DRAM makers emulate the HDD business by devouring the competition

Subject: General Tech | March 20, 2013 - 10:02 AM |
Tagged: DRAM, micron, ssd, Samsung, Hynix

It is perhaps not obvious to many because of the huge number of DRAM resellers but there are only three major manufacturers of DRAM left at this point.  Apart from Micron, who claim top spot in this article on The Register, Samsung and Hynix are the only other big players left supplying DRAM.  Considering the instability of memory and SSD pricing it seems odd that it is a component with only three possible sources, the instability could be coming from the fact that many of the mergers are still rather recent or in the case of Elpida, not quite complete yet.  One very interesting comment from Kipp Bedard, Micron's investor relations VP, might also explain the volatilty of flash, "there simply isn't enough NAND fab capacity to store even 20 per cent of the data people are generating."   If demand outstrips supply by that order of magnitude you can dictate almost any price you wish.

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"When I first started at Micron, there were about 40 to 50 DRAM companies in the space," said Bedard. "And we spent most of the '80s with the Japanese deciding they wanted to own the DRAM space which they went from 10 per cent market share to about 90 per cent, [and] took all of the US companies out except for two, us and Texas Instruments."

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Source: The Register

Micron SAS SSDs, solid state for the enterprise grows up

Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2013 - 10:11 AM |
Tagged: ssd, enterprise ssd, SAS, micron, micron p410m

Micron has announced a new SSD, the P410 SSD which will use a Serial Attached SCSI interface, perfect for dropping into existing enterprise servers.  SATA is perfectly fine for SOHO users and enthusiasts but for large businesses with a need for extreme reliability, SAS has been the interface of choice.  Adoption of SSDs has been slowed in large businesses in part because it would require changing the existing architecture to SATA in order to incorporate SSDs into their systems.  With the new Micron drive that is no longer necessary, at 7mm it will support high density servers and with the 25nm MLC NAND it is expected to survive for five years of duty with 10 full drive fills every day.  Read more at DigiTimes.

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"Micron Technology has announced another addition to its growing lineup of solid state drives (SSDs) targeted at data center appliances and enterprise storage platforms. The new Micron P410m SSD is a high-endurance, high reliability 6Gb/s Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) drive built to provide the performance necessary for mission-critical tier one storage applications that require uninterrupted, 24/7 data access."

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Source: DigiTimes

NVDIMM: Nonvolatile... Not NVIDIA

Subject: General Tech, Memory, Systems | February 10, 2013 - 12:44 AM |
Tagged: NVDIMM, micron, IMFT NAND, imft

So a RAM chip, a NAND module, and an “ultracapacitor” walk into stick...

This week Micron released a press blast for technology called, “NVDIMM”. The goal is to create memory modules which perform as quickly as DRAM but can persist without power. At this point you could probably guess the acronym: Nonvolatile Dual In-line Memory Module. It has been around for a few years now, but it is in the news now so let's chat about it.

I often like to play the game, “Was this named by an engineer or a marketer?” You can typically tell who was responsible for naming something by gauging how literally it breaks down into a simple meaning versus not having any apparent meaning at all. A good example of an engineer name is UHF, which breaks down into ultra-high frequency because it's higher than VHF, very-high frequency. A good example of a marketing name would be something like “Centrino”, which sounds like the biggest little penny-slot machine in the world. I would quite comfortable guessing that NVDIMM was named by an engineer.

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This is AgigA Tech's module, who provides the capacitors for Micron and their NVDIMMs.

The actual makeup of NVDIMMs is quite sensible: DIMMs are fast but die when the power goes out. You could prevent the power from going out but it takes quite a lot of battery life to keep a computer online for extended periods of time. NAND Flash is quite slow, relative to DIMMs, in normal operation but can persist without power for very long periods of time. Also, modern-day capacitors are efficient and durable enough to keep DIMMs powered for long enough to be copied to flash memory.

As such, if the power goes out: memory is dumped to flash on the same chip. When power is restored, DIMMs get reloaded and continue on their merry way.

