18-micron CMOS logic process as part of their certification program. We are very proud that we can achieve that. We are shipping to customers at process nodes 0.18-micron to 0.13-micron.
What are the key features of the technology?
and data retention. That's very important in non-volatile memory.
What does XPM stand for?
eXtra Permanent Memory
content of 1,000 bits. Because the die size difference between 1,000 bits and 8,000 bits is very small, the penalty is very small. With this kind of approach, you can have a limited time, a few times programmability.
There is very good data retention - over 20 years. It is very reliable for mission critical applications. Very secure from any reverse engineering.
What are some of main applications for XPM?
peeling the layers off one layer by one layer, it is still very difficult to detect the memory content using a microscope or thermal emission equipment. Since it is a single chip solution, it reduces the overall form factor. That's one application.
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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.
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