In early February the Samsung Strategy & Innovation Center asked for The Memory Guy to present an outlook for semiconductors as a part of the company’s Samsung Forum series.
Samsung kindly posted a video of this presentation on-line for anyone to watch.
Naturally, the presentation is memory-focused since it consists of the Memory Guy presenting to the world’s leading memory chip supplier. Still, it also covers total semiconductor revenues and demand drivers for future non-memory technologies, as well as memory chips.
During the presentation I explained that the next few years will bring semiconductors into new applications while chips will maintain their strength in existing markets. I showed how semiconductor demand doesn’t change much over time, but that the real swing factor in chip revenues is Continue reading “Video: What’s Driving Tomorrow’s Semiconductors?”
For more than a year The Memory Guy has been fielding questions about Micron’s QuantX products.
First announced at the 2016 Flash Memory Summit, this brand name has been assigned to Micron SSDs and DIMMs that use the Intel/Micron 3D XPoint Memory. Originally QuantX products were scheduled to ship in 2017, but Micron is currently projecting availability in 2019. My clients wonder why there have been these delays, and why Micron is not more actively marketing this product.
The simple answer is that it doesn’t make financial sense for Micron to ship these products at this time.
Within two weeks of the first announcement of 3D XPoint Memory, at the 2015 Flash Memory Summit, I knew and explained that the technology would take two years or more to reach manufacturing cost parity with DRAM, even though Intel and Micron loudly proclaimed that it was ten times denser than DRAM. This density advantage should eventually allow XPoint manufacturing costs to drop below DRAM costs, but any new technology, and even old technologies that are in low-volume production, suffer a decided scale disadvantage against DRAM, which sells close Continue reading “Where is Micron’s QuantX?”
It’s earnings call season, and we have heard of a slowing DRAM market and NAND flash price declines from Micron, SK hynix, Intel, and now Samsung. DRAM prices have stopped increasing, and that can be viewed as a precursor to a price decline.
Samsung’s 31 October, 2018 3Q18 earnings call vindicated Objective Analysis‘ forecast for a 2H18 downturn in memories that will take the rest of the semiconductor market with it.
Those familiar with our forecast know that for a few years we have been predicting a downturn in the second half of this year as NAND flash prices fall, followed by a DRAM price collapse. After the DRAM collapse the rest of the semiconductor market will undergo a downturn.
We’ve been calling for this downturn for some time. Dan Hutcheson at VLSI Research has been videotaping our forecast every December for the past Continue reading “Memory Market Falling, as Predicted”
One of the most intriguing revelations during the Flash Memory Summit two weeks ago was Samsung’s new approach to stairstep etch in 3D NAND. This was one of numerous innovations the company’s EVP of Flash Products & Technologies, Kye Hyun (KH) Kyung, shared during Samsung’s Tuesday Morning keynote presentation.
The Memory Guy would point readers to the pdf of Samsung’s presentation on the Flash Memory Summit website, but it isn’t there, and it’s unlikely to ever be posted there. Samsung seems to have a policy that prohibits sharing such presentations.
Although I was unable to get a copy of the drawing that the keynoter used, I have tried to re-create it using, of all things, Excel! The result is the graphic for this blog post. The only thing I was unable to easily recreate was the different colors representing the layers of the 3D NAND. You’ll need to use your imagination and envision layers of two colors, with all the surfaces exposed on the top being the same color, but at different layers of a 64-layer structure.
Today’s common approach to 3D NAND’s stairstep is to etch a simple step pattern in one dimension, which I illustrated in an early 3D NAND blog post four years ago. This is a challenging Continue reading “How Samsung Will Improve 3D NAND Costs”
On Saturday, June 18, Samsung’s Xian fab, the only facility in the world currently producing 3D NAND flash, suffered a power failure. How much of a problem is this?
The answer really depends upon who you ask. An article in the Financial Express quoted Samsung as saying that it would have a minimal impact, and that full-scale operations should resume in a few days. The article also said that Samsung estimated that the wafer loss would be below 10,000 wafers.
Assuming that the entire loss consisted of Samsung’s most advanced 48-layer 256Gb 3D NAND a 10,000-wafer loss would be less than 1% of total industry gigabyte shipments.
