Tag: Micron

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…,

Samsung likely to lead us through the gloom

SamsungWhile the world’s semiconductor industry is in a bit of a sulk, Samsung is expected to cope much better and might make a bob or two.

Intel has had to cut 12,000 jobs, Qualcomm has said fiscal third-quarter chip shipments could fall as much as 22 percent and SK Hynix saw a 65 percent slide in quarterly operating income – its weakest result in three years.

Samsung, while hurting, is not hurting as much. In fact some analysts expect to see a drop of 10 percent in January-March from a year earlier. But that is really a scratch instead of the others, which have more or less lost limbs.

This is because it is in the right place as clients shift towards premium power-conserving DRAM chips for smartphones, as well as solid state drives for data storage using 3D NAND chips.

The technological gap between Samsung and its competitors in fields such as DRAM and NAND has been widening.  Samsung’s chip operating profit is expected to be nearly five times that of SK Hynix.

Samsung also runs the world’s biggest smartphone business, giving it a captive customer for its chips that none of its rivals have.

Healthy initial sales for Samsung’s new flagship Galaxy S7 smartphones are expected to be the main driver of first-quarter operating profit, which the firm has said likely rose 10.4 percent from a year earlier to $5.8 billion.

Samsung’s NAND chip prospects are also expected to do well. Samsung was the first to mass produce NAND flash chips using a technology called 3D NAND, helping it assume a dominant position in higher-margin products such as solid-state hard drives for computers and servers.

Some analysts think that Samsung’s  NAND revenue will climb 16 percent and NAND operating profit to jump 69 percent this year. Shipments will also likely outpace the industry average, allowing Samsung to seize more market share.

NAND rivals Toshiba , SK Hynix and Micron are three years behind technology-wise. Samsung has better production technology for DRAM chips, saying the firm is ahead of its closest rivals by at least a year.

Samsung commanded 58 percent of the mobile DRAM market as of the fourth quarter of 2015, according to TrendForce. Mobile DRAM revenue also accounted for more than half of Samsung’s overall DRAM sales for October-March.

DRAM prices will continue to free fall

Samsung DRAMMarket research company Trendforce predicted that prices of DRAM will keep falling in 2016.

Trendforce believes that the DRAM market is an oligopoly and because of this DRAM manufacturers can stay profitable even though they’re continuing to make too many modules.

Avril Wu, a research director at Trendforce, said that demand and supply bit growth rates will be 23 percent and 25 percent respectively.

Average prices will drop and growth will depend on manufacturers shifting their production towards 20 nanometre processes.

SK Hynix and Micron will move to that process next year – Samsung is already producing modules based on that technology.

Wi said that DDR4 will replace DDR3 – that’s already happened in the server market but will shift to new PCs and notebooks next year.

China is attempting to become a player in the DRAM market but the “oligopoly” of Micron, SX Hynix and Samsung will let them maintain their grip on the market.

Micron snaps up rest of Inotera

Samsung DRAMUS memory maker Micron has bought the rest of Inotera, strengthening its position in the DRAM market.

Micron already owned a third of Inotera and it will pay $3.2 billion to buy a majority share.

The situation is a little complicated, according to Taiwanese wire Digitimes, because Formosa Group, which owns its own memory company Nanya, has 32 percent of the shares of Inotera.

But it’s understood that Formosa will vote in favour of the acquisition. At the same time, Micron said it has made a contract to give Nanya an option to license its new technology.

Micron already has a deal with Nanya to license its 20 nanometre technology.

All in all, this gives Micron a far stronger position in a market largely dominated by South Korean giants Samsung and Hynix. Earlier this year, Tsinghua – a mainland China state-backed comglomerate, made a failed bid to buy Micron..

Tsinghua targets two more chip firms

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsThe Chinese state backed company Tsinghua Unigroup wants to buy shares in two Taiwanese chip companies.

The two targets are Siliconware Precision Industry and ChipMOS – it wants to take 25 percent in each of these firms, with the first costing $1.7 billion and the ChipMOS share $347 million, according to Electronics Weekly.

Tsinghua already has a chunk of hard drive firm Western Digital and has attempted to buy US DRAM manufacturer Micron, as well as Taiwanese firms MediaTek and Powertech. The US and Taiwanese governments are believed to have put a spanner in the works for all these three.

According to Electronics Weekly, the Taiwanese government is unlukely to block the investments because they will be minority shares.

The Chinese government has pledged to grow its semiconductor industry over the next five years.

