Hybrid Memory Cube Making Progress

Conceptual Cutaway Drawing of the Hybrid Memory CubeOn Tuesday the HMC Consortium (that’s short for “Hybrid Memory Cube”) announced that members have agreed upon a specification.  The consortium has been moving rapidly, meeting its targets despite the revolutionary nature of the interface.

As a reminder, this technology stacks multiple DRAMs in a single package with a logic chip at the base of the stack that performs all the signalling to the rest of the system.  Signals between the DRAMs and logic chip use through-silicon vias (TSVs) as interconnections.  This allows the technology to deliver 15 times the performance of DDR3 at only 30% of the power consumption.  The Memory Guy first posted about the HMC in late 2011.

The consortium explains that the HMC interface already has 100 adopters, and that a few Continue reading “Hybrid Memory Cube Making Progress”

DRAM Prices on the Rise

2013-03-12 DRAM Spot PricesThere’s been a lot of talk recently about increasing DRAM prices.  Although this trend has been ongoing since late November (see chart) it has only recently garnered the attention of the press.

What is going on, and how is it likely to play out?  The prices in the chart represent the lowest spot market prices reported by market tracker InSpectrum for the past year.  These prices typically remain below contract prices as long as there is an oversupply, and stay above contract prices during a shortage.

According to InSpectrum’s figures, today’s lowest spot market DRAM prices are about double Continue reading “DRAM Prices on the Rise”

Why Do Memories Have Those Odd Names?

Where do all those memory names come from???From time to time I am asked: “Why is NAND flash called NAND?” or “Why do we say RAM?” and similar questions.  A lot of this has to do with history, and a lot of terminology which is now obsolete.  To understand these strange names, you have to understand the history of memories.  The Computer History Museum (CHM) in Silicon Valley is a great help in this vein.

Since the Memory Guy has been in Silicon Valley since 1977, a lot of this information is stored in my head.  Let me try to share it with you in a way that I hope will make more sense, and will help outsiders to understand these odd names.

Here’s the history of memory nomenclature, as I understand it: Continue reading “Why Do Memories Have Those Odd Names?”

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?”

Is DRAM Really a Profitless Business?

The Sum of all DRAM Profits 1991-2011A colleague recently asked me to verify that the DRAM business has had zero net profits over its entire history.  This is something he had heard at a technology event that really surprised him.

I have often heard this story myself, for DRAM as well as for flash (both NAND and NOR) but I had never put in the time to test the assertion.

This statement is certainly attention grabbing, and because of that presenters everywhere will find some way to include this “fact” into their slideshows.  “But is it true?” he asked me.

Well, I can’t call myself “The Memory Guy” without having an answer to this question, so I Continue reading “Is DRAM Really a Profitless Business?”

Samsung DRAMs in Massive Leibniz SuperMUC

The Leibniz Supercomputing Centre's SuperMUC supercomputerToday Samsung announced that its chips are used exclusively to make up the 324-terabytes of DRAM in Germany’s new Leibniz Supercomputing Centre SuperMUC supercomputer.

Samsung’s release tells us that the SuperMUC, the most powerful supercomputer system in Europe, is an IBM System x iDataPlex dx360 M4 server built using over 18,000 Intel Xeon CPUs and over 80,000 4GB DRAM modules from Samsung.  (Simple math makes this out to be 82,944 modules.)

That looks like a lot of silicon!  Let’s see how much that might be.

A 4GB parity DRAM module would use nine 4Gb DRAM chips, which Samsung appears to Continue reading “Samsung DRAMs in Massive Leibniz SuperMUC”

Why DRAM Bit Growth will Suffer

Benchmarks show NAND advantage over DRAM in PCsIt seems that DRAM makers are still unaware of the impact NAND flash will have on DRAM revenues.  Even though many are paying a lot of attention to the impact of the Tablet PC on Notebook PC shipments, few understand that even a healthy notebook market will start to place a decreasing focus on the system DRAM in the near future.

The reason why is simple, and it’s explained in great detail in a report: How PC NAND will Undermine DRAM.  In a nutshell, once a basic minimum DRAM requirement has been met, NAND flash yields a greater performance return per dollar than does DRAM.  This is illustrated in the graphic to the left.

Forget about the fact that NAND flash is nonvolatile, and that it offers Continue reading “Why DRAM Bit Growth will Suffer”

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”

Figuring Out Who Shipped What

Some Companies Count Some Chips and Not OthersToday I saw an announcement from another market research firm about a new report with flash memory market shares for 2011.  I found it remarkable that the way these chips are counted varies enough that the company decided to openly discuss this issue right in the press release for the report!

Memory market statistics are compiled by numerous firms: The World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) sold in the US and Europe by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), Gartner Dataquest, IHS iSuppli, Web Feet, Semico, Forward Insights, and even DRAMexchange.  Lots of entities use conflicting definitions of what is and what is not a chip.  This causes each company’s numbers to differ from the others’.

In the case of WSTS, a chip that is packaged with another chip into a board becomes Continue reading “Figuring Out Who Shipped What”

Invensas’ DIMM-in-a-Package

Invensas BGA Dimm-in-a-PackageTessara’s Invensas subsidiary has announced a new packaging technology to produce what the company calls a “DIMM in a Package.”

The new product is said to deliver the capacity and performance of an SO-DIMM in a 16x16mm BGA.  It is built using Invensas’ xFD technology.

I have seen examples of Invensas’ xFD and the first thought that struck me was: “Why didn’t I think of that?!?”  It’s an elegantly simple approach to today’s connection conundrums.  By staggering chips and mounting them face-down over holes for bonding wires the company connects DRAMs with far shorter interconnect lengths and less scrambling, leading to higher performance.

Although this technology is not yet covered in any of our current reports, we do have a report on cell phone packages: Flash Packaging: What Phone Makers Want and Why, that can be purchased for immediate download on the Objective Analysis website.