Monthly Archives: February 2012

IEEE Spectrum: Did Bad Memory Chips Down Russia’s Mars Probe?

Radiation SymbolThe IEEE Spectrum published an interesting article postulating that Russia’s recently-failed Mars probe may have suffered from bad memory chips.  According to the Spectrum article the Russian government’s Official Accident Investigation Results faulted SRAMs:

The report blames the loss of the probe on memory chips that became fatally damaged by cosmic rays.

Both the main computer and the backup computer seem to have failed at the same time, Continue reading

Intel Sells NAND Assets

IMFT's Manassas Fab, one of Two Sold to MicronToday Intel divested itself of a portion of the assets of IMFT, the joint venture NAND flash manufacturing arm it shares with Micron Technology.  This is an effort by Intel to groom the business to better suit Intel’s evolving vision of its role in the NAND flash business.

Objective Analysis issued an Alert to our clients giving the “What, When, Why, and Where” of this deal.  The Alert can be downloaded for free from the Objective Analysis Reports page.

Elpida Files for Bankruptcy

Elpida DRAM ChipsElpida today filed for bankruptcy.  The troubled DRAM manufacturer has been unprofitable for the past five quarters and was facing repayment requirements that the current market would prevent the company from meeting.

The company is the world’s third largest DRAM maker, and is the last remaining Japanese DRAM company.  This is particularly stunning for DRAM industry veterans, since Japanese DRAM makers were at one time the largest in the world.  NEC used to be the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer based largely upon its DRAM revenues.

Objective Analysis has issued an Alert covering this news.  It can be downloaded for free from the Objective Analysis Reports page.

Inside SanDisk’s & Toshiba’s New 128Gb NAND Chip

The Toshiba/SanDisk 128Gb NAND Flash ChipOne memory chip was so important that it was presented three times at this week’s International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) and that was the Toshiba/SanDisk 128Gb NAND flash.  This chip was shown by Eli Harari in Monday’s keynote, then was featured twice in the Wednesday afternoon Nonvolatile Memories session – once by Toshiba and once by SanDisk.

The NAND chip, measuring 170.6mm², is said by both companies to be the densest NAND available.  Compared to the Intel/Micron 64Gb 20nm NAND at 118mm², the device gives twice the bits in a 45% larger die area, so the companies’ claim rings true, since the only other NAND makers: Samsung and Hynix, have processes that fall far behind at 27nm and 26nm respectively.

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How Do You Make an ReRAM Work?

I/V Curve for Panasonic's ReRAM Select DiodeDuring this week’s International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) I learned some very valuable information about memories built using crosspoint matrices.

Since ISSCC is a conference at which you meet the best and brightest minds in the industry it should come as no surprise that I was able to meet with several of the most forward-thinking industry luminaries.  One of them explained to me a very fundamental difficulty with resistive RAMs (ReRAMs): These devices require a forward current to be programmed to a “1” and a reverse current to be set to a zero.  This goes against the ideal crosspoint memory design in which a bit would consist of nothing more than a diode in series with a memory element.  By inserting a diode, the current can only run in one direction, so a bit can be programmed or it can be erased, but not both.

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Harari Delivers Inspiring Keynote at ISSCC

Eli Harari Delivers ISSCC KeynoteThe annual International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) is a gathering in which the brightest minds in semiconductors come to meet and share the results of their recent research and development efforts.  This year the four keynotes at the opening plenary centered on a “Green” outlook, through Storage, Control, Computing, and Energy.

Naturally, as “The Memory Guy,” I focused all of my attention upon the storage keynote, given by SanDisk’s recently-retired CEO Eli Harari.  Some of the more interesting points I came away with were: Continue reading

NAND SSD Performance to Decline over Time

Chart from the Grupp, Davis, Swanson paper showing latency increases with capacityA few articles at ComputerworldTom’s Hardware, and The Verge were recently passed my way.  These reported on a paper presented at last week’s USENIX conference that predicted how NAND flash’s future performance declines would impact tomorrow’s SSDs.

The paper found that SSD performance is likely to decrease over time as SSDs increase in capacity.  The report postulates that SSDs of the future: “may be too slow and unreliable to be competitive against disks of similar cost in enterprise applications.”

Sadly, the Tom’s Hardware and Verge articles focused more on one of the assumptions behind the paper Continue reading

Micron Suffers Another Loss

Jim GarrettSoon after the death of Micron president Steve Appleton, former chairman & COO Jim Garrett passed away.  Garrett died at age 64 from cancer.

Garrett joined Micron in 1985 as vice president of sales & marketing and became vice chairman in 1990.  He served as chairman and chief operating officer from 1992-1994 until his resignation over allegations that another boardmember released internal company information.

Garrett had a good reputation as  a positive manager who helped guide Micron through a very difficult period for the US DRAM industry.

Elpida Finally Makes Statement

Difficult Times for ElpidaFor months rumors have abounded regarding Elpida’s viability and plans the company has to overcome its current financial woes.  Although the company has been questioned about advanced payments and loans from its customers, takeover and merger possibilities, and even government intervention, Elpida has remained silent, refusing to comment.

Today the company finally made a statement that it will be adding a note to its Q3 results and earnings report: “on Matters concerning the Assumed Going Concern.”

This statement, which looks like it was written very carefully by either Continue reading

Hynix is now SK-Hynix

Cover of Hynix Memory CatalogHynix Semiconductor has a new name.  Through SK Telecom’s November 2011 purchase of 21.1% of Hynix’ shares from its creditors mobile phone service provider SK has acquired controlling interest of the company and is re-branding Hynix as SK-Hynix.

The Memory Guy has not discussed this with either Hynix or SK Telecom so far, but it seems unusual that a 21.1% stake in a company would gain a controlling interest.

Suffice it to say that Hynix’ creditor banks, who have been trying to divest themselves of their ownership of Hynix for a few years, have finally found Continue reading

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Jim Handy Objective Analysis Memory Market Research +1 (408) 356-2549 Jim.Handy (at) Objective-Analysis.com

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