SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Sean Houghton, Glenn Rossman, Ignacio M. Llorente, Xenia von Wedel

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Crossbar Unveils Major Technical Innovation Behind Terabyte Storage-on-a-Chip

Crossbar, Inc., a start-up company pioneering 3D Resistive RAM (RRAM) technology, today disclosed further details behind its revolutionary non-volatile RRAM technology. The company announced it has demonstrated pre-production 1MB arrays using its patented “1TnR” (1 Transistor driving n Resistive memory cells) selectivity for read/write operations, representing a critical milestone toward commercializing terabyte scale memory arrays on a postage stamp size chip.

1TnR makes it possible for a single transistor to manage a very large number of interconnected memory cells, enabling very high capacity solid-state storage. Other memories utilizing passive cross-point architectures, such as Resistive RAM, PCM (Phase Change Memory) and neuromorphic systems, experience unintended electrical current when accessing high density storage due to a phenomenon called “sneak path current.” Until now, these memories have not been able to access data and have consumed excessive power, making dense memory configurations impractical. For the past decade, many of the world’s experts have attempted to solve this issue, but with limited success. Crossbar is the first company to deliver a solution to this industry-wide problem by enabling a single transistor to drive over 2,000 memory cells with very low power, producing super-dense Crossbar RRAM semiconductor memories.

“Crossbar has once again broken through traditional boundaries with its innovative and patented 3D RRAM technology,” said George Minassian, CEO, Crossbar Inc. “With 1TnR, companies will realize the dream of extremely dense, highly reliable, and high performance solid state storage. It’s truly ground breaking and has the potential to redefine what’s possible in enterprise storage and high-capacity non-volatile SoC memories.”

According to IBM1, 2.5 Exabytes - or 2.5 billion Gigabytes (GB) - of data was generated every day in 2012. All of this data needs to be stored and accessed quickly, at low power, and in a very compact space. Enterprises and service providers struggle with managing today’s storage systems using aging disk-drive technologies. Storage systems must be re-architected using solid-state storage technologies. Hybrid, or all Flash, storage solutions are gaining momentum, but the majority of the enterprise storage market still relies on disk drive technologies as a core part of their architectures, for cost, available capacities and reliability concerns.

The true transformation to next generation high capacity storage systems will require a revolutionary new approach to solid-state storage devices and their interconnected processors. This transformation will enable hundreds of terabytes, in a small form factor, to be accessed at high speed, high throughput and high IOPS (input/output operations per second), while consuming less power at lower cost. Many of these technical challenges have been overcome by Crossbar’s 3D RRAM technology, including:

  • Cell physics – Traditional Flash memory materials wear out quickly after being accessed and rewritten too many times, leading to degrading performance, unrecoverable data loss and limited lifetime. RRAM solutions do not suffer similar wear-out issues due to the technology’s fundamental memory cell structure, based on metallic nano-filament in a non-conductive layer;
  • Economics – Semiconductor manufacturing facilities for advanced NAND Flash require multi-billion dollar investments. Crossbar’s RRAM can be stacked in 3D directly on top of standard CMOS wafers, making it very cost effective to manufacture;
  • Super dense memory array architecture – The 1TnR selectivity feature, invented and patented by Crossbar, solves the fundamental problem of scalable high-capacity storage.

Crossbar’s latest 1TnR RRAM technology is built upon the foundation of its one transistor per memory cell technology that has been validated in silicon using the company’s 1 Megabyte (MB) storage device for embedded code applications. This device features very low latency and very fast read performance, as required for code applications. Its simplicity, superior capabilities and CMOS compatibility enable logic and memory to be easily and cost-effectively integrated onto a single chip, at the latest technology node, on standard manufacturing processes. Together, the company’s 1TnR technology, ideal for high-capacity 3D RRAM data storage applications, and 1T1R technology for embedded code applications, forms the basis for the company’s IP licensing and standalone product line roadmap.

