Makimoto on HFSI and NV-RAM — highly-flexible super-integration, possibly based on carbon nanotubes

According to Tsugio Makimoto in “Implications of Makimoto’s Wave” in the Dec. 2013 issue of Computer

The decade beginning in 2017 will differ from the current one because, for many applications, chip integration density will be too high for the customized approach. An industry-wide effort is underway to develop products with high flexibility, high performance, low power, and low cost in order to cover a wide range of system applications, a trend that can be referred to as highly-flexible super-integration, or HFSI. Altera’s programmable silicon convergence is one example of this approach because, with it, a chip contains multiple functional units such as MPU, DSP, and FPGA and therefore capitalizes on the next decade’s increase in integration desnity. This presents an interesting challenge because some level of redundancy will be justifiable compared to the high cost of custom design.

Nonvolatile RAM is another emerging technology that will contribute to HFSI’s realization. Simply stated, NV-RAM has the combined features of RAM and nonvolatile memory. If it is realized, the result will be signficant changes in the way chips and electronic systems are designed: first, the memory hierarchy will be quite different from today’s systems because NV-RAM can replace SRAM, DRAM, and flash memory, resulting in improved performance and reduced power consumption; second, logic functions will be constructed by the array of NV-RAM, providing a higher level of flexibility.

Although several types of NV-RAM have been pursued so far, promising NV-RAM technologies currently under development include ReRAM (resistive RAM), STT-MRAM (spin-transfer torque magnetic RAM), and CNT-RAM (carbon-nanotube-based RAM). Although each technology has both positive and negative aspects, CNT-RAM, the newest entrant, seems to have unique inherent characteristics of high reliability (such as 1,000 years of data retention at 85°C) and unlimited endurance cycles (due to its robust switching mechanism). NV-RAM will be a powerful HFSI enabler and will contribute significantly to computing and IT progress in general.

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