Memory Markets

DRAM Prices Down, But Not So Bad

DRAM Spot Price per GB HistoryFor the past ten months DRAM prices have been undergoing a steady slide.  Is the market in a crisis?  Not really!

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

New Algorithm Dramatically Reduces Storage & Power Requirements

April Fool in BinaryA lone inventor has developed a data compression algorithm that defies the theoretical “Shannon Limit“.  The press hasn’t covered this recent news, even though it has dramatic implications.  This is probably because the technique is so very arcane.  The inventor is none other than the great-great-great granddaughter of the inventor of the tabulated punch card, Herman Hollerith.

The algorithm reduces most of the data while converting the remaining information into as many ones as possible.  This not only shrinks storage requirements and costs, but in the case of flash memory, it also has an important impact on total power.  Flash is erased by setting all bits to ones, and bits are written by either leaving them alone (one) or by changing them (zero).  The fewer zeros in the code, the less energy required to change the bits.  Energy is also saved during an erase, since fewer bits need to be brought back to the erased state.

To explain the algorithm in its simplest terms, a byte of data is evaluated.  If it has more zero bits than one bits the byte is inverted and an index bit is set to reflect this fact.  Next, the four bits on either side of the byte are evaluated and if one has more zeros than ones it is inverted and another index bit is set.  This process continues until Continue reading

Semiconductor Market Ends Year on a High Note

SIA LogoThe 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

Backing Out DRAM Process Rules

Inotera HQInotera 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

Memory Issues in Space & Medical Applications

How an alpha particle disrupts a memory bitThe Memory Guy was recently asked about using memories in a satellite. What would be a good technology to use in a space application?

The problem with space is that there is a lot of radiation.  Radiation on the earth’s surface is lower because it is stopped by the atmosphere, but in space there is an abundance of radiation that interferes with most semiconductors.  Radiation is also a concern in certain medical applications where a memory must maintain its contents while undergoing sterilization through irradiation.  Experiments on conventional flash memories have shown data loss at only 2% of the Continue reading

3D NAND’s Impact on the Equipment Market

Costs to Migrate to Next Lithography Node - Applied Materials (click to enlarge)A very unusual side effect of the move to 3D NAND will be the impact on the equipment market.  3D NAND takes the pressure off of lithographic steps and focuses more attention on deposition and etch.  The reason for going to 3D is that it provides a path to higher density memories without requiring lithographic shrinks.

This sounds like bad news for stepper makers like ASML, Canon, and Nikon while it should be a boon to deposition and etch equipment makers like Applied Materials, Tokyo Electron, and Lam Research.

In its summer 2013 V-NAND announcement, Samsung explained that it would be Continue reading

Micron Announces Processor-In-Memory

Micron's Automata Processor on a standard DDR3 DIMM (Micron press photo)During the Supercomputing Conference in Denver today Micron Technology announced its new twist on processing: A DRAM chip with an array of built-in processors.

Dubbed: “The Automata Processor” this chip harnesses the inherent internal parallelism of DRAM chips to support a parallel data path of about 50,000 signals to attain processor-DRAM bandwidth that can only be dreamed of using conventional DRAM interfaces.  The processor is a Graph-Oriented architecture.

The chip lends itself to Continue reading

SIA: Memories Drive Record Semi Revenues

SIA LogoThe SIA yesterday released the WSTS semiconductor sales data for September.  Monthly revenues reached a record $27 billion driving third-quarter revenues to their own record of $81 billion.  This was the seventh straight month of semiconductor growth, the first such run-up since 2010.

This quote, by SIA CEO Brian Toohey really caught The Memory Guy’s eye: “Sales of memory products have increased sharply compared to last year and continue to be a major driver of industry growth.”

A lot has been happening to drive this increase in memory revenues: The recent SK hynix fire increased DRAM prices, but Continue reading

Hynix Squeaks Out Another Update

Hynix Wuxi FireIn its own uniquely minimalistic style, Hynix has updated the status of the second line of its Wuxi fab, the one that was hit by a fire on September 4:

We would like to provide the following update on the recovery status of  SK Hynix Wuxi fab that was affected by the fire on Wednesday September 4, 2013. The air ventilation system and cleanroom in the line that was affected by the fire have now been substantially restored, and we have resumed partial utilization in this line from Thursday October 10, 2013. We will gradually raise utilization and make every effort to recover normalized level of pre-fire utilization in November as planned.

This statement should put to rest Continue reading

Applied’s Take on 3D NAND

Applied Materials expects for 3D NAND to grow the etch & CVD markets by 50%Early this month I was invited to participate in Applied Materials’ (AMAT) Analyst Day.  The sessions were rich in data covering the markets that would profit the company over the next few years.

Naturally, The Memory Guy fixated on those presentations that dealt with memory.  When it came to the upcoming transition to 3D NAND, AMAT had a lot to say.

A later post will explain what 3D NAND actually is.  Suffice it to say that today’s approach to making NAND flash has nearly reached its limit, and the approach that manufacturers plan to use in the future involves making NAND strings that stand on their ends.  This has phenomenal implications on Continue reading

Contact

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

Translate to:

Website Translation GTS Translation