Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Intel and Micron to end 3D Xpoint Partnership

Intel and Micron to End 3D Xpoint Partnership

Micron and Intel are announcing that they will end their joint development efforts on 3D Xpoint . This is the latest update to the Intel/Micron Partnership and IM Flash

Intel and Micron will develop technologies independently after the second generation which is due out in 2019. All current products are first generation

Some thoughts 

Intel and Micron continue to separate business. NAND development partnership has ended and now Xpoint partnership will end quickly. The Fab is still jointly owned but Micron has options and has begun to document procedures and financing for ending the JV Fab agreement in their 10Q report.

Intel is losing money on 3D Xpoint due to sales being below forecast, and costs are higher than sales price. Micron is losing money on 3D Xpoint due to underload charges as they do not have a product 

This decision is good for Micron as Micron has multiple options if Xpoint takes off or not and no anchor of future spending. Micron can buy out Intel from the Fab in Lehi at any time after Jan 2019 and run Xpoint, NAND, DRAM, or sell stuff to Intel. Micron is covered for either an upside or a downside in the 3D XPoint market

As publicly stated, Intels goal is to improve storage and memory capacity in datacenters using Optane  products and NAND SSDs. Intel can provide unique solutions that give Intel a competitive advantage on all servers. If Optane ends up in 50% of servers, the market is huge.... but we are not there (or even close) yet. If it becomes ubiquitous (a term I learned working at Intel), Micron wins by be a licensed source for Xpoint and with the partnerships Micron has in server world. Another result for Intel is that Intel can win as a company selling Optane at a loss (more processors, more servers, bigger moat). Micron cannot.

We will see what the next announcements are:

1) Lehi Fab decision ?

2) Micron announces a new technology that they have been working on independent of Intel (like their charge trap NAND)

3) Intel announces new partnership for developing and ramping Xpoint?

OR this could all get reversed.... a year ago Toshiba and WDC were in lawsuits, refusing to talk, locking engineers out of Fabs. Today they are one big consortium owned NAND family. Maybe my friends at Micron and Intel will reconcile!

#optane, #Flashmem


BOISE, Idaho, and SANTA CLARA, Calif., July 16, 2018 – Micron and Intel today announced an update to their 3D XPoint™ joint development partnership, which has resulted in the development of an entirely new class of non-volatile memory with dramatically lower latency and exponentially greater endurance than NAND memory.
The companies have agreed to complete joint development for the second generation of 3D XPoint technology, which is expected to occur in the first half of 2019. Technology development beyond the second generation of 3D XPoint technology will be pursued independently by the two companies in order to optimize the technology for their respective product and business needs.
The two companies will continue to manufacture memory based on 3D XPoint technology at the Intel-Micron Flash Technologies (IMFT) facility in Lehi, Utah.
“Micron has a strong track record of innovation with 40 years of world-leading expertise in memory technology development, and we will continue driving the next generations of 3D XPoint technology,” said Scott DeBoer, executive vice president of Technology Development at Micron. “We are excited about the products that we are developing based on this advanced technology, which will allow our customers to take advantage of unique memory and storage capabilities. By developing 3D XPoint technology independently, Micron can better optimize the technology for our product roadmap while maximizing the benefits for our customers and shareholders.”
“Intel has developed a leadership position delivering a broad portfolio of Optane products across client and data center markets with strong support from our customers,” said Rob Crooke, senior vice president and general manager of Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group at Intel Corporation. “Intel Optane’s direct connection to the world’s most advanced computing platforms is achieving breakthrough results in IT and consumer applications. We intend to build on this momentum and extend our leadership with Optane, which combined with our high-density 3D NAND technology offers the best solutions for today’s computing and storage needs.”

Costs for 256Gbit NAND Chips

Costs for 256Gbit NAND Chips

Samsung recently announced that it has 96L NAND chips in mass production. Interestingly, the chip is a 256Gb device which is at the sweet spot of NAND demand but is too small in density to be optimal for 96L. This will make it so that Samsung’s 256Gbit chip doesn’t quite take advantage of the increased efficiency that 96L brings.

