Global semiconductor product manufacturer Samsung Electronics has announced the acquisition of spin transfer torque random access memory (STT-RAM) developer Grandis. STT-RAM is a derivative of magneto-resistive random access memory (MRAM). The terms of the acquisition were not released, but Grandis is expected to be merged into those Samsung's Research & Development operations which are focused on developing the next evolution of memory.
As a technology, STT-RAM is rivaled by a number of other emerging memory technologies. These include ferroelectric random access memory (FeRAM), phase-change memory (PRAM), and resistive random access memory (RRAM). These new memory technologies are under development as traditional memory technologies like DRAM and SRAM are scaled down in size, resulting in potential performance degradation. This potential degradation has created a possible opportunity for companies like Grandis.
Grandis was established in 2002 and is headquartered in Milpitas, California. According to the company, it has 62 U.S. patents issued, and more than 78 worldwide patents pending, and it continues to patent its technology. It licenses its intellectual property to technology companies that design, develop and manufacture a variety of products incorporating stand-alone and embedded STT-RAM memory. Grandis has also assembled a technical team with a track record in magnetic thin film and semiconductor memory technology. Investors included Applied Ventures, Sevin Rosen Funds, Matrix Partners, Incubic and Concept Ventures.
VDC believes Samsung’s acquisition of Grandis represents somewhat of a validation of STT-RAM and the potential IP that Grandis offers to the R&D activities of a much larger entity. It is also interesting as the acquisition underscores what is a critical juncture for emerging memory technology. These technologies are now reaching a stage at which major investments are being made. For instance, the investment fund Rusnano recently in May 2011 formed a joint venture with Crocus Technology involving $300 million in funding. The joint venture will be called Crocus Nano Electronics (CNE) and will involve the construction of a nearly $125 million dollar manufacturing facility.
VDC believes that Samsung’s acquisition and the Crocus-Rusnano deal signal stronger potential for MRAM as the next generation memory technology. Traditional memory technologies will likely scale down further in the next several years. But after that, the opportunities for emerging memory technologies will be greater. And Samsung and Rusnano are positioning themselves to take advantage of this opportunity.