Feeds

Memory vendors pile on '3D' stacking standard

HMC 1.0 in the wild

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More memory responding faster in a smaller footprint: that's what chip vendors are hoping to achieve with the announcement of the HMC 1.0 specification.

The standard, available here, sets down the specs for memory chip stacking using through-silicon vias (TSVs). In other words: individual memory dies, stacked vertically on top of a controller, with connectivity through the silicon.

It is, in other words, a combination of manufacturing process and logical organisation. The logic is necessary: merely stacking memory locations would merely create a large physical memory with an I/O bottleneck.

As the HMC concept diagram below illustrates, portions of each layer would be organised as positions, grouped into vaults, with the base layer handling the organisational logic (irrespective of how individual manufacturers handle physical organisation).

HMC 1.0 concept diagram

HMC 1.0 logical organisation. Source: Hybrid Memory Consortium

That logical organisation – as well as boring details like device pinout – that's important to the initiative, since it means devices should be interoperable regardless of the on-chip design or manufacturing approach the vendor takes.

The specification claims up to 15 Gbps SerDes I/O, supporting multiple 16-lane full-duplex links and, according to the HMC Consortium, provides “more than 15 times” the performance of today's DDR3 modules at “70 percent less energy” than DDR3 DRAM technology.

That performance, the consortium says, is important to stop memory becoming a worse performance bottleneck than it already is, in an age where (for example) GPU-based supercomputers are handling truly stupendous data sets.

HMC 1.0 is supported by founders Samsung and Micron, along with HP, ARM and Hynix.

The publication of HMC 1.0 will also pressure microelectronics standard-setter Jedec to accelerate its TSV and 3D memory efforts. It has an addendum to the DDR4 standard in the works (currently describing the initiative as “making good progress”), and has published its Wide I/O JESD229 standard.

Foundries, however, aren't waiting to see which standard wins: they're working hard to position their 3D capabilities whichever way the die falls. Globalfoundries announced its first functional 20nm TSV chips out of its New York facility, while IBM, Samsung, Tezzaron, TSMC and UMC are all working on TSV capabilities.

According to Chip Design magazine, volume shipment of 3D devices won't happen until 2014 or 2015. At this point, foundries are still competing to solve the fabrication challenge – for example, settling on which manufacturing process is going to deliver reliability, yield and low production cost.

Globalfoundry's approach is to insert the TSVs between the “front end of line” and “back end of line” processes (FEOL and BEOL respectively), so that the vias themselves aren't exposed to high processing temperatures; this allows boring old copper to be used as the via. Tezzaron, on the other hand, uses tungsten for the vias – more expensive than copper, but it claims that the material minimises thermal mismatch. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Xperia Z3: Crikey, Sony – ANOTHER flagship phondleslab?
The Fourth Amendment... and it IS better
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Microsoft to enter the STRUGGLE of the HUMAN WRIST
It's not just a thumb war, it's total digit war
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.