Is there a NAND Shortage? Not quite.

NAND Weekly Spot Price per GB - Up Slightly SInce JulyThe trade press has recently carried reports of a NAND shortage which The Memory Guy finds to be very premature.  True, NAND prices are not at their lowest point – today NAND can be found for 38 cents per gigabyte, up from a low of 31 cents in July.  But does this constitute a shortage?  No, not really.

One of the key indicators of a shortage is a crossover between spot and contract pricing – during an oversupply spot pricing is lower than contract pricing since OEMs and suppliers both place excess product on the market and compete on price.  During a shortage the opposite is true – suppliers don’t have any Continue reading “Is there a NAND Shortage? Not quite.”

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”

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%”

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”

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”

Intel Sells NAND Assets

IMFT's Manassas Fab, one of Two Sold to MicronToday Intel divested itself of a portion of the assets of IMFT, the joint venture NAND flash manufacturing arm it shares with Micron Technology.  This is an effort by Intel to groom the business to better suit Intel’s evolving vision of its role in the NAND flash business.

Objective Analysis issued an Alert to our clients giving the “What, When, Why, and Where” of this deal.  The Alert can be downloaded for free from the Objective Analysis Reports page.