Category: Events

Flash Memory Summit 2016 – Consolidation?

FMS2016_BannerAd_300x250The Flash Memory Summit 16 will be convening at the Santa Clara Convention Center over August 9 -11, 2016. Flash memory is now established as a key technology enabling new designs for many products in the consumer, computer and enterprise markets.

Storage Crossover

The industry is at a critical juncture where the total cost of ownership for flash based SSD’s achieved crossover with hard disk drive equivalents last September as the enterprise storage medium of choice.

The fact that the number of producers is limited has altered the landscape of consumption with some analysts indicating that serious shortages will exist for some time to come. An interesting, but mitigating fact is that most of the analysts are not technical – the ones that we’ve talked to that have a technical bent are not so sanguine about the availability mix. One item that stands in the road to profits is the need for this next generation storage device to not only retain data but do so interactively without losing bits. The unrecoverable bit boogie man is now staring the industry down. The ability to store immense amounts of “ready data” for execution now depends on the technologies ability to reliably retain data.

All Flash Array producers are now entering the “really big data storage array” market – the battle has dropped down to the cost of storage per dollar creating a whole new category of marketing lows. 3D Flash is now so dense that failure modes are now dependent upon being aware of “how and when” the bits were used during the entire lifetime of the device.

Cork, Ireland NVMdurance was the first to understand this phenomenon and is now firmly embedded in their first customer Altera (now Intel). Pure and Nimble Storage are offering their services for their AFAs – seems that leasing AFA memory is a probable in the future of solid state storage. We’re still left reading the indemnification clauses of their contracts.

Poison Pill

Micron Technology filed with the SEC a poison pill last Friday. The buzz is that the company is once again in play. The likely suitor is none other than Intel according to the lead rumor. We will be talking with Micron and Intel at FMS 16 and although they’ll not say anything about what’s going on we’ll at the very least get to look into their pupils while they’re telling us…,

Viking Technology and Sony in ReRAM memory mashup

Viking-+-Sony-LogoViking Technology, a Sanmina Company, announced that it  is  collaborating with Sony Corporation to bring ReRAM Storage Class Memory to the NVDIMM market.

“Viking has a strong legacy developing Non-Volatile DIMM (NVDIMM) products over several generations from DDR2 to DDR4,” said Hamid Shokrgozar, President, Viking Technology. “This partnership with Sony solidifies a long term roadmap for our NVDIMM products by utilizing next generation ReRAM Storage Class Memory from Sony. This product roadmap is also very important for our customers, who are deploying this key technology in their next generation computing and storage products. It also sets the stage for future Persistent Memory module solutions not only for Viking but for the enterprise storage and server markets.”

According to the company’s announcement, “The collaboration between the companies launches a significant advance in Storage Class Memory system product development, designed specifically for enterprise computing customers. Sony ReRAM Storage Class Memory delivers performance and endurance that greatly exceeds NAND flash, while simultaneously providing the data non-volatility and module memory capacity desired for persistent applications”.

“We are excited and looking forward to the co-development with Viking Technology on the next generation of NVDIMM products,” said Terushi Shimizu, Senior Vice President and Deputy President of Device Solutions Business Group, Sony Corporation. “At this stage in ReRAM development, we are looking ahead to the implementation of this technology accelerating real-world cloud datacenter applications such as In-Memory Databases and Real Time Analytics. This will prove to be an exciting new chapter in the decade long development of our ReRAM memory technology.”

Non-Volatile DIMMs, often termed NVDIMMs, are designed to deliver high performance, endurance and reliability to next generation servers that are NVDIMM enabled. Traditionally, enterprise applications could not depend on main memory (DRAM) alone because it is volatile (loss of data upon power failure). Therefore, batteries, Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS’s) and techniques such as check-pointing have been used to ensure data durability, but at the cost of performance. NVDIMMs now enable server and storage arrays to utilize persistent memory that delivers both the highest performance and 100 percent data integrity.

The Coming out of ReRAM; a Resistive Memory Family Member

The real eye opener is the strange bedfellows that are making a sudden appearance in what can only be called the “Resistive Memory Rush”. Most in the analyst community expected such a forward thinking announcement to be coming from companies like Samsung, Toshiba and SK Hynix. That it came from Viking and Sony only makes sense if you’ve been immersed in the ruminations of the resistive universe for the last 15 years.