So the questions are:

  • How much cheaper is this chip than the 64L Samsung chip to make?
  • How do costs compare among the leading competitors
  • The graph below gives some interesting data of costs for each company. More to come.



  • I have all the numeric details and the individual companies called out and similar reports for QLC, 96L, 128L etc and all the densities from 256-1Tbit
  •  For the first time ever, I am breaking out Intel and Micron costs! They use the same design at 64L 256Gbit but the Fabs are quite different today so the costs are different (Singapore vs Dalian). Toshiba and WDC cost are not broken out (same fabs)
  • All products are 64 or 72L 256GBit devices except the Samsung one called out as 96L
  • Die Size, Yield, process efficiency, Fab ramp, string stack all weigh in on cost
  • Costs are estimated for July 2018 and July 2019


  • 256Gbit is sweet spot for NAND density
  • Samsung 96L is just about equal in cost to 64L today. It will be cheaper in the future as it matures. 
  • 256Gbit is too small a die to take complete advantage of 96L density.
  • Samsung is not the leader in cost at 256Gbit in 2018
  • Intel and Micron costs are different for 256Gbit.

·         Tell me what you think. We will have more of the details at Flash Memory Summit next month.
#Flashmem, FMS 2018, Flash Memory Summit

Mark Webb, MKW Ventures Consulting, LLC.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

What is going on with NAND Prices??

NAND Pricing is hard to monitor and difficult to predict.... and is a huge factor in memory company profits. Morgan Stanley presented comments saying price drops will be significant. Stocks reacted. So whats the deal?

What we know: NAND pricing had been increasing since July 2016. Not nearly as much as DRAM Exchange shows but it was increasing. This impacts SSDs, cellphones, memory cards etc.

In Aug 2017, at FMS, I predicted that NAND supply demand will be more in balance in Q1 2018. This is due to 3D NAND transition to 64L and added fab capacity for 3D NAND for all players. Micron, Dramexchange, and others followed my forecast on with similar forecasts for the same reasons.

If supply and demand is in balance, we can expect historical price and cost reductions of 20-25% per year. This would keep gross margin percentage approximately flat... which, considering they are at record levels, is not bad.

In the past month, data from the tracking reports is that NAND pricing is flat to down 1-2%. Micron has stopped reporting pricing but we can extrapolate and combine with MKW Ventures cost models to show price and margin impacts.

So, it does look like NAND pricing is following the prediction we made. I have no idea what impact to stock price will be. But we do track cost, margins, prices and compare all the suppliers head to head ... with that you can determine the stock price!

Mark Webb

Monday, August 7, 2017

Resistive RAM (ReRam) is Here in 2017

Resistive RAM (ReRam) is still filling up Journal and Conferences with Papers. But you can actually order it and see demonstrations now. 

2017 is a transition year.

Storage Class Memory applications have gained a lot of publicity with Intel/Micron Announcement of 3d Xpoint/Optane. Resistive RAM from Crossbar, Inc and WDC and 4DS and others has similar cost structure and potentially better physics, scalability, and performance. 

We look at how ReRam technologies compare to SLC NAND/Fast NAND, DRAM, 3D XPoint, and how the costs scale over time with new geometries. Key Takeaways:

  1. 3d Xpoint and Optane are creating new markets for everyone. Customers want choices
  2. All technologies are cheaper than DRAM with any reasonable maturity
  3. Fast NAND/ZNAND is available today and while not new or as fast, it is based on SLC 3D NAND which is quite mature
  4. Crosspoint ReRam is cheaper than 3D Xpoint once scaled to 20/14nm and has ability to scale lower
  5. ReRam technologies can be integrated into foundries with relatively minor changes. Intel Micron has reports "100 new materials in 3D Xpoint"
  6. Crossbar, Inc ReRam is available at foundry today. 4DS showed data with performance and yield on demonstration vehicles. WDC has said ReRam is SCM of choice
  7. Fast speed, 1M cycles, competitive cost is achievable today from ReRam. 
See our presentation at Flash Memory Summit, Wednesday 8/9 at 3:20 PM. Session 203A to find out how competitive ReRam is. 

