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”
It came as a surprise to the Memory Guy on Monday to receive a press release from Micron indicating that Intel and Micron had decided to end their NAND flash partnership.
This agreement, which was begun in 2006, helped the two companies to aggressively ramp into the NAND flash market by combining their resources. NAND flash makers (as well as DRAM makers) need to make very substantial capital investments to participate in the market, and that’s not easy for a new entrant. Micron at that time was a very small NAND flash maker, and Intel wasn’t involved in the NAND flash market at all, so neither was in a position to succeed. By combining their resources the companies were able to become important contributors to the market.
The agreement initially appeared to be modeled after the very successful joint venture that Toshiba and SanDisk enjoyed. Each company would contribute half of the JV’s capital investment, and the same designs would be used to make both companies’ chips.
Over time Intel found itself in a familiar Continue reading “Micron and Intel to End NAND Flash JV”
Yesterday The Memory Guy learned of an amazing article in DigiTimes about a 3-6 week shutdown at Toshiba’s Yokkaichi NAND flash fab line. According to the story Toshiba’s production was shut down for 3-6 weeks accounting for a production loss of 100,000 wafers. Another article in PC Games N converted that to lost bytes and came up with the number 400,000 terabytes.
Some quick math shows the errors in both of these articles.
First of all, the wafer stoppage. The Toshiba/SanDisk Yokkaichi Joint Venture wafer fabrication complex processes a little over 2 million wafers per year. Divide that by 52 weeks and you find that’s about 40,000 wafers per week, so 100,000 wafers would be 2.5 weeks’ output, not 3-6 weeks.
The number of bytes that PC Games N published takes a little more math. According to TechInsights Toshiba’s 15nm 128Gb MLC chip has an area of 99mm². That gets you a little over 10TB/wafer. The company’s 48-layer TLC 256Gb part should produce about twice that. Yet, if you divide PC Games’ Continue reading “Did Toshiba REALLY Lose 3-6 Weeks’ Production?”
Yesterday’s news really underscored the race currently underway between 3D NAND makers to produce higher layer counts than one another.
Intel produced an announcement in which VP Rob Crooke bragged that: “Intel has delivered the world’s first commercially available 64-layer, TLC, 3D NAND solid state drive (SSD). While others have been talking about it, we have delivered.”
The announcement explained that the new Intel SSD 545s could be purchased at Newegg beginning that day.
The Memory Guy received Intel’s announcement at 10:02 AM Pacific Time. By 3:11 PM, five hours later, there was another announcement in my “In” box, this time from Western Digital (WDC).
WDC’s e-mail announced the development of the the SanDisk/Toshiba next-generation BiCS4 3D NAND technology, with 96 layers. The companies expect to begin to sample a 256Gb part to OEM customers in the second half of 2017 with production starting by the end of next year.
One has to wonder if WDC was Continue reading “3D NAND: “I Have More Layers than You Do!””
In a letter to shareholders released today, Toshiba finally clarified its plans for restructuring the company. Since January 18 there have been numerous rumors that Toshiba planned to spin its memory business off or sell it outright. Today’s letter indicates that this hasn’t been decided yet. In fact, other than to call a late March shareholder vote and to reveal a restructuring, the letter discloses extraordinarily little.
In a nutshell Toshiba has decided to isolate the memory business (including the SSD business but not the HDD and image sensor businesses) into a separate wholly-owned subsidiary. There was no mention of either the recently-shrinking Discrete business or the System LSI business, which has been in a steady decline for the past decade. Click on this post’s graphic to see how each of the company’s semiconductor businesses has been doing.
The intent appears to be to groom the subsidiary to be spun off or sold, but this has not been expressly stated. Instead Toshiba simply states that: “The Company is still considering various structures with a view to an injection of third-party capital.”
The letter reiterates Toshiba’s prior position that the memory business Continue reading “Toshiba Decides to Split Off Memory Business”
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?”
The single most interesting thing I learned at the 2015 Flash Memory Summit was that 3D NAND doesn’t have a natural limit, after which some other memory type will need to be adopted.
For years SanDisk has been presenting a memory roadmap (this post’s graphic is one rendition) that anticipates a move to ReRAM after 3D NAND has run through its natural life, which was expected to be as little as three generations. This has been backed by the idea that a 3D NAND stack would only be able to reach a certain number of layers before it would encounter difficulties caused by the need to etch a high aspect ratio hole through an increasing number of layers.
The aspect ratio issue is not hard to understand: Let’s assume that the hole in a 24-layer stack has an aspect ratio of 40:1, then a 32-layer hole would have an aspect ratio of about 50:1, and a 64-layer stack would be something close to 100:1. Today’s technology starts to have trouble etching holes with an aspect ratio higher than 60:1.
These high aspect ratios were thought to be the limiting factor that would prevent 3D NAND from continuing for more than three generations. 3D NAND could only have as many layers as the aspect ratio could support.
On a panel that I moderated at this year’s Flash Memory Summit one panelist, Dr. Myoung Kwan Cho of SK hynix, explained that although there is a limit Continue reading “Flash Memory Summit: Limitless Layers of 3D NAND”
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”