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Numonyx thanks Ovonyx for the memory

More than just a Phase Change

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Intel and STMicroelectronics JV successor Numonyx has licensed Phase Change Memory (PCM) intellectual property from Ovonyx.

Numonyx, founded last year, is already developing PCM products and announced it was shipping samples of its 90nm 128Mbit PCM to customers in February 2008.

PCM stores digital information as different phases or states of material in its 2-bit cells, analogous to water being either solid - ice - or liquid. The two PCM phases have different and detectable resistance levels and these signal binary ones or zeros. Numonyx hopes that PCM can succeed both NAND flash memory and DRAM as it combines the non-volatility of flash with the bit addressability of DRAM. It thinks PCM products can be sold into the embedded and wireless market segments and for storage and computing applications as well.

Since Numonyx' founding, it has worked closely with Ovonyx and this relationship enabled it to ship its first PCM products in December 2008. This was a 128Mbit device, code-named Alverstone, implemented on 90nm lithography, and more than 20 customers received samples in 2008.

Numonyx - the name is thought to be a reference to new Ovonyx - has now licensed PCM IP from Ovonyx, not having had licenses up until now.

Ovonyx was formed to commercialise its proprietary phase-change semiconductor memory technology, originally invented by S. R. Ovshinsky at Energy Conversion Devices. Ovonyx is pursuing commercialisation of this array-addressed memory system, through licenses and joint development programs with semiconductor manufacturers including Numonyx, BAE Systems, Intel, STMicroelectronics, Elpida Memory, Samsung Electronics, and Hynix Semiconductor.

Modern DRAM writes data at GB/sec rates and PCM would need to match that to be a good successor technology. Howwever no Alverstone PCM "speeds and feeds" type details, such as latency, read and write burst and sustained I/O speeds, are readily available from Numonyx, suggesting to some commentators that the product is not yet truly available commercially.

We might say it is still in its development phase and hasn't switched over to an in-production phase. It's been in development for a while. The prototype chip was first disclosed at the 2006 VLSI Symposium and was sample-shipped by Intel and STMicroelectronics in February 2008, before Numonyx actually came into being, as an evaluation product for potential customers.

A spokesperson said that securing the Ovonyx license was a necessary step for Numonyx to continue to sell and market its PCM products. ®

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