Mark Webb

Top 5 NVM Myths Going into Flash Memory Summit

Top 5 Myths going into 2017 Flash Memory Summit. NAND, Xpoint, China, HDDs, TLC. We will see if I need to correct myself later!

  1. 3D NAND isn't working and this is causing shortages. 3D NAND is yielding. 3D NAND is working. It is shipping TLC. It is not perfect and various output metrics are still improving. But bit shipments in 2017 will be higher than predicted in beginning of 2016. Shortages are due to increased demand and long lead times to add capacity. 64L will address shortage. It works!
  2. 3D XPoint will replace DRAM or NAND. I hear people quote Intel or Micron saying this. I can't find a time where they actually said that. It could augment NAND or DRAM but the fact that it is 10x more expensive than TLC and 5x slower than DRAM will make any replacements trivial.
  3. SSDs have replaced HDDs. An oldie but a goodie. SSDs are great. Yet even today, most PCs ship with HDDs. HDDs out sell SSDs 3:1 in units and >10:1 in GBs. And the price differential between SSDs and HDDs has gotten worse since FMS 2016. SSDs are better... but we still have some work to do!
  4. TLC is not reliable enough for datacenter/Enterprise. NAND companies and SSD Companies know how to manage TLC specifics, DWPD, etc. TLC can work well, meet all needs, and is extremely cost effective. TLC needs to grow in enterprise!
  5. Chinese will build (enter huge number) dollar Fab and take over NAND/DRAM. Not in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021. At some point Chinese investment will become dominant. But unless they have a JV deal with established company, it will be 5-10 years before they are 5% of Market. NAND isn't easy, even if you hire great engineers and executives. Someday... but today is not that day.

Mark Webb

Friday, August 4, 2017

3D Xpoint: Technology Review, Markets, Plans

3D Xpoint Technology, Markets, and Plans for the Future. Intel released Optane products based on 3D Xpoint. We reviewed the technology, processing, product performance and cost.

Flash Memory Summit will have two sessions covering aspects of 3D Xpoint plus many more on persistent memory and new memory technologies. Topics covered:

  • What do the technology teardowns show about 3D Xpoint
  • What type of memory is it
  • What does it cost
  • What are the best applications for it
  • When do we get to see 1000x performance in DIMMS
  • Is NAND Dead? is DRAM Dead?
  • How much revenue will companies make on 3D Xpoint in 2017-2020
Just when they say it's not PCM.... guess what.... it's PCM!
The chip has lots of opportunity for cost reduction and optimization
The speed in current applications with NVMe is 4-7x faster than NAND
It's costs less than half of DRAM per bit and 2x SLC NAND per bit.... If optimized
The fastest Cache SSD and the Fastest NVMe SSDs in the world are both 3D XPoint.
It has lots of error correction/redundancy and firmware to manage it.
Revenue won't be what I predicted last year.... I have the new numbers!

Tuesday Aug 8, 2017 3:40-6:00PM Flash Memory Summit  . Multiple great panelists!

Mark Webb

NAND Cost and Roadmap to 128L and QLC

What is the NAND cost reduction as we go from  48L to 64L to 96L TLC. What about QLC? What about 128L

The numbers are in: NAND costs are coming down, even as prices increase.

64L TLC is a major cost reduction and will lead to widespread adoption and volume ramp of 3D NAND.

96L will follow one year later, with string stacking but still provide cost and density improvements.

96 QLC will ramp in parallel with TLC for applications that demand low cost and can tolerate performance.

We will show cost comparisons for each technology for 2017-2019 at Flash Memory Summit 2017 Wednesday Aug 9, session M-22. Also will show NAND vs ReRAM vs 3D XPoint costs in other sessions

Call to set up meeting to discuss which company is leading in cost and performance

Mark Webb