Over 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”
Today 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”
Tessara’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.
The 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 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.
On April 3 Toshiba celebrated the 25th anniversary of NAND flash. The technology, developed by Toshiba researcher Fujio Masuoka, was not expected to succeed, as explained in Eli Harrari’s keynote for ISSCC in February.
Toshiba said in a release that the company’s “commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the invention of NAND flash will continue throughout 2012,” and will include “notable industry events and consumer participation.”
There is certainly reason to celebrate. This technology has grown faster than any semiconductor market in history, Continue reading “NAND Flash Turns 25!”
SK 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”
Nostalgia buffs who lived through computing in the 1970s will enjoy some magnificent photos shared in a blog post by Ryszard Milewicz. These photos give three views of a ferrite core memory plane. The photo from this blog is a part of one of Mr. Milewicz’ close-up photos.
For those who were not exposed to core memory, this technology was based upon an approach in which every individual bit of a computer’s memory was a tiny donut made of compressed iron powder (“Ferrite”) that had to be hand strung with copper wire into a plane of bits.
A co-worker of The Memory Guy once had a high-speed core memory array that he used as Continue reading “Remembering Core Memory”
The IEEE Spectrum published an interesting article postulating that Russia’s recently-failed Mars probe may have suffered from bad memory chips. According to the Spectrum article the Russian government’s Official Accident Investigation Results faulted SRAMs:
The report blames the loss of the probe on memory chips that became fatally damaged by cosmic rays.
Both the main computer and the backup computer seem to have failed at the same time, Continue reading “IEEE Spectrum: Did Bad Memory Chips Down Russia’s Mars Probe?”
Today 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.