Objective Analysis has just introduced a new report that you might want to consider: A Close Look At The Micron/Intel 3D XPoint Memory.
The report covers the Intel-Micron 3D XPoint memory and includes Intel’s new Optane support products that are based on this technology. The report explains the technology and its special manufacturing challenges. It includes details of how 3D XPoint memory will be used, and provides an analysis of the benefits of its persistent nature.
Forecasts project how the market will develop and include optimistic and pessimistic forecast scenarios. Particular attention has been paid to its impact upon the DRAM, SSD, and other markets. Finally, the report analyzes different end-market segments to predict how this technology will impact each of them.
The Memory Guy, report author Jim Handy, will present the report’s findings during the Pre-Conference Primer of the Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA) Storage Developer Conference (SDC) this Sunday, September 20, at 2:00 PM, In Santa Clara, CA.
This breakthrough report is based on Continue reading
How short is that list? Interestingly, Intel and Micron have different lists. The Micron list, shown in this post’s graphic (click to enlarge), cites seven types: “Ram” (showing a vacuum tube), PROM, SRAM, DRAM, EPROM, NOR flash, and NAND flash. Intel’s list adds magnetic bubble memory, making it eight. (Definitions of these names appear in another Memory Guy blog post.)
The Memory Guy finds both lists puzzling in that they left out a number of important technologies.
For example, why did Intel neglect EEPROM, which is still in widespread use? EEPROMs (or E²PROMs) are not only found in nearly every application that has a serial number (ranging from WiFi routers to credit cards), requires calibration (like blood glucose monitoring strips and printer ink cartridges), or provides operating parameters (i.e. the serial presence detect – SPD – in DRAM DIMMs), but they still ship in the billions of units every year. In its time EEPROM was an important breakthrough. Over the years EEPROM has had a much greater impact than has PROM.
And, given that both companies were willing to include tubes, a non-semiconductor technology, why did both Continue reading
A July 13 Wall Street Journal article disclosed that China’s state-owned Tsinghua Unigroup has bid to buy Micron Technology for $21 a share or $23 billion, which would make this the largest-ever Chinese takeover of a U.S. company.
Objective Analysis has been telling our clients for the past few years that either China or India would create a new DRAM/NAND manufacturing company, especially since memory chip makers have enjoyed a long period of profits, and this usually motivates outsiders to invest in new DRAM makers. We did not anticipate an acquisition.
Countries with heavy industry typically move into the semiconductor business during an extended upturn, and become DRAM suppliers since DRAM is an undifferentiated commodity. Commodities sell almost solely on price and success is based on little more than manufacturing strength. This is a business model that industrial economies understand.
In addition to Micron’s tangible assets, including Continue reading
In a comment to a recent Memory Guy post I stated that NAND flash can reduce DRAM requirements, even in PCs. Some readers have told me that they wonder how this could be, so I will write this post to explain.
Some years ago Objective Analysis noticed that clever server administrators were able to use SSDs to reduce their systems’ DRAM requirements. Not only did this save them money, but it lowered power and cooling requirements as well.
Thinking that this might work on other kinds of computers, we commissioned a number of benchmarks to be performed on a PC.
These benchmarks found that after a system already has a certain minimum amount of DRAM, users can get a bigger performance boost by adding a dollar’s worth NAND flash than they can get by adding a dollar’s worth of DRAM.
In every case the minimum amount of DRAM was very small.
There has been quite a lot of interest over the past few days about the apparently-inadvertent disclosure by Intel of its server platform roadmap. Detailed coverage in The Platform showed a couple of slides with key memory information for the upcoming Purley server platform which will support the Xeon “Skylake” processor family.
One slide, titled: “Purley: Biggest Platform Advancement Since Nehalem” includes this post’s graphic, which tells of a memory with: “Up to 4x the capacity & lower cost than DRAM, and 500x faster than NAND.”
The Memory Guy puzzled a bit about what this might be. The only memory chip technology today with a cost structure lower than that of DRAM is NAND flash, and there is unlikely to be any technology within the leaked roadmap’s 2015-2017 time span that will change that. MRAM, ReRAM, PCM, FRAM, and other technologies can’t beat DRAM’s cost, and will probably take close to a decade to get to that point.
