Samsung Announces 3D NAND Production

Toshiba's BiCS 3D NAND 2007 diagramSamsung has announced production of its 3D NAND technology.  This approach, first introduced by Toshiba in 2007, allows NAND flash makers to achieve more bits per chip by building NAND strings, which normally run across the surface of the chip, as vertical stacks.

It’s a fascinating technology, since it harnesses exotic steps invented by DRAM makers in the 1990s to get over scaling problems in that technology.  At the time DRAM had to go vertical to follow Moore’s Law and there were two schools of vertical DRAM: Stacked Capacitor, and Trench Cell.  The stacked capacitor camp layered polysilicon and silicon dioxide into layers to form a vertical capacitor.  The trench camp etched a very narrow and deep hole into the silicon and lined it with the capacitor plates.  Both worked very well, but over time the trench makers have Continue reading “Samsung Announces 3D NAND Production”

Does the ‘Windows Bump’ Really Exist?

Windows Introductions vs DRAM Bit GrowthDRAM manufacturers often refer to “The Windows Bump” – a phenomenon that is believed to occur after every release of a new version of the Windows operating system.  According to this theory DRAM demand increases for a period following an introduction.

An example: in a recent article Kingston VP Scott Chen said that an increase in sales for Windows 8 might help raise DRAM demand, leading to more stable prices.

Demand is expected to pick up on the upcoming launch of Windows 8 tablets and Ultrabook PCs later in the second half of 2012.

Does the Windows Bump really exist?  The Memory Guy thought Continue reading “Does the ‘Windows Bump’ Really Exist?”

Adesto Acquires Atmel’s Serial NOR Business

Atmel Sells Serial Flash Business to AdestoIt’s not often that a small private firm acquires a part of a larger public firm, but that’s what happened today with Atmel and Adesto.  Adesto, a manufacturer of alternative memory technology, has purchased Atmel’s serial NOR flash business for an undisclosed sum.

The transaction covers the Atmel “Data Flash” and “BIOS Flash” product families and the employees supporting those products.  Atmel has retained its Serial EEPROM, Crypto and Digital Temperature Sensor memory product lines and plans to continue to invest in those businesses.

This is not a small thing.  Serial NOR now accounts for roughly Continue reading “Adesto Acquires Atmel’s Serial NOR Business”

Toshiba to Cut NAND Production by 30%

Toshiba's Fab 5 in YokkaichiIn a surprise announcement Toshiba has said that it will immediately cut NAND flash production by approximately 30%.  The company explains that this is being done “to reduce inventory in the market and improve the overall balance between supply and demand.”  Toshiba’s release implies that this move is expected to improve prices, which have dropped as low as $0.31/GB recently.

By common measures of market share, which typically leave out SanDisk (for reasons too complex to discuss here) Toshiba holds a share of roughly 30% of the NAND flash market.  By cutting its output by 30% Toshiba would be reducing overall NAND supply by 10%.  If we were to include SanDisk, then that percentage would decrease to about 7.5%.  Either one of these is significantly more than Continue reading “Toshiba to Cut NAND Production by 30%”

DensBits – Making TLC Act Like MLC

DensBits' Soft Decoding yields 15x better ECC than 24-bit BCHDensBits, an Israeli start-up, has introduced a new technology and a new product today.  The company’s new eMMC controller, the DB3610, embodies DensBits’ “Memory Modem” technology, which is a blend of ECC, DSP, and flash management that the company says can give TLC flash endurance superior to that of MLC flash with performance nearly as good as competing controllers can provide with MLC.

That’s a big claim!

DensBits’ Memory Modem views NAND flash as a noisy communications channel, using those algorithms developed to support deep Continue reading “DensBits – Making TLC Act Like MLC”

Why DRAMs are Like Steel

The McKinsey Consulting Steel ModelOver lunch today I had a conversation with an alum of McKinsey Consulting who remarked that the DRAM business behaved in a way that was similar to the McKinsey Steel Model.  For those unfamiliar with this model I found a slideshow HERE that refers to it a good deal.  (So far I have not found a tutorial on the model itself, but if anyone knows were to find it The Memory Guy would highly appreciate hearing about it.)

One interesting thing is that this particular McKinsey alum was not the first to point this out to me.  About 15 years ago a family friend/McKinsey alum told me exactly the same thing.  It seems that the economics of the DRAM business have changed little over the past 15 years, and the McKinsey steel model applies to DRAMs just as well now as it did then.

In a nutshell, the model posits that the market price for Continue reading “Why DRAMs are Like Steel”

How Cheap is Flash?

Fry's Advertisement: 32GB Patriot USB for $17The Memory Guy was a little surprised to see the advertisement in this post’s graphic.  It was from an April 8 newspaper ad for Fry’s Electronics.

It’s a little early to see NAND selling for this little: The original price of $21.99 for a 32GB USB flash drive comes to $0.69/GB, and the price after the rebate of $16.99 means that the price per gigabyte of the flash is only $0.53!

At the time the lowest spot market pricing for MLC flash on the InSpectrum spot price website was $0.53, and $0.47 for TLC.  According to DRAMeXchange MLC is selling for as little as $0.48.

That’s not a lot of margin for Patriot or Fry’s when you add in the cost of t Continue reading “How Cheap is Flash?”

Hynix and Spansion Join Forces

Spansion and SK Hynix AllianceSK Hynix and Spansion have announced a strategic NAND alliance under which Hynix will serve as a foundry for low-density SLC NAND chips made for Spansion using Hynix’ advanced processing nodes.

These products, aimed at the embedded market, should serve to strengthen Spansion in a market in which the company thrives. In fact,  Spansion expressed this very well in their press release, citing: “Spansion’s recognized customer support and commitment for longevity of supply, which is highly valued in the embedded market, where Spansion has established relationships.”

The new chips will be manufactured in “4x, 3x, and 2xnm” process technologies.

The companies have also agreed to cross-license their patent portfolios.

You may be asking yourself: “What does Hynix Continue reading “Hynix and Spansion Join Forces”

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 “Elpida Finally Makes Statement”

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 “Hynix is now SK-Hynix”