GlobalFoundries boosts MRAM investment

The world's second largest semiconductor foundry is getting into MRAM, a high-performance, long-life alternative to flash. Here's what that means for storage.

Magnetoresistive random-access memory (MRAM) is a non-volatile random-access memory technology with some major advantages over NAND flash.

  • Speed: 35ns read/write times, close to SRAM. Way faster than the hundreds of microsecond write times of NAND flash.
  • Durability: Much greater than MLC flash's thousands of writes.
  • Efficiency: MRAM R/W power requirements are similar, meaning it takes much less power than flash.
  • Density: Not as good as flash, but much better than SRAM.

GlobalFoundries, owned by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, has invested in Everspin, an independent MRAM manufacturer based in Arizona. As part of the investment GF is also buying Everspin's current fab equipment.

The goal is to move from the current 90nm process to a 40nm and eventually 28nm processes, dramatically increasing capacity from 64Mb to 256Mb and, finally, 1Gb capacities. GF also has 300mm fabs, which further reduces costs over current 200mm wafers.

The Storage Bits take

While NAND flash will continue to dominate bulk fast storage, the addition of more economic, higher-capacity MRAM will give system designers another option for SRAM and DRAM in special applications. For example, metadata and cache stores need to be fast, reliable and durable.

Expect to see much more MRAM and other Resistance RAM products in those areas. As designers gain experience and costs drop we will see MRAM move into more high-value applications.

While current volumes are small, MRAM is shipping today. With GlobalFoundries backing we can expect to see much faster uptake and lower prices in the next few years.

Comments welcome, as always. Where would you put a fast, durable non-volatile memory?

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