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Kilopass 4Mbit memory IP stores firmware, boot code

Posted: 07 Jun 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:memory IP  EEPROM  flash  firmware 

The Kilopass one-time programmable 4Mbit non-volatile memory IP is large enough to store firmware and boot code that is traditionally resides in external serial-flash EEPROM chips.

Gusto is suited for cost-, power- and form factor-sensitive applications, including mobile application processors and multimedia processors, as well as for high-security applications such as mobile banking and conditional access. Kilopass said it has successfully taped out Gusto 40nm test chips at three leading foundries—IBM, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd and United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC).

According to Charlie Cheng, Kilopass CEO, the idea to develop Gusto evolved after Cheng learned that some customers were using several of the company's flagship XPM embedded non-volatile memory IPs to store firmware and boot code in their products. XPM products, which are available in sizes ranging from 1- to 64Kbit, are based on antifuse technology and typically used for small-to-medium-capacity on-chip applications.

While the engineering effort required to develop Gusto was significantly greater than that required to bring XPM to market, Cheng conceded that, for a start-up, creating a follow-up product is in many ways easier than the first one.

"With the first product, you are sort of lost in the woods—you have this technology and you need to do something with it. It's a little scary," Cheng said.

Cheng took over as CEO of Kilopass in October 2008, following the retirement of Bernie Aronson. Cheng brought more than 20 years of experience in semiconductors and IP to Kilopass, which was founded in 2001.

Cheng estimates that about 30 per cent of the Rs.22,952.67 crore ($5 billion) worth of serial flash and EEPROM products shipped in 2009 was used in applications that required capacity of up to 4Mbit. Gusto expands Kilopass' available market from just over Rs.459.05 crore ($100 million) with the XPM family to nearly Rs.2,295.27 crore ($500 million), he said.

According to Kilopass, Gusto uses standard CMOS manufacturing processes and scales to meet embedded non-volatile memory size and complexity challenges that grow exponentially as SoCs migrate to 40- and 28nm. Gusto's circuit design optimisations and synchronous timing enable it to deliver a 4x improvement in performance, reduce active power by more than 10x and slash standby power by 40x, according to Kilopass.

The technology behind Gusto has been qualified more than 30x at a dozen different semiconductor manufacturers in processes ranging from 180nm to 40nm. The company's licencees have shipped an estimated 100 crore chips since 2005, according to the company.

Gusto's pricing model will be similar to that of XPM, which includes a non-recurring engineering fee for making Gusto available in a particular semiconductor manufacturing technology, a licence fee for the use of Gusto in a design, and a per wafer royalty. Gusto is available now with IBM, TSMC and UMC as the three initial foundry partners for 40nm bulk silicon and silicon-on-insulator processes. Cheng said more foundry partners will be added later this year.

- Dylan McGrath
EE Times

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