PALO ALTO, Calif. Denali Software Inc. is leveraging its market position in memory description models to launch eMemory.com, a Web service aimed at easing the design of memory subsystems.
Denali president Sanjay Srivastava last week described an ambitious agenda for eMemory.com that, if successful, would place Denali squarely in the middle of how major system companies discover, design and source memory.
The site would provide design engineers with a database of technical information about established and emerging memory types, including embedded memories. Denali further intends to sell software that would link a company's design engineers with its supply chain management systems. If a design engineer chooses an unsupported memory type or a nonqualified vendor, for example, the purchasing department might be flagged.
Several large computer and communications companies are in discussions with D enali about integrating the eMemory software into their infrastructures for enterprise resource planning, Srivastava said.
"As far as memory vendors go, it would lower the barriers to adopting a new memory technology," said Srivastava, a founder of privately held Denali.
Analysts said Denali is better-positioned than other companies trying to get established in business-to-business e-commerce aimed at electronics companies. It has established its memory simulation tool, Memory Modeler, at nearly all of the system design companies. Moreover, Denali engineers have taken over the chore of creating functional and timing models that represent the DRAMs, SRAMs and flash products created by most of the major memory vendors. Those simulation models adhere to the Denali-created Specification of Memory Architecture (Soma) standard, which is supported by prevailing simulation and verification tools.
Kevin Silver, the director of eMemory.com, said the business plan envisions design engineers going to the site to search for memory types that might serve a future system. For example, designers might download models of the new fast-cycle RAM (FC-RAM) developed by Fujitsu Ltd., or the family of SigmaRAM SRAMs now under development. Links to vendor Web sites would provide more information.
"Just in the past year, many different types of memories have emerged. We are working to create models for Fujitsu's FC-RAM, for NEC's virtual channel DRAMs, for the QDR [quad-data-rate] SRAMs and SigmaRAMs, and we're tracking the DDR-2 specification closely. Keeping track of all this is a complex database task, but what is becoming pretty clear is that the whole supply chain is becoming Internet-enabled," Silver said.
On one level, the site will provide open forums about DRAM, SRAM and flash, including news and chat-type discussions of new memory types. Beyond that, eMemory.com enters the commercial realm, starting with M emory Exchange. It will be bundled with the Memory Modeler simulator. The site will offer comparison data, second sources and a way to update vendor information quickly.
A second product, Memory Market, will target systems companies and start at $400,000 per year. The tool will require a custom integration step that will link the eMemory database of components with a company's enterprise resource planning and supply chain management systems, using the XML data format. A system vendor also could establish secure links between itself and memory vendors to provide additional layers of information.
"The goal is to integrate designers into the memory supply chain. Companies actually have a fairly significant problem when engineers decide to design in parts that are not supported by the company's procurement system," said Silver.
A third component, Memory Launch, is aimed at memory vendors and would provide them with a secure means of communicating information about new memory products, including embe dded memory.
Denali does not plan to experiment with the pay-per-use model of tools access being tried by some other Web-based services. Memory Modeler is sold for $7,500 on a perpetual license basis, while the front-end graphical user interface, Memory Maker, has sold for $15,000 per year. As part of the shift to eMemory.com, Memory Maker will be revamped and sold as Memory Exchange, at the same annual subscription fee.
Eventually, eMemory.com will provide memory design engineers with a means of engaging system design engineers early on. A flash designer could provide models of a prototype flash part to a cell phone design engineer, for example, and the two engineers could alter the parameters of a Soma model to see whether a two-clock-cycle flash would be a better fit. That hypothetical design could be simulated by the system designer, and results could be communicated back in an iterative approach.
Denali is getting into the business of creating memo ry controllers, an initiative that will be formally launched at the Design Automation Conference, which opens in Los Angeles June 4th. In the future, system designers could go to eMemory.com to download models of memories and controllers, and could click on a "Buy Now" button to ask for samples. Denali is talking to the major distributors, including Arrow and Avnet, to provide distribution support.
Srivastava said the movement toward system-on-chip type designs will heighten the need for information about embedded memory. Today, designers have ready access to information about embedded processors, including simulation models for hardware/software co-simulation tools. By contrast, Srivastava said, memories have been "more like a black box," a situation that could become more complex as more embedded memory types are offered.
"For processors, the infrastructure is always there to provide support. For memories, which are equally complex, the support for creating a memory subsystem is not as fric tionless as it needs to be," Srivastava said. "Embedded DRAM gives us a big break, because eMemory can be a place to go to investigate the trade-offs of embedded vs. external memory.
"Many embedded memories are being created by small companies of five or 10 people, and they have no good way of communicating their technologies to the wider design community."
If successful, the eMemory.com site could provide the memory vendors with important feedback in the early stages of introduction for new memory technologies, said Chris Van Gaal, a semiconductor research manager at Cahners In-Stat (Phoenix).
"It sounds like this would provide a tight coupling between the component vendors and the system-level OEMs," she said. "That could get real interesting if the eMemory.com site becomes a leading indicator of demand for new memory types. It depends on how they use the data."
But Denali is joining literally hundreds of startups that are trying to gain a foothold "in some form or fashion in the virtual supply chain," Van Gaal said.
Pradip Banerjee, director of memory product planning at Sony Semiconductor, said Denali is well-established in memory design. "A lot of our customers are using Denali-created models; Soma has become a common platform for both functional and timing models," said Banerjee. "What they seem to be moving toward is to become a kind of broker, using the Internet. I would look at them as a kind of enabler, a source of guidance, for designers looking at these new memory types."
Rob Raghavan, product marketing manager at Advanced Micro Devices' memory group, said eMemory could be "a natural extension" of Denali's simulation and verification business. "I think what they are trying to do is streamline some of the inefficiencies out of the flow of information about memories, and that is a tremendous goal. It could help customers determine the right choices.
"It is kind of embryonic [now], but in theory it could allow our customers to better understand memory technol ogies," he said.