SAN FRANCISCO — A deal by Microsemi to license non-volatile resistive RAM (ReRAM) technology from Crossbar could be a significant catalyst paving the way for wider adoption of ReRAM, according to memory industry analysts.

"This is one of those things that kind of feeds off itself," said Jim Handy, principal at Objective Analysis. "It could cause a snowball effect for Crossbar."

Microsemi — which is in the process of being acquired by Microchip Technology — said earlier this week it agreed to license Crossbar’s ReRAM intellectual property to integrate into next-generation products manufactured at the 1x nm process node.

Microsemi becomes the second chip firm to license Crossbar's ReRAM, joining Chinese foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), which licensed ReRAM in 2016. The technology was put in production on 40nm at SMIC later in 2016.

ReRAM, which has been under development for several years, is considered a strong candidate for a number of embedded memory applications, particularly in edge computing, communications infrastructure, artificial intelligence, industrial and automotive. It is said to be scalable below 10nm without adversely impacting performance.

In addition to Crossbar, firms marketing ReRAM include Panasonic, Fujitsu and Adesto Technologies.

Jim Handy
Jim Handy

Handy said Microsemi's licensing deal is a strong endorsement that the technology works as advertised. Customers tend to be reluctant to incorporate a new licensed technology into their product roadmap due to concerns about the viability of both the technology and the company licensing it, he said.

"Nobody wants to be the first to license a technology from a company," Handy said.

"It's a great proof case," said Michael Palma, a research director for market research firm IDC's enabling technologies team. "How wide the adoption gets I don't know. But having one named vendor always make it easier to get more."

Handy said the endorsement from Microsemi is another feather in Crossbar's cap following the company's successful demonstration of ReRAM for both embedded and stand-alone memory applications at the Flash Memory Summit last August.

"It sounds like things are falling into place at a reasonable schedule," Handy said of Crossbar's roadmap.

Palma said ReRAM could fill a critical role in helping to alleviate power and performance memory bottlenecks in AI applications. "It's an an important area where a lot of people are looking at different solutions," he said.

Crossbar is set to show off a test chip featuring its ReRAM technology for AI at next week's Embedded Vision Summit in Santa Clara, Calif. The company intends to demonstrate will show the technology in action on facial recognition for accelerating object classification with deterministic performance, according to Crossbar.

— Dylan McGrath is the editor-in-chief of EE Times.