Stan Williams, HP’s memristor guru, announced at the International Electronics Forum being held in Seville, Spain, that a the two terminal memristor technology will be taking market share away from flash memory within 18 months. "We have big plans for it and we’re working with Hynix Semiconductor to launch a replacement for flash in the summer of 2013 and to also address the solid-state drive market," Williams related to the audience.
Williams further explained that the results achieved by the technology in areas of write current, read and write time and retention proved too compelling not to take to market. Williams is not shy about commanding further market technology share either, stating, "So in 2014/2015 we’ll be going after DRAM and after that the SRAM market."
HP-Hynix MemRistor under the microscope
HP has now amassed over 500 patents on the technology to date. Williams made light of the fact that phase-change-memory [PCM], resistive-RAM [RRAM] and other two-terminal devices are all memristor type devices. Williams acknowledged that other companies are busy working on metal-oxide resistive RAMs, in fact, he mentioned that Samsung has a bigger team working on the project than does HP-Hynix.
The specifications so far are impressive with read times in the sub 10 nanoseconds with write/erase times around 0.1 ns. Endurance date, still being collected, indicates 10^12 cycles and retention in the order of years. And cost? – an order of magnitude lower once non-recurring costs are eliminated. Williams pointed out that it is the simple structure of the device made using common materials already in use in the world’s wafer fabs that make the CMOS compatible memristor a relatively straight forward manufacturing proposition. He did allow that the first product offering would be a multi-layer device.
The memristor technology is termed a BEOL [Back-End-Of-Line] technology indicating that its ability to be placed on top of logic circuitry. This is especially important for SOC application and according to Williams "will buy us about twenty years of Moore’ Law".
Williams provided his glimpse of the future for memristor in which its use as a Boolean logic element reducing the footprint of the gate area now required using CMOS logic. Further, he mentioned that it is also a good analog of the brain’s synapse function.
Williams ended stressing that HP is not planning to enter the semiconductor components business but is acting as an agent for commercialization and will license the technology to all applicants.
Several weeks ago, at the Flash Memory Summit, there was a decidedly negative cast of opinion as to the future of resistive memory. A strong push by the STT magnetic RAM developers at the meeting may have been responsible as there was also rumor that something big was about to be announced regarding the resistive memory and this was the usual knee jerk reaction.
There is the question of the stability of the environment at HP, William’s employer. HP Labs, allowed by corporate neglect to dwindle over time to a mere shadow of its former glory is in need of a raison d’être. Generation of a revenue stream through licensing is certainly a positive way to justify one’s existence.
When looking at the picture that is coming into focus, BSN* views this announcement as a pivotal turning point in the semiconductor memory and storage marketplaces. Unified memory, long a system designers dream is very near to becoming the "instant on" memory for the masses?,