The End of Flash Scaling

The End is at Hand for NAND Flash ScalingEveryone knows that flash memory is about to hit its scaling limit – it’s right around the corner.  We’re ready for it because it’s been right around the corner for more than a decade now.  It’s so close we can taste it.

When will it happen?

One thing that is quite clear is that nobody knows when NAND flash will stop scaling.  Everyone knows that it’s soon, but researchers continue to find ways to push the technology another couple of process nodes past where anyone thought it could possibly go, and they have been doing this since Continue reading “The End of Flash Scaling”

NAND Flash at 35 Cents per Gigabyte

35¢/GB NAND Flash - We are There Now!!!Last January at the Storage Visions Conference in Las Vegas (held every year just prior to CES) I asked the audience what they would do when NAND flash reached a price of 35¢ per gigabyte.  My projection (the dotted red line on the chart at left) was that prices would reach that level by the end of the year.

My audience was shocked to hear such a low price!

Price declines open up new markets.  It was time to think creatively, I said, because that’s where pricing would be by the end of 2012.

Well, I was wrong – according to Continue reading “NAND Flash at 35 Cents per Gigabyte”

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”

What is cMLC Flash?

cMLC - Commercial Multilevel Cell NAND FlashSome recent news mentioned cMLC flash, which is short for “consumer MLC.”  This term is used to differentiate between the cheapest available product, mainstream MLC, and products that are aimed at the computing segment, and thus carry higher price tags.

There are several of these higher-end products.   Some have longer endurance, like eMLC and SLC flash.  Some have faster interfaces, like ONFi and Toggle Mode.  Then there are the combinations of these: a fast interface with enhanced reliability.

There are disadvantages to these.  The consumer market Continue reading “What is cMLC Flash?”

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”

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.

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?”

MOSAID Samples 333GB/s HLNAND

MOSAID HLNAND Samples: 512Gb at 333MB/sMOSAID announced that the company is sampling a 333GB/s 512Gb HLNAND.  According to MOSAID the devices packages: “16 industry standard 32Gb NAND Flash die with two HLNAND interface devices to achieve 333MB/s output over a single byte-wide HLNAND interface channel. Conventional NAND Flash MCP designs cannot stack more than four NAND dies without suffering from performance degradation, and would require two or more channels to deliver similar throughput.”

Think of this as a lower-cost NAND version of the Hybrid Memory Cube, which packages specialized DRAM using thousands of through-silicon vias (TSVs) atop a specialized interface.  Both approaches use a custom logic chip to quickly move data across a point-to-point interface with the processor.

There were a couple of surprises with this announcement: First that it was made by MOSAID even though the company was acquired by Sterling Partners late last year.  It would seem that the announcement would have borne the acquirer’s name.

Second, the press all remarked that the device was innovative since it was a 16-die NAND stack.  This is not new!  Samsung has been shipping 16-die NAND stacks for a couple of years now.  Although it’s not an economical package, it’s in production.

MOSAID first introduced the HLNAND architecture in 2007.  The Memory Guy has never fully understood how HLNAND fit in with the rest of MOSAID’s business.  For the most part MOSAID has become a licensor and acquirer of IP, a departure from its origins as a chip design consultancy.  It is unusual (but not unheard of) for such a company to champion an industry standard and to do much R&D on its own.

Either way, this is an impressive device with compelling throughput.  Here’s a wish for MOSAID to successfully create a market for this technology.