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 What Would Joe Do?
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Weebit Nano: Achieving success with ReRAM

 
November 2nd, 2017 by Peggy Aycinena


Memory technologies are changing, per Weebit Nano CEO Coby Hanoch.
In a recent phone call he said, “The current technologies, Flash and so on, have been around for a long time and are starting to hit the wall, which is why we’re seeing people going to things like 3D memories.

“At Weebit, however, we are focusing on Resistive RAM – developing the technology with help from Leti Labs in Grenoble, France. With the assistance of Leti, we have been able to develop a 4k-bit memory array on 300-nanometer wafers.

“Now we are working to achieve our goal of 40 nanometers before the end of the year. We expect to have single cells at 40 nanometers very soon, and will work on 4k-bit arrays immediately after that.”

Weebit Nano is not the only company pursuing new, alternative options for memory.

Per Hanoch: “There are actually quite a few players in this market – including big companies like Intel and Samsung – all working on different types of technology, because not everyone agrees as which technology will be the future of memory.

Intel and Micron, for instance, are operating on 3D Xpoint, while their competitors are pursuing others.

“We believe our technology has significant advantages, however. Our specific version of ReRAM, based on silicon oxide, can be produced in standard fabs today with existing equipment, and will be very easy to move to these fabs once we are ready.”

“Is it important to manufacture new memory using existing manufacturing infrastructure?” I asked.

“Yes, extremely important,” Hanoch said emphatically.

“As you know, developing new equipment for a fab is very, very costly. Even more challenging – once you have the new equipment, getting to the yield levels needed for full production mode can take years.

“Consider that today’s silicon-oxide CMOS took many years to reach really good yields. If you start working with new materials for new memory technologies, you’ll have to go through that entire process again.”

“How do we do something revolutionary if we always have to play to the existing manufacturing infrastructure?” I asked.

“At any given point in time,” Hanoch countered, “we all think the existing technology is life, that it will always be there and we will always continue with it.

“But in the tech world, every few years there is a disruptive technology that comes in and proves itself. And once it’s working, people move to it very fast. Look at how fast people moved to smart phones and how fast they moved to digital cameras.

“I believe that once the new memory technologies work and are proven, the world will move to them very fast because they are very compelling.

“The ReRAM technology, for example, takes the best of both memory worlds. It’s non-volatile like Flash, but in terms of speed is much closer to DRAM.

“At Weebit, we have already shown that we can reach 100-to-1000 times faster write speeds for memory with ReRAM than with Flash technology. Also in terms of power consumption, we expect to be significantly lower than Flash technology. Once our technology is proven we expect it to be very compelling for many applications.

“True, it’s not for all applications, but you’re going to see a lot of people moving to this technology when we are in a position to demonstrate that it is much cheaper, easier to produce, and gives much better results.”

“Flash can have shelf-life problems, a finite number of reads and writes,” I said. “Does ReRAM suffer from this same issue?”

“With all memory technologies,” Hanoch said, “there’s always trade-offs between the different features. Some memory technologies are such that you can only write to them a few times, a hundred to ten thousand times, before they deteriorate. Other memory technologies can work much longer.

“The ReRAM technology certainly has the capability to be very resilient, but obviously everything has a lifespan. Everything ends at a certain point.”

Given his confidence in the technology, I asked about Weebit Nano’s business outlook

Hanoch noted he had only been at the company for a few weeks, but had been asked join specifically because of his business background: “Making a decision on which way the company goes, and what market niche we focus on, are the main areas I’ve been brought in to work on.”

“Does Weebit Nano see itself becoming a major memory manufacturer?” I asked.

“That’s certainly possible,” Hanoch replied, “and one of the options we are assessing. It would definitively require major investments.

“On the one hand, we have had several rounds of investment and are making very good progress. So one option there would be to focus on embedded memory first, which is a much easier thing to do in terms of cost.

“On the other hand: Do we want to become an IP company that licenses the technology, or do we want to be a company that actually develops products?

“There is a lot of discussion at the board level while we consider the options, and as I’ve been on the job less than a month, it’s really too early to say.”

I asked Hanoch where he was prior to Weebit Nano.

“In the past 10 years,” he explained, “I’ve run my own consulting company, EDAcon Partners, which helped startups build their sales channels and business strategies.