Crossbar is currently finalizing agreements with several leading global semiconductor companies and plans to announce its first licensing agreements with customers shortly. The company intends to present further technical details of its 1TnR technology at upcoming conferences.

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“Scaling to a Terabyte on a chip requires a brand new approach to creating a super dense memory array, which has been a stumbling block for large scale non-volatile memory,” said Alan Niebel, founder and CEO of Webfeet Research. “With Crossbar’s 1TnR innovation, we may see a future where non-volatile memory can realistically achieve cost effective and high yields without 32 or more monolithically connected layers, possibly replacing disk drives for all but archival storage.”

“Crossbar’s RRAM approach covers both spectrums of the market with its 1TnR technology,” said James Bagley, senior analyst of SSG-NOW. “While its proven 1T1R technology targets the embedded code applications, its ability to demonstrate 1TnR directly impacts the high-capacity 3D RRAM data storage applications. Crossbar is well on its way to redefining what is technologically possible in the enterprise storage market.”

“The memory technology that replaces NAND flash must have a compelling cost structure, and this means that everything will have to shrink beyond NAND's limits: not only the bit cell, but also the select mechanism,” said Jim Handy, principal analyst at Objective Analysis. “Crossbar's 1TnR technology is a good candidate in this regard, with its ability to share a single select transistor among a number of memory bits.”

“The potential for non-volatile memory in the enterprise is huge, and companies continue to innovate in order to overcome the shortcomings of current technologies,” said Randy Kerns, senior strategist and analyst at the Evaluator Group. “Crossbar’s RRAM is a new approach to address the issues. This technology allows enterprise storage to have hundreds of terabytes in a single system, built completely on non-volatile memory.”

“Crossbar’s continued progress is another validation that its RRAM solution will be the winning next generation memory technology,” said Sherry Garber, founding partner of Convergent Semiconductors. “The technical achievement outlined in 1TnR is truly remarkable and provides the most viable path to achieving extremely high density, highly reliable, and high performance solid state storage.”

"The advancement and growth of non-volatile memory depends upon the continued development of new technologies," said Tom Coughlin, president of Coughlin Associates. "Crossbar has contributed significantly to the advance of resistive memory technology with its development of 1TnR in working silicon samples."

“Crossbar RRAM technology seems very promising in terms of scalability, endurance, power consumption and especially manufacturing cost,” said Yann de Charentenay, senior analyst, MEMS Devices & Technologies at Yole Développement (Yole). In Yole’s report, entitled “Emerging Non-Volatile Memory” (Released in Feb. 2013), the company was expecting that RRAM technology would be the best candidate for NAND replacement in mass storage applications. “Since this technology and market analysis has been published, RRAM technology has made significant progress in term of scalability/chip density. We are excited to see the first Crossbar RRAM samples,” he added.

About Crossbar, Inc.

Founded in 2010 as a Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers incubation, Crossbar, a start-up based in Santa Clara, California, is the inventor of a new class of non-volatile RRAM memory technology. Designed to usher in a new era of electronics innovation, Crossbar will deliver up to a terabyte (TB) of storage on a single-chip the size of a postage stamp, with very low power, very high performance and compatibility with standard CMOS semiconductor manufacturing tools, processes and infrastructure. As the exclusive holder of resistive RAM (RRAM) patents from the University of Michigan, Crossbar has filed 125 unique patents, with 50 already issued. Crossbar recently completed its Series C financing round of funding with investments from Artiman Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Northern Light Venture Capital, the University of Michigan, SAIF Partners, Korea Investment Partners, CBC-Capital and Tao Invest. For more information, visit www.crossbar-inc.com or follow us on TwitterLinkedIn and Google+.

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Crossbar, Inc., the Crossbar logo, and certain other Crossbar trademarks and logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Crossbar, Inc.

1 http://www.emc.com/about/news/press/2012/20121211-01.htm

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