In discussions with Viking over the past several years I’ve asked about how they expected to position the company with the coming advent of In-Memory Database computing – this is their answer.

Of all the companies that have gone from memory modules to SSDs Viking is to date the only company to make the tie-up with a semiconductor supplier of resistive memory with the potential IMDB marketplace. Viking has set their strategy on supplying the IMDB marketplace with what might be called “Storage Class DIMMs” that support legacy DRAM with DDR4 stacked DRAMs coupled with Persistent Storage provided by Sony ReRAMs.

TechEye Take

This announcement, in no small way, adds further credence to the validation of resistive RAM as a key element in systems that will be announced in the next several days and should quiet the naysaying into obscurity.

The downside is the lack of numbers. Intel/Micron hasn’t provided any except comparison numbers but none that could be plugged into an Excel spreadsheet. Stay tuned…,

Flash memory summit 2015 thanks us for the memories

FMS15The tenth annual Flash Memory Summit 2015 opens tomorrow at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. This year’s gathering promises to not only overflow on attendance (up 33% from last year) but also on discovery of Intel/Micron’s recent announcement of 3D XPoint non-volatile memory.

Micron will be holding a special, invitation only, session on the terrace at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara on Wednesday the 12th from 4:00 – 6:00 PM. From what we’ve been able to uncover it appears that the next two weeks are going to be some of the most intense weeks in the company’s history. On Friday the 14th Micron will be convening their Summer Analyst Conference at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel beginning at the crisp hour of 8:00 AM. The company had to squeeze in their Summer Analyst Conference before more breaking news fulminating from Intel’s Developer Forum 2015 being held the following week at San Francisco’s Moscone Center West. Intel/Micron plan to further expose the world to a number of new ground breaking developments resulting from the two companies continued technology partnership – Intel Micron Flash Technology (IMFT).

There’s also this persistent rumor that an important tech company has rented the Buena Vista Center for the Performing Arts for a major announcement. Who it is and what they plan to announce has become the sport of speculators. Some are leaning toward Apple while others are laying odds on Microsoft. Will this rumor live up to anything valid? Stay tuned.

3D XPoint (3D Crosspoint Memory)

Intel/Micron’s announcement two weeks ago caused a major stir even though the event has been on Micron’s technology roadmap for the last several years. Both Samsung and SK Hynix were taken aback when they learned that the product will be in production in the fourth quarter of this year. They didn’t expect production of Storage Class Memory (SCM) also known as Persistent Memory (especially if you work the Intel side of the equation) to begin until 2017 at the earliest.

3D XPoint memory is 1,000 times faster, has 1,000 times more endurance than NAND and is 10 times denser than DRAM. It is the first new class of non-volatile memory to enter the market in 25 years. This is upsetting a goodly amount of status quo.

3D XPoint technology, though clearly indicated on Micron’s corporate roadmap, remained a well-kept secret by Intel/Micron. For those that follow such things this was illustrated by the fact that neither company participated in any of the usual technology forums reporting on the subject. Adding to the mystery, researchers associated with IMEC, the foremost semiconductor research center in Europe suddenly shifted investigations over to ReRAM and RRAM beginning in February of this Year. Collectively these events are seen as signatory markers indicating an undisclosed agreement among researchers that the technology path has now become perfectly clear.

Intel/Micron also stated that they have no plan to license the technology. The two companies will build more factories if the demand merits it. The news that they weren’t planning to play the commodity game with their new technology produced some pretty interesting reactions. The Korean producers, who have been literally caught with their pants down, are in a mad scramble to recover. This is not to say a company like Samsung doesn’t have the ability to cover this, it’s just that Intel/Micron may have just gotten lucky – they repeated that the technology concerns a “bulk change of the material” which has the entire research community outside of Intel/Micron spiked in conversation over it. One interesting tidbit is that Micron has been filing patent wrappers referring to the memory element as a “Programmable Conductive RAM”, which confused many as phase-change which it isn’t.

Confused yet? Don’t worry – everybody else is too.

Intel, on their 3D Xpoint page makes the following statements;

“This new class of non-volatile memory is a revolutionary technology that allows for quick access to enormous data sets and enables entirely new applications.”

