Tag: nand flash

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…,

Semiconductor sales expected to fall

Samsung DRAMLast week the semiconductor industry’s trade body predicted that sales would rise modestly in 2016.

But a market research company today said the opposite, and predicted that sales for 2016 will fall by 0.6 percent compared to this year, to stand at $329 billion. The culprit is the memory market.

2014 saw a 10.5 percent growth figure, according to Trendforce, which predicts that a continuing steep fall in the sales of memory products will “drag down” semiconductor sales revenues.

Memory is a big problem with sales of chips only growing by 1.8 percent in 2015. There’s a big problem with oversupply, and Trendforce believes both DRAM and NAND flash sales will fall.

Trendforce, like other market analysts believes that PC sales will stabilise because most of the stock piled up in warehouses and factories will have worked their way through the channel.

The automotive industry will buck the semiconductor trend with shipments and prices rising in 2016. Automotive applications will also help increase sales of analogue integrated circuits.

Trendforce thinks that Apple alone accounts for almost 10 percent of revenues for the foundry business.

Analysis: the Western Digital SanDisk buy

WD-LogoThe semiconductor industry’s rapid consolidation proceeded apace as Western Digital agreed to buy SanDisk today for $19 Billion. SanDisk had been shopping itself to potential buyers which also include Micron Technology Inc. The offer values SanDisk [SNDK} at $86.50 a share, a 15% premium on Tuesday’s market close. SanDisk shares rose 5.7% to $79.50 prior to market open – the same shares were trading under $60 a share before rumors spread concerning the firms potential sale.

Western Digital shares dropped 2.5% to $73 in premarket trading having lost nearly a third of their value so far this year. Ironically, both companies reported better-than-expected results for their latest quarters this morning.

The acquisition comes just three weeks after China’s Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd. agreed to pay $3.78 billion for a 15% stake in Western Digital, the latest U.S. tech company scrambling for politically connected (capital source) Chinese partners.

Under the deal Western Digital said it would pay $85.10 a share in cash and 0.0176 shares in stock for each share of SanDisk if the Tsinghua investment closes first. If that deal hasn’t closed or has been canceled, it will pay $67.50 in cash and 0.2387 shares.

SanDisk has missed their earnings estimates for the last three quarters and according to downgrades by market analysts appears to be suffering from poor execution on a number of fronts:

  • Loss of Apple’s SSD business
  • A too optimistic Enterprise strategy – missing 2TB SATA drive solution
  • Poor integration of the Fusion I/O acquisition
  • 3D NAND migration uncertainty – late entry position
  • High margin retail business is slowing
  • SanDisk must renegotiate licensing revenue with Samsung (Aug-16, now 40% EPS)
  • Poor inventory management
  • SanDisk granted 5 U.S. patents last year

Steve Milligan Western Digital CEO will become chief executive of the combined company, located at Western Digital’s base in Irvine, Calif. SanDisk’s CEO Sanjay Mehrotra is expected to join the Western Digital board after the deal closes.

Western Digital expects the deal to add to earnings within 12 months of closing, and will achieve annual synergies of $500 million within 18 months.

TechEye Take

These are tough times in the memory sector. Company’s like SanDisk have been facing increasing price pressures over the last six months that have limited their ability to establish a better than break-even proposition going forward. SanDisk expanded into areas that it was ill equipped to manage ending in their distressed selloff to WD.

Western Digital has been in the process of designing a proprietary non-volatile memory and recently picked up technical people from the failed Contour Semiconductor. SanDisk has lost new product design momentum relying on (from what we can tell) their partner Toshiba to perform the heavy lifting.

Toshiba is having their own set of issues with accounting problems; resignation of the CEO and several board members; and are building a new fab making one wonder why in the world would anyone invest in this mess? Evidently WD has seen a way through. Toshiba seems to be absent from this conversation…., ?

Samsung takes aim at Silicon Valley

Samsung LCDGiant Korean combine Samsung opened a new semiconductor centre in Silicon Valley today now it considers rivals such as Intel to be in its sights.

Samsung is a vertical company with many strings to its bow. In the past it has even tried making jets although that turned out to be a project too far. It has dabbled in the automotive sector too, and is believed to be considering a re-entry into that market.

In South Korea, Samsung also manufactures leading edge storage products, displays, and makes many of the components that are included in the smartphones it, and its rivals, sell.

It has the advantage over companies like Intel – forced to diversify in recent years and think about stuff like the internet of things – while plucky British CPU manufacturer ARM continues to be the market leader in microprocessors.

The design centre it opened, according to a statement from its USA arm, is a million square foot R&D centre.

While many focus on smartphone sales, and contrast its sales to Apple’s iPhone sales, they would do well to reflect on the fact that Samsung’s fabrication plants in South Korea continue to dish its rivals on the memory front.

Intel used to be a memory company, but analysts see its strategic relationship with the last USA DRAM manufacturer Micron as faltering, particularly as Chinese consortia want to snap it up.

