Toggle MRAM Prepares for 5G

Article By : Gary Hilson

Everspin brings 32-Mb Toggle MRAM to market and maintains its position as the leading Toggle MRAM player.

TORONTO — Higher density MRAM’s potential as an emerging memory — to replace incumbents such as DRAM and flash — often overshadows where it’s already successfully supplanting established technologies in the form of Toggle MRAM.

For Everspin Technologies, Toggle MRAM’s success is helping to power its ambitions in other product areas, and the company recently announced its new 32-Mb Toggle MRAM, which doubles the capacity of its current solution. It’s designed to enable critical applications that need a higher density option, such as storing configurations, setup and data logging in embedded systems and Internet of things (IoT) devices, as well as anticipating device requirements driven by 5G networking, said Troy Winslow, Everspin vice president of global sales.

So why not just let customers use two 16-Mb devices?

He said the new, higher capacity Toggle MRAM responds to the needs of customers who were putting multiple 16 megs down on their board, and in the process, adding complexity and taking up more real estate. Toggle MRAM in general offers simplicity, especially when it’s replacing a combination of SRAM and EEPROM, which Winslow describes as a “kluge fix,” particularly once a chemical-based battery is added to SRAM. “There’s just really no comparison from the [standpoint of] simplicity of design as well as the long-term reliability of the device.”

Everspin’s new 32-Mb Toggle MRAM is aimed at meeting the growing storage requirements for configurations, setup and data logging in embedded systems, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, as well as 5G networking devices. (Source: Everspin Technologies)

And although 5G is still ramping and still in testing mode, Everspin expects it to explode from a connected device standpoint in the next two years, and [it] will be driving the data and code capacity needs of those devices, said Winslow. “Just the data flow from those devices will require more and more persistence for power loss and for data logging.”

Everspin’s latest Toggle MRAM has been sampled with customers in the gaming, industrial, military, and aerospace markets — all of which take advantage of the product’s unlimited cycle endurance for reads and writes across a variety of temperatures ranging from -40C to +125C.

Aside from the higher capacity, the 32-Mb Toggle MRAM maintains the fast read and write access speeds and 20-year data retention available in all of Everspin’s Toggle MRAM devices, said Winslow, and the company is also releasing new 2 Mb and 8 Mb Toggles for customers with lower data capacity requirements to complement existing 1 Mb, 4 Mb, and 16 Mb devices, all with serial and parallel interfaces and several popular packaging options.

He said a lot of the industry talk has been all about STT in the higher density MRAM, while forgetting Toggle has been around for some time. Everspin first went into production in 2006, and it has a very broad portfolio for a company with such a large and diverse customer base. “It provides the revenue for us to do R and D on more advanced, higher-density STT.”

Jim Handy, principal analyst with Objective Analysis, said it makes sense that Everspin is capitalizing on something it has already done at a time when the company could use extra revenue. “It’s easy and inexpensive to make derivatives of parts that already sell in large volumes.” However, he doesn’t think customers care too much whether they get Toggle MRAM or STT if the part does its job.

Handy said the main use for Toggle MRAM today is replacing the SRAM-battery combination in systems where the data needs to be maintained — even if the power is turned off or fails. It’s also a great replacement for SRAM or NOR flash in applications that are exposed to a lot of radiation, especially in satellites. “Radiation pulls the charge out of the bit in today’s mainstream technologies.”

Everspin is currently the only company selling discrete, stand-alone MRAM chips, and it has been commercially producing Toggle MRAM since 2006. (Source: Everspin Technologies)

STT MRAM was developed to allow MRAM to scale smaller than Toggle ever could. Everspin’s lower-density older parts are built using 130-nm Toggle MRAM, said Handy, while the company’s newer 90-nm parts use STT. “To the user, it’s pretty much the same thing, but cheaper.” He said the main notable update to the company’s latest Toggle MRAM products are the densities.

MRAM has gained a lot of interest from foundries because they can’t make NOR flash smaller than 28 nm and their customers are looking for a substitute, said Handy, and Everspin is helping these foundries to bring up MRAM on their standard CMOS logic processes. “The more chips that are made using MRAM, the more efficient MRAM production will become and the cheaper it will get,” he said. “This all feeds on itself because the cheaper it gets then the more of it will sell.”

Although STT MRAM can scale smaller than Toggle — and continuing process shrinks will enable MRAM’s cost to fall below that of SRAM, then NOR, and possibly DRAM — NAND flash is likely to remain cheaper than MRAM for a very long time, said Handy. In the meantime, not only is Everspin the leading Toggle MRAM player, the company is the only one selling discrete, stand-alone MRAM chips, either Toggle or spin. “Others hope to catch up, most notably Spin Memory and Avalanche.”

This year’s Emerging Memories report, which Handy co-authored with Thomas Coughlin, forecasts that emerging memories, including MRAM, could reach $20 billion in revenues by 2029.

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