GlobalFoundries eMRAM Storage Looks to Replace Embedded Flash in IoT

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With the Internet of Things (IoT) continuing its massive growth, it's only natural that end users expect the hardware these devices run on to get more powerful. GlobalFoundries is looking to address this on the storage side, announcing today that its embedded magnetoresistive non-volatile memory (eMRAM) has entered production on its 22nm platform known as 22FDX. 

GlobalFoundries eMRAM is meant to replace the aging NOR flash, a type of embdeed flash storage used in many devices, by offering performance, reliability and power consumption improvements. It'll also target artificial intelligence (AI), self-driving cars and other newer microcontroller uses. GlobalFoundries didn't name specific products that would leverage its eMRAM but said that it's "working with several clients with multiple production tape-outs scheduled in 2020."

The new eMRAM is said to be highly robust with data retention of up to 10 years with devices kept within -40 degrees Celsius to 125 degrees Celsius temperatures and an endurance of 100,000 cycles. 

Those are significantly higher figures than what's offered by NAND memory in SSDs nowadays, but eMRAM isn't about replacing NAND. Instead, it targets NOR flash (eFlash) in devices where the system code is stored and may regularly be rewritten through updates or logging. 

We saw with Tesla what happens when the flash memory isn't durable enough. Examples like these emphasize the importance of highly durable, non-volatile memory in applications such as AI and autonomous cars. 

Increases in write speed are primarily due to the nature of the technology. Built on a magnetoresistive principle, writing to the storage material doesn't require an erase cycle prior to writing the intended data, thus drastically increasing write speeds. Macro capacities range from 4 - 48Mb and will be available as drop-in kits for partners.

"We continue our commitment to differentiate our FDX platform with robust, feature rich solutions that allow our clients to build innovative products for high performance and low power applications," Mike Hogan, senior vice president and general manager of Automotive and Industrial Multi-market at GlobalFoundries, said in a statement. 

"Our differentiated eMRAM, deployed on the industry's most advanced FDX platform, delivers a unique combination of high performance RF, low power logic and integrated power management in an easy-to-integrate eMRAM solution that enables our clients to deliver a new generation of ultra-low power MCUs and connected IoT applications."

GlobalFoundries isn't the only party to be working on eMRAM though. Samsung started mass production of eMRAM about one year ago but on a 28nm platform, and Intel has been working on a slightly different technology called SST-MRAM.

GlobalFoundries is currently working with clients and will start delivery throughout 2020. Production of the 22FDX eMRAM will take place at the 300nm Fab 1 in Dresden, Germany.

Niels Broekhuijsen

Niels Broekhuijsen is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He reviews cases, water cooling and pc builds.