Since that’s the case, then what is this mystery memory? If we think of memory systems, rather than memory chips we can come up with one very plausible answer. Intel may be very Continue reading
Today’s low spot price of $4.30/GB puts us on a par with February 2013, a full two years ago (see chart). DRAM makers have done a lot to reduce their production costs since that time, so their margins this quarter will be much better than they were in the first quarter of 2013.
But we are still a very long way from the bottom of the last market downturn. In late 2012 spot prices reached a low of $2.52/GB, a full 41% lower than today’s lowest spot prices.
The Memory Guy models the production costs of leading memory chips, and DRAM manufacturing costs have been decreasing for the past several years at an average annual rate of about 30%. That means that costs today are about half of what they were two years ago, and one third of their level this time in 2012.
So even though today’s Continue reading
Last week Toshiba and SK hynix announced an agreement to jointly develop Nano Imprint Lithography (NIL), building on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that two companies signed in December last year. Development efforts will begin this April and practical adoption is expected to start in 2017. The collaboration is expected to reduce risk and accelerate commercialization of this technology.
NIL is expected to produce next-generation lithography at high throughput rates more economically than established lithography tools. It is should compete against Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, an alternative technology whose use has been delayed by numerous technical challenges. EUV, a euphemism for X-Rays, cannot use transmissive optics like glass lenses, so a completely new reflective imaging technology has had to be developed to support its use. The advantage of EUV is that the light wavelength is only 13nm, which is an order of magnitude smaller than the 193nm light currently used to produce leading-edge chips, allowing it to print significantly smaller features.
Unlike today’s lithography, which uses a purely photographic process, NIL mechanically stamps a pattern into the photoresist in a similar manner to the sealing wax stamp shown in the photo (courtesy of BackToZero, a wax stamp maker). The stamp is produced using Continue reading
The Semiconductor Industry Association this week announced the year-end World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) revenues for 2014. Worldwide sales grew 9.9% to reach a record total of $335.8 billion, outperforming the WSTS fall forecast. Annual sales increased in all four regional markets for the first time since 2010. Memory was the fastest growing segment, increasing 18.2%, partly based on DRAM growth of 34.7%.It’s encouraging that all geographical areas experienced growth. This implies that the world economy is finally on the mend.
The industry’s 9.9% worldwide growth was a good bit lower than Objective Analysis’ December 2013 prediction of growth in excess of 20%. We admit that we overshot, expecting both higher bit growth and stronger pricing in DRAM and NAND flash than actually materialized.
The $335.8 billion number is really Continue reading
Inotera recently announced earnings and posted an impressive 55% gross margin. Inotera is a pure-play DRAM maker, so it’s not too difficult to estimate the company’s process geometries based on its financials.
The Memory Guy thought it might be interesting to determine what I could from the 55% gross margin number.
First of all we can estimate Inotera’s manufacturing cost/GB based on the gross margin and an assumption about the company’s sales price/GB. The WSTS price per gigabyte for November was $7.83. Assuming that Inotera’s ASP was equal to this number, then at a gross margin of 55% the company’s cost/GB would have been $3.52.
Inotera’s acts as a foundry for Micron Technoogy. If Inotera sold to Micron at some lower price, then Inotera’s production costs would necessarily be proportionally lower to maintain the same gross margin.
Using the WSTS price: At a processed wafer cost of $1,600 (my rule of thumb) a $3.52/GB cost would require 454 8Gb dice to be produced Continue reading
Wiley has recently published a new book by Betty Prince titled Vertical 3D NAND Technologies that is one to consider if you want to bring yourself up to speed on recent research behind today’s and tomorrow’s 3D memory technologies.
For those who haven’t previously encountered Dr. Prince, she is the author of a number of key books covering memory design and holds memory patents written over her 30-year career in the field.
The book provides capsule summaries of over 360 papers and articles from scholarly journals on the subject of 3D memories, including DRAM, NAND flash, and stacked chips.
These papers are organized into Continue reading