It would be a foolish analyst or journalist who predicted the game is over for Samsung, TechEye believes.

Seagate shrinks the hard drive

Seagate logoAlthough solid state drives (SSDs) are now ubiquitous it seems that there’s still life in the traditional spinning hard disk drive (HDD).

Seagate said it is offering a hard drive that can hold two terabytes (TB) of capacity in an ultra slim seven millimetre package.

Seagate chief technology officer Mark Re said that its invention will give four times more capacity than a .25TB SSD at a much lower price. He said the company’s engineers have boosted density to 1TB per platter in a 2.5-inch size, aimed at the notebook market.

The drive weighs 3.16 ounces and is a quarter of the weight than the existing generation of Seagate drives.

But Seagate is also working on a hybrid NAND drive using HDD technology to cut prices on comparable solid state drives.

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.

SanDisk delays Analyst Day – Toshiba shares skid daily limit

Toroid-Composite-Render-Sea-Inlet_5Toshiba shares skidded 17 percent  ($2.5 Billion) to its daily limit Monday on the Tokyo Exchange after the company reported after market close Friday, that it was withdrawing its earnings guidance for the fiscal year ended March and cancelling a year-end dividend due as it expanded a previously announced investigation.

This is Toshiba Corp’s second probe into its own accounting in two years leaving analysts and investors in doubt as to just what the root problem is and its long term consequences on operations.

Toshiba said it is setting up a third-party committee for further investigation, and that it could not report its financial results for the year ended in March, normally announced around this time, until June or later.

SanDisk, Toshiba’s partner in NAND-Flash, announced on the 16th of April that the company was “postponing” their financial analyst day meeting. No future date was set by Sanjay Mehrotra CEO of SanDisk. SanDisk has missed their earnings estimates for the last three quarters and according to downgrades by market analysts appears to be suffering from poor execution on a number of fronts:

• Loss of Apple’s SSD business
• A too optimistic Enterprise strategy – missing 2TB SATA drive solution
• Poor integration of the Fusion I/O acquisition
• 3D NAND migration uncertainty – late entry position
• High margin retail business is slowing
• SanDisk must renegotiate licensing revenue with Samsung (Aug-16, now 40% EPS)
• Poor inventory management
• SanDisk was granted only 5 patents last year

Techeye Take

To be fair Toshiba’s problems are said to stem from accounting missteps in infrastructure projects – on the other hand “infrastructure projects” is a fairly inclusive term and could mean any number of things. Toshiba and SanDisk are in the midst of building new fabrication facilities in Japan. To date, there is no news that the accounting issues involve the semiconductor side of operations. The fact that building fabs is extremely expensive and requires a lot of cash on top of a mountain of debt has not been lost on those in the investment community. The negative reports from both companies has set off alarms in the analyst community which is now guarding against any “surprises” that might be in store.

Toshiba’s accounting shortfalls has placed the two companies in the crosshairs of the investment community given that the technology partnership may be exhibiting strains between the two competitors. Both are joined at the “hip” with production responsibilities and are in the throes of “reimagining” just how the combination can adjust before embarking on telling the world just exactly why either entity is a good investment choice going forward…,

Oversupply of NAND flash to shrink

salvador-dali-persistence-of-memory-clocks-meaningAlthough manufacturers of NAND Flash have made too many semiconductors and the market is awash with them right now, a market research company believes that the situation will right itself in the third quarter of this year.

Trendforce said that new models of smartphone will soak up the excess in the third quarter and there’s a new type of memory on the block – that’s 3D NAND flash.

Even though sales of 3D NAND flash memory will only account for seven percent during this year, it is widely anticipated to take more market share in the coming years.

Trendforce analyst Sean Yang said the smartphone market showed weakness in the first quarter because of seasonal trends and a fall in demand from China.

He believes that the introduction of Apple machines will cause oversupply to change to a more stable selling model.

“Memory makers are shifting their capacities to meet the particularly huge demand from Apple since iPhone and iPad both carry a lot of NAND flash,” he said.

Sandisk pushes faster into the enterprise

Sandisk FusionMemory company Sandisk said it has released the next generation of its Fusion ioMemory PCIe application accelerators which it claims will “dramatically” improve performance and is aimed at data centres.

The accelrators use Sandisk NAND flash and virtual storage layer (VSL) acceleration sotware will give a four times price performance improvement and is 61 percent cheaper than its previous family of products.

The aim of the family is to reduce the length of time and the infrastructure needed to suck out data out of conventional legacy hard drive based storage systems, Sandisk claimed.

Sandisk claims that by implementing its Fusion cards, enterprises can cut the time needed to run database reports by as much as sven times or more.

The family of products includes the SX350 and SX300 series which have capacities from 1.25TB to 6.4TB 0 aimed at virtualisation, databases, business intelligence and real tme financial workloads.

Uts PX600 series ranges from 1TB to 5.2YB, while its Mezzanine series in incorporated on HP Gen 9 and Gen 8 blade servers.

The portfolio is available for enterprises to sample, said Sandisk.