And

 “For example, retailers may use 3D XPoint technology to more quickly identify fraud detection patterns in financial transactions; healthcare researchers could process and analyze larger data sets in real time, accelerating complex tasks such as genetic analysis and disease tracking”.

Both indicate the new memory is directed toward In-Memory Database applications expanding the memory capacity of Xeon class servers to ~64 Terabytes of accessible memory shared between DDR4 DRAM and 3D XPoint. According to one source “these statements make it clear that Intel’s intentions are solving the “Big Data” problem in the “In-Memory Database server segment with the new technology. All that’s left is for the hardware to roll out along with glowing endorsements from the usual list of suspects”.

TechEye Take

The Intel/Micron 3D XPoint announcement was somewhat rushed indicating that all the right things fell in place just in time to enable the two companies to pre-announce prior to the Flash Memory Summit and the Intel Developer Forum.

That the technology happens to fit nicely into the IMDB solution set is not happenstance – this is the result of a long and arduous planning process coupled with what appears to have been a long period of research and development to obtain a ‘Goldilocks” formulaic – just right to enable the 3D XPoint technology.

Intel captures a solid Tier1 order book for their high margin devices and both companies will be providing XPoint memory enabled DIMMs to fill up those 64 Terabyte servers. This is what their competition is really upset over, the loss of technological face in full view of the customer.

Of course there is much, much more but that’s the top of the headlines list – and the line-up of shows begins this week at the Flash Memory Summit.

Intel-Micron announce 3D XPoint SCM technology

What-is-3D-XPointIntel and Micron announced their jointly developed 3D XPoint technology at an analyst meeting today in Santa Clara, California.

Rob Crooke, Senior VP & GM of the Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) Solutions Group, Intel Corporation and Mark Durcan, CEO Micron Technology took the stage to present the jointly developed 3D XPoint memory technology. The 300 mm wafer shown in the presentation was produced at Micron’s Lehi, Utah fab. The new devices are debuting as 128Gb, 2 Layer, Byte Addressable devices that use “bulk material property change” process – availability is limited to what’s “in (joint) production facility today” though 2016 was stated by Durcan.

The 3D XPoint technology is 1,000 times faster than Flash, 1,000 times the duration of Flash and 10 times the density of DRAM.

The new technology has been widely circulating as “Persistent Memory” and “Storage Class Memory” until now and has been widely speculated upon. One interesting quote, “no other competitors have the technology” indicates that Intel-Micron has scooped their competition in the cloud access storage marketplace.


3D XPoint Innovations

Cross Point Array Structure
Perpendicular conductors connect 128 billion densely packed memory cells. Each memory cell stores a single bit of data. This compact structure results in high performance and high density.

Stackable
The initial technology stores 128Gb per die across two stacked memory layers. Future generations of this technology can increase the number of memory layers and/or use traditional lithographic pitch scaling to increase die capacity.

Selector
Memory cells are accessed and written or read by varying the amount of voltage sent to each selector. This eliminates the need for transistors, increasing capacity and reducing cost.

Fast Switching Cell
With a small cell size, fast switching selector, low-latency cross point array, and fast write algorithm, the cell is able to switch states faster than any existing nonvolatile memory technologies today.

Fast Switching Cell
With a small cell size, fast switching selector, low-latency cross point array, and fast write algorithm, the cell is able to switch states faster than any existing nonvolatile memory technologies today.

Byte Addressable Data
3D Xpoint technology allows data to be directly addressed at the byte level. Access to DRAM and 3D Xpoint memory uses the same addressing model greatly simplifying the CPU interface to data and enables Near Data Processing within an In-Memory Database system.

TechEye Take

This announcement was evidently rushed in order to beat the pre Flash Memory Summit press announcements next week – and they “blew the socks off the competition” according to one analyst source. Over 100 engineers have been involved in these well camouflaged developments which indicate the companies have spent in the billions of dollars on this program. Oh, and 3D Xpoint use Micron’s planar process indicating that the technology is near term to production. There is no mention made of TSV stacking but from all indications this technology will enter the market as stacked devices. From what we can ascertain this technology is in “rollout” – we expect production volumes ramping much sooner than might usually be expected. 

The “bulk material property change” provides no indication about process details. Connecting the memory elements with their bit-lines remains unclear – whether it’s a diode switching element or an Ovonic Switch remains to be revealed. In fact all the good questions remain unanswered – more fodder for later.