Korea Times quoted an anonymous fund manager who said: “The one-time incident will cost Samsung up to 20 billion won, which is very minimal. It won’t make heavy impact on Samsung’s chip business and the entire industry.”
According to Korean news source Chosenilbo the outage was caused by Continue reading “Samsung Power Glitch – Is It Important?”
In a November 25 press release Samsung introduced a 128GB DDR4 DIMM. This is eight times the density of the largest broadly-available DIMM and rivals the full capacity of mainstream SSDs.
Naturally, the first question is: “How do they do that?”
To get all the chips into the DIMM format Samsung uses TSV interconnects on the DRAMs. The module’s 36 DRAM packages each contain four 8Gb (1GB) chips, resulting in 144 DRAM chips squeezed into a standard DIMM format. Each package also includes a data buffer chip, making the stack very closely resemble either the High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM) or the Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC).
Since these 36 packages (or worse, 144 DRAM chips) would overload the processor’s address bus, the DIMM uses an RDIMM protocol – the address and control pins are buffered on the DIMM before they reach the DRAM chips, cutting the processor bus loading by an order of magnitude or more. RDIMMs are supported by certain server platforms.
The Memory Guy asked Samsung whether Continue reading “Samsung’s Colossal 128GB DIMM”
For the past ten months DRAM prices have been undergoing a steady slide. Is the market in a crisis? Not really!
Today’s low spot price of $4.30/GB puts us on a par with February 2013, a full two years ago (see chart). DRAM makers have done a lot to reduce their production costs since that time, so their margins this quarter will be much better than they were in the first quarter of 2013.
But we are still a very long way from the bottom of the last market downturn. In late 2012 spot prices reached a low of $2.52/GB, a full 41% lower than today’s lowest spot prices.
The Memory Guy models the production costs of leading memory chips, and DRAM manufacturing costs have been decreasing for the past several years at an average annual rate of about 30%. That means that costs today are about half of what they were two years ago, and one third of their level this time in 2012.
So even though today’s Continue reading “DRAM Prices Down, But Not So Bad”
The following is excerpted from an Objective Analysis Alert sent to our clients on March 26: On March 25 SanDisk and Toshiba announced sampling of their 3D NAND flash technology, a 128Gb (gigabit) 48-layer second-generation product based on the BiCS technology that the companies pioneered in 2007. Pilot production will begin in the second half of 2015 with meaningful production targeted for 2016. This release was issued at the same time that Intel and Micron were briefing the press and analysts for their March 26 announcement of their own 3D NAND offering (pictured), which is currently sampling with select customers, and is to enter full production by year-end. The Micron-Intel chip is a 32-layer 256Gb device, which the companies proudly point out is the densest flash chip in the industry.
Similarities and Differences
These two joint ventures (Intel-Micron and SanDisk-Toshiba) are taking very different Continue reading “Four New Players Join 3D NAND Market”
Last week Micron and IBM announced that Micron would be IBM’s main supplier of NAND flash chips. The week before Micron announced a strategic agreement with Seagate to supply NAND flash. Why all this activity?
It comes down to today’s budding NAND flash shortage and the fact that suppliers tend to groom their customer lists when supplies get short.
Neither IBM nor Seagate represent the enormous opportunities that major consumer electronics firms like Apple do. Since many NAND suppliers are very cost-focused they look for customers that need very little support and purchase in high volumes.
IBM and Seagate look for a lot of support, and, since they both ship mostly enterprise flash systems or SSDs, they consume relatively small unit volumes of NAND flash chips.
These companies need to have an understanding of Continue reading “NAND Sourcing Changes as Supplies Tighten”
The Memory Guy was recently asked about using memories in a satellite. What would be a good technology to use in a space application?
The problem with space is that there is a lot of radiation. Radiation on the earth’s surface is lower because it is stopped by the atmosphere, but in space there is an abundance of radiation that interferes with most semiconductors. Radiation is also a concern in certain medical applications where a memory must maintain its contents while undergoing sterilization through irradiation. Experiments on conventional flash memories have shown data loss at only 2% of the Continue reading “Memory Issues in Space & Medical Applications”