Boom time coming for PCM, MRAM, ReRAM non-volatile memory markets

Market news |
By Peter Clarke

Numerous emerging memory technologies have been developed over recent decades as potential replacements for flash memory, which struggles to scale below 40nm. Market analyst Yole reckons that in the first half of this decade phase change memory (PCM), magnetic RAM (MRAM) and resistive RAM (ReRAM) will have a major impact in the market with processes at 22nm and finer geometries.

There are other forms of emerging NVM – such as ferroelectric RAM, correlated electron RAM (CeRAM) and carbon nanotube based memories – but these are not expected to take any significant market in the time period of Yole’s forecast.

The embedded NVM market will enjoy the greatest success with a compound annual growth rate of 110 percent over the period 2020 to 2026. This will take the market from $26 million in 2020 to $2.3 billion in 2026. MRAM already leads in this sector with offerings from leading foundries TSMC and Globalfoundries at 22nm and from Samsung at 28nm. UMC and Intel are developing embedded MRAM capability.

Embedded emerging non-volatile memory market revenues 2020 and 2026, Source: Yole Developpement.

MRAM is set to increase its hold on the embedded NVM market rising to 76 percent by 2026 and with PCM taking just 2 percent of that market. It is being championed for NVM applications in automotive by STMicroelectronics (see ST samples MCU with embedded phase-change memory).

The stand-alone NVM market is already larger than the embedded NVM market but it will grow at a slower rate. It will move from US$595 million in 2020 to about US$3.3 billion in 2026, a CAGR of 33 percent over the period.

In this area PCM already dominates with 90 percent market share thanks to 3D XPoint products sold by Intel in a bundle with its server CPUs. Some argue that Intel is selling these memories at a loss. Over the next five years MRAM and ReRAM will only gradually take stand-alone market share from PCM.

Next: Stand-alone

The stand-alone emerging NVM market will be driven low-latency storage and persistent memory. Intel has launched solid-state drives made with 3D XPoint that include the Alder Stream SSD. This is the first product that employs the second-generation 3D XPoint with four stacked PCM layers.

Intel claims to have 200 of the world’s leading companies either deploying Optane drives or in the proof-of-concept stage, Yole said.

The sales ramp for STT-MRAM chips for low-latency storage is taking longer than expected. Similarly the ramp of stand-alone 3D ReRAM. Solid-state drives based on ReRAM are likely to be introduced based on next-generation protocols such as CXL and Gen-Z but these are not mature yet, Yole said.

Stand-alone emerging non-volatile memory revenues 2020 and 2026. Source: Yole Developpement.

Yole’s enthusiasm for emerging NVM is partly driven by the number of introductions over the last 12 months.

Sony has introduced GPS chips incorporating embedded MRAM made for its by Samsung using 28nm FDSOI manufacturing process. These have been designed into Huawei smartwatches, Yole said. Ambiq has introduced a low-power MRAM MCU made on TSMC’s 22nm ULL (see Ambiq launches Apollo4 SoC on 22ULL). A number of eMRAM-based devices could enter volume production in 2021, including GreenWave’s AI processors made using Globalfoundries’ eMRAM on 22nm FDSOI (see Greenwaves stresses GAP9’s hearing credentials).

Products incorporating embedded RRAM (eRRAM) also hit the market in 2020 with Nuvoton introducing IC devices with 40nm OxRAM for security applications. Nuvoton Technology Corp., a subsidiary of Winbond Electronics, acquired Panasonic’s semiconductor operations in 2020 for $250 million. Panasonic already had some 40nm ReRAM products in the market and had partnered with UMC on their manufacture.

Related links and articles:

News articles:

PCM, MRAM set to dominate emerging memory market

SK Hynix backs Germany’s ferroelectric memory startup

ARM forms spin-off to pursue CeRAM memory

Dialog licenses non-volatile memory to GloFo

Will Sony launch cross-point nonvolatile memory?

ST samples MCU with embedded phase-change memory

Ambiq launches Apollo4 SoC on 22ULL

Greenwaves stresses GAP9’s hearing credentials

Panasonic partners with UMC on 40nm ReRAM


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