“The most famous project I was involved with was Jasper. I joined Jasper as VP of Sales and was there through the acquisition by Cadence.

“Similarly, I started talking with Weebit about a Board position, and then the Board Chair David Perlmutter asked me to become CEO.”

“Also an interesting angle,” Hanoch continued, “although we are based in Hod Hasharon, Israel, our parent company is actually an Australian company.

“Instead of looking for a round of investment from angels or VCs, we did a reverse merger with a public company in Australia. So although we are still a small startup, we are actually publicly traded.

“The company we merged with was an Australian mining company that, at a certain point, had ceased to operate its mining business. The public company acquired Weebit, and changed their name to ours.”

“In fact, a lot of Israeli companies go public on NASDAQ and other markets,” Hanoch said, chuckling, “so we are an Israeli company trading on the Australian stock market.

“Added to the mix, our company was originally started based on patents created at Rice University in Texas. A serial investor licensed the patents from Rice, set up the company, and gave it the name Weebit Nano.”

“That ‘weebit’ thing sounds like the founding investor was Scottish,” I noted.

Again Hanoch chuckled: “Nope, he’s an Israeli guy and the one who negotiated the reverse merger.

“As you can see, the history of Weebit is actually very interesting. It was founded on American patents, put together in Israel, became Australian, and using a French lab to develop the technology. Definitely a global enterprise!”

“How about Silicon Valley,” I asked, “do you eventually have to have a presence there to succeed globally?”

“Silicon Valley is definitely an important domain for any semiconductor company,” Hanoch said, “and many startups end up moving there. But I’m one of those people who believes it’s possible to have a successful startup without moving the HQ to Silicon Valley.

“Look at the successful European companies, ARM, NXP, and STMicro. And Verisity, where I was Vice President, always remained an Israeli company, even though some management was based in Silicon Valley.

“The bottom line is, I believe we will grow and be successful in our current location, and believe our technology can prove critical to the future of memory.

“When you look at the memory market, it’s predicted to top $100 billion in annual revenues within the next few years. Even if we were to win just 1-percent of that market, we will succeed – and we are aiming for much more than that.”


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CEO Bio …

Coby Hanoch is the CEO and Managing Director of Weebit Nano, and comes to the role with 15 years’ experience in engineering and engineering management, and 22 years in sales management and executive roles.

“He was VP of Worldwide sales at Verisity, and part of the founding team that grew the company to over $100M sales per year, enabling the acquisition by Cadence Design Systems. Hanoch was also VP of Worldwide sales at Jasper Design Automation, doubling the sales before it was also acquired by Cadence.

“As CEO of Packetlight, Hanoch turned the company from bankruptcy, and more recently set up a consulting company, EDAcon Partners, which helped startups define their corporate strategies, set up sales channels, and raise capital. Hanoch has a BS in Systems Design from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.”


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from Wikipedia …

Resistive random-access memory (RRAM or ReRAM) is a type of non-volatile random-access memory that works by changing the resistance across a dielectric solid-state material often referred to as a memristor. This technology bears some similarities to conductive-bridging RAM (CBRAM), and phase-change memory (PCM).

CBRAM involves one electrode providing ions that dissolve readily in an electrolyte material, while PCM involves generating sufficient Joule heating to effect amorphous-to-crystalline or crystalline-to-amorphous phase changes.

Alternatively, RRAM involves generating defects in a thin oxide layer, known as oxygen vacancies (oxide bond locations where the oxygen has been removed), which can subsequently charge and drift under an electric field. The motion of oxygen ions and vacancies in the oxide would be analogous to the motion of electrons and holes in a semiconductor.

RRAM is currently under development by a number of companies, some of which have filed patent applications claiming various implementations of this technology. RRAM has entered commercialization on an initially limited KB-capacity scale.

Although anticipated as a replacement technology for flash memory, the cost benefit and performance benefit of RRAM have not been enough for companies to proceed with the replacement. A broad range of materials apparently can potentially be used for RRAM.

However, the discovery that the popular high-K gate dielectric HfO2 can be used as a low-voltage RRAM has greatly encouraged others to investigate many other possibilities. Among others, SiOx has been identified to offer significant benefits. Weebit-Nano Ltd is one company that is pursuing SiOx and has already demonstrated functional devices.

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