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
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
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
Although the course was very well received, I never posted a link to it on The Memory Guy blog. This post is intended to correct that error.
The course runs 75 minutes and covers the basics of DRAM, non-volatile RAM, SRAM, NAND flash, NOR flash, mask ROM, and EEPROM. It explains each technology’s advances in size, cost and performance, leading up to the development of Continue reading
Long-term clients of mine, even those dating back to my decade at Dataquest in the 1990s, are familiar with the concept that spot prices behave differently during a shortage. When there is too much DRAM spot prices remain below contract prices, because OEMs who bought too much product clear their inventory at quarter end (and other times) by selling at a loss.
During a shortage the opposite is true: OEMS find that they can’t get as much DRAM as they wanted through their contract sources, so they shop for the balance on the spot market. Since there are more buyers than sellers, spot prices invariably raise higher than contract prices.
When the prices change from one state of affairs to the other then it is safe to assume that Continue reading
Intel and Micron today announced that the new version of Intel’s Xeon Phi, a highly parallel coprocessor for research applications, will be built using a custom version of Micron’s Hybrid Memory Cube, or HMC.
This is only the second announced application for this new memory product – the first was a Fujitsu supercomputer back in November.
For those who, like me, were unfamiliar with the Xeon Phi, it’s a module that uses high core-count processors for problems that can be solved with high degrees of parallelism. My friend and processor guru Nathan Brookwood tells me Continue reading
Let’s look at how one form of 3D NAND is manufactured. For this post we will explore the original design suggested by Toshiba at the IEEE’s International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM) in 2007. It’s shown in the first graphic of this post. (Click on any of the graphics for a better view.)
Toshiba calls this technology “BiCS” for “Bit Cost Scaling.” The technique doesn’t scale the process the way the world of semiconductors has always done to date – it scales the cost without shrinking the length and width of the memory cell. It accomplishes this by going vertically, as is shown in this post’s first graphic.
This takes a special effort. This is where the real Continue reading
During SK hynix’ October 29 earnings call the company further clarified the status of its Wuxi fab line that was hit by a fire on September 4. In brief, the company may miss its expected end-November date to recover to full operation.
Interestingly, although DRAM bit shipments declined by 2% because of the fire, revenues increased by 3% thanks to price increases caused by the resulting tight DRAM supply. This gave the company a revenue boost taking total semiconductor revenues from ₩3.93 trillion ($3.54B US) in the second quarter to ₩4.08 trillion ($3.66B US) in the third quarter. Not only was this revenue a record number for SK hynix, but margins also reached a record high.
All in all, it was a very good quarter, despite the fire, and perhaps because of it.
The company disclosed that restoration of the air ventilation system and the clean room have been Continue reading