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Choosing the Right Memory Solution for Your Design | Cypress Semiconductor

Choosing the Right Memory Solution for Your Design

In the past, memory has been perceived as a necessary technology, purchased solely on its dollar-per-bit cost. However, new applications such as factory automation, autonomous vehicles, portable medical devices, edge computing, and IoT sensors are forcing an evolution of performance requirements. As a result, the criteria used to evaluate and select memory for specific applications have also changed.

NAND, NOR, and F-RAM each have different strengths for a variety of applications. Since each of these solutions have unique feature sets for specific target applications, it’s important to identify what type of memory solution delivers the best performance and reliability for the desired application. Mass storage in data centers, computers and consumer devices require the highest densities and lowest cost-per-bit, typically supported by NAND Flash. Embedded computers store boot code and transaction data, usually available in NOR Flash. Data recorders, sensors, and edge computers capturing rapidly changing data over long periods of time use specialized technologies, such as ferroelectric RAM (F-RAM).

Let’s look at which memory matches up with these workloads:

NAND Flash

NAND Flash is commonly found in data centers, cloud servers, and in consumer devices. Its high densities make it ideal for these tasks and the technology has improved thanks to better processes and geometric shrinks. Cost per gigabyte continues to decrease and read/write performance continues to perform well. However, there are certain limitations to this solution: the small size of the cell is stressed with each program/erase cycle, lowering its endurance, and the size also means data retention of approximately 10 years is lower than other memory solutions.

NOR Flash

With its large memory cell to retain long data and a byte-addressable architecture, NOR Flash is ideal for boot code, which includes execute-in-place systems and transaction data. NOR is reliable and easy to use with its latest improvements offering functional safety and secure boot tools for fail-safe operations. For automotive instrument clusters and other functions, NOR can support fast read and instant-on capabilities. However, NOR densities are lower than NAND.

F-RAM

F-RAM is ideal for devices that need to continuously capture data over long periods of time by using less power. The memory cells alternate polarity, using minimal energy to prolong the battery life and provide nearly infinite endurance. F-RAM also removes energy or charge leakage concerns, so data retention can last at least 100 years.1 Contrary to popular belief, F-RAM cannot be disrupted by magnetic fields; however, its density cannot support coding and mass storage needs.

It boils down to this: choosing the right memory helps ensure the success of the product. NAND Flash is ideal for mass storage workloads typically found in cloud computing and personal electronics. In contrast, NOR Flash and F-RAM are suitable for embedded systems and edge devices, which are often located in extreme and remote environments. As edge computing grows, advances in artificial intelligence are driving new capabilities and raising demand for increased fail-safe operation standards, which in turn pressures manufacturers to deliver NOR Flash and F-RAM with safety and security features.

As Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a changing.” Memory can no longer be evaluated and purchased as a commodity technology. If it is treated as a commodity technology, then the end-product will suffer, lose user confidence and ultimately may not become a runaway hit. That’s why, at Cypress, we are committed to providing memory designed for specific needs that offers value beyond mere cost.

Learn more about our comprehensive portfolio of memory solutions: https://www.cypress.com/products/high-performance-memories-embedded-systems

1 An approximate benchmark; actual longevity will depend on application and usage.

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