China to pour $47 billion into chip industry

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsTsinghua Unigroup, a conglomerate backed by the Chinese government, is to plunge $47 billion into the semiconductor business in the next five years.

That’s according to Reuters, which interviewed Tsinghua chairman Zhao Weiguo, who said China wants to become the third biggest semiconductor manufacturer in the world.

Intel, Samsung and Qualcomm hold the first three positions in semiconductor companies worldwide, but that could change because of the amount of money Tsinghua will throw into the chip pot.

Tsinghua has already said it has eyes on buying Mediatek and wanted to buy US memory manufacturer Micron. But moves like these are currently blocked by the Taiwanese and US governments respectively, which want to protect local manufacturers. Micron ruled out being bought  by Tsinghua.

But Tsinghua already has shares in US company Western Digital and Taiwan’s Powertech.

DRAM revenues dropped in the third quarter

Samsung DRAMOver production of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) fell in the third quarter by 1.2 percent – bucking the trend usually followed in the quarter.

Manufacturers are moving production from PCs to server and mobile memory because of stable prices and higher margins, according to analysts at DRAM Exchange.

The share of mobile DRAM, used in smartphones, rose from 33.7 percent in the second calendar quarter of this year to 40 percent in the third quarter.

However, according to Avril Wu, an assistant vice president at DRAM Exchange, said that oversupply will continue for quite some time and DRAM prices are expected to fall in the immediate future.

The two Korean giants – Samsung and Hynix – continued to have similar operating margins in the third quarter compared to the second quarter – that is to say 47 percent and 28 percent respectively.

However, Micron, the only USA DRAM manufacturer, saw its profits margin drop to 15 percent during the third quarter.

Smartphones save DRAM’s day

Samsung DRAMPressure on the prices of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) will be limited because of demand for smartphones in the fourth quarter of this year.

That’s according to Trendforce which warns, however, that this is a temporary situation.

Avril Wu, an executive analyst at Trendforce, said that better smartphone shipments will drive demand for mobile DRAM. That means the decline of its average sales price will be within five percent during the fourth quarter.

But Wu said that the new year will show quarterly price declines of between six to eight percent as demand falls and supply increases

The next generation of smartphones will use a type of mobile memory called LPDDR4 – and only Samsung is able to manufacture in bulk right now.

Other big manufacturers including SK Hynix and Micron will be up to speed by the end of next year.

Intel’s 3D XPoint fixes bottlenecks

bottleneck-constraint-lean-managementChipzilla and Micron have been working on 3D XPoint technology which they say will close the performance gap between memory, CPU, and networking.

Until now details of the project have been kept under wraps, but now it seems the pair are keen to talk about it. All Intel would say is that it promised about 1,000 times the performance of NAND flash, 1,000 times the endurance of NAND flash, and about 10 times the density of DRAM.

3D XPoint technology is a 3D stacked memory with high-speed interconnects that can be used like DRAM and like flash storage.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich is now saying that Intel will sell the memory under the Optane brand, and The Next Platform.

Memory is a bottleneck forcing CPUs to wait. Krzanich Optane would speed things up so processors are no longer waiting for data to arrive from memory or storage, in this case flash drives.

Krzanich showed a pair of matching servers. One server had Intel’s P3700 NAND PCI Express SSD and the other was a prototype Optane SSD. The Optane SSD outperformed the P3700 by 4.4 times in IOPS with 6.4 times less latency.

He said that Intel would release Optane next year and will “transform how we think about data and memory and storage.” The company will also come out with Optane DIMMs later this year for early testers. These will combine the performance of DRAM with the capacity and cost of flash.

A two-socket server with Optane DIMMS will have a total of 6 TB of addressable memory, “virtually eliminating paging between memory and storage, taking performance truly to a whole new level.”

Glut forces memory makers to slow investment

Samsung DRAMOne of the leading manufacturers of DRAM has said it won’t upgrade its fabrication facilities in 2016.

SK Hynix had created a state of the art fabrication plant in Icheon, Korea, but will slow down investment.

The reason it gave was an uncertain business outlook but analysts have reported that there will be oversupply of DRAM memory chips well into next year.

Samsung is also believed to have put the brakes on memory production – the oversupply combines with the strong US dollar to mean that demand remains weak.

Samsung is ahead of the DRAM largest three manufacturers which include SK Hynix and US memory company Micron.

Samsung is currently working on a so-called three dimensional memory chip and it’s believed the other two leading manufacturers are some way off from competing with it.