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”

Elpida Files for Bankruptcy

Elpida DRAM ChipsElpida today filed for bankruptcy.  The troubled DRAM manufacturer has been unprofitable for the past five quarters and was facing repayment requirements that the current market would prevent the company from meeting.

The company is the world’s third largest DRAM maker, and is the last remaining Japanese DRAM company.  This is particularly stunning for DRAM industry veterans, since Japanese DRAM makers were at one time the largest in the world.  NEC used to be the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer based largely upon its DRAM revenues.

Objective Analysis has issued an Alert covering this news.  It can be downloaded for free from the Objective Analysis Reports page.

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”

DRAM Consolidation in 2012?

History of DRAM Market Share by Company2012 is likely to be a year in which the DRAM market consolidates a little bit more.

Consider this:

  • At its peak in the late 1980s the DRAM market sported 23 suppliers.
  • Today there are 6 suppliers of any note: Samsung, Hynix, Micron, Elpida, Nanya, and Powerchip
  • The already-depressed market is only going to worsen in 2012.  Capital spending in 2010 is seeing to that.  Although many believe that prices cannot get any lower, that is exactly what they will do in 2012. Continue reading “DRAM Consolidation in 2012?”

WIOMING: Another Spin on the Hybrid Memory Cube

ST-Ericsson & CEA-Leti WIOMING Multichip ModuleAt a Conference in San Francisco today (Tuesday December 13 ) ST-Ericsson and CEA-Leti presented a paper on something the companies called a: “Breakthrough 3DIC with Wide I/O Interface.”

This product appears to be a variation on the Hybrid Memory Cube, or HMC concept detailed in a prior post.

Remember that the HMC stacks a number of DRAM chips atop a logic chip.  The memories store data and communicate to the logic chip through thousands of through-silicon vias (TSVs) while the logic chip handles communications with the outside world. Continue reading “WIOMING: Another Spin on the Hybrid Memory Cube”

IBM to Build Micron Hybrid Memory Cube

Conceptual Cutaway Drawing of the Hybrid Memory CubeIn a December 1 press release IBM announced that the company will be manufacturing Micron Technology’s Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC) which IBM claims to be “the first commercial CMOS manufacturing technology to employ through-silicon vias (TSVs).”

This device is one that Altera, Intel, Micron, Open Silicon, Samsung, and Xilinx have all presented recently as a plausible solution to the difficulty of increasing the speed of DRAM/processor communications.  The Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium (HMCC) website offers a deep dive into the details of the consortium and the technology.

Continue reading “IBM to Build Micron Hybrid Memory Cube”