According to the Micron press release, the first NVDIMM was demonstrated last November at SC12. That module contained twice as much NAND as it did DIMM memory: 8GB of Flash for 4GB of RAM. Micron did not specify why they required having that much extra Flash memory although my gut instinct is to compensate for write wearing problems. A two-fold increase to offset NAND that had just one too many write operations seems like quite a lot compared to consumer drives. That said, SSDs do not have to weather half of their whole capacity being written to each time the computer shuts down.

Who knows, double-provisioning might even be too little in practice.

Source: Micron

CES 2013: Micron demos DDR4 DIMMs, announces 20nm Crucial M500 SSDs at $0.60/GB

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2013 - 08:12 AM |
Tagged: micron, crucial, ces 2013, CES

At the Micron/Crucial, we were shown an expansion to their DDR3 memory line, to include lower profile parts:

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These reduced height modules should make for easier installation into HTPC and other small form factor PCs and even 1U Servers.

Next we saw DDR4 running at its native 2133 MHz speed. Here is what the DDR4 DIMM looks like:

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Note the slight bulge at the center of the pin area. This is to make installation easier, as there is a considerable increase in pin count, which would have made installation more difficult if not for that design feature. Note the increased contact density in this pic:

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Last (and most certainly not least), Micron announced their next SSD Series, the M500. This line uses a newer Marvell controller with Micron engineered firmware, driving 20nm IMFT flash:

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All models will employ the enterprise feature of a capacitor bank used to store some reserve power. This helps to minimize any possible data loss should power be interrupted while data is being written:

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Micron told me they are planning a 1TB model, running *MLC* flash (not TLC), and they are shooting for a price point of $600. That's $0.60/GB! If this scales down at the lower capacity points, we should be in for some pretty nice price dips in Solid State Storage for 2013!

 

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Micron is showing off how solid it's controllers and flash chips are

Subject: General Tech | August 10, 2012 - 11:50 AM |
Tagged: micron, ssd, PCIe SSD

Micron has really jumped into the SSD business, which makes sense given that they have been creating flash-based storage for quite a while now.  They do not feel that simply producing flash memory is enough however and have branched into storage controllers to not only make their SSDs faster but also to bring new functionality to them.  The Register recently witnessed a company presentation that discussed their plans for the near future as well as enlightening customers about existing products they may not be familiar with such as their PCIe SSD cards.  On the client side (read consumer) they will soon be releasing C400 series SSDs  using 29nm to 20nm process moving onto a sub-20nm process soon after that.  On the Enterprise side you will see the P400m SATA and P410m SAS arrive, both likely using a 25nm process.  Check out the full release and see what else Micron has in store for the competition.

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"The semiconductor-maker has flash foundries and delivers both solid state drives (SSDs) and PCIe-connected flash cards – the single level cell P320h for example, which is used by EMC in its VFCache product. A hot-swap version of the P320h has been adopted by Dell for server use."

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Source: The Register

The possibilty of rising DRAM prices got you down? Try PRAM instead!

Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2012 - 11:39 AM |
Tagged: phase, phase change memory, micron, 45nm

Phase Change Memory is not new, Allyn listened to Intel talk about a breakthrough in this technology almost three years ago, but it is not common on the market.  It offers two major benefits over the current RAM on the market, the first being its lack of volatility as the crystals it forms will remain even after power is cut off, the second is more dear to computer enthusiasts as it should be faster than DRAM.  It may seem odd that a technology which requires the formation of crystals would be faster than the electronic flipping of bits but Micron claims that the trickle of voltage supplied creates seed crystals which speed the formation process during write cycles. The good news is that we should see real world testing soon as The Inquirer has heard that Micron has a good supply of PRAM to sell which means benchmarks are not far behind.

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"MEMORY MAKER Micron has announced high volume availability of its 45nm phase change memory (PCM) chips.

Micron has been pushing the development of PCM chips with Intel for a number of years and is finally at a stage where it can offer chips to its customers. The firm announced that its 45nm PCM chips are available in a 1Gb PCM plus a 512Mb LPDDR2 package for mobile devices."

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Source: The Inquirer

Micron goes on a spending spree, picks up Elpida and a big majority of Rexchip shares

Subject: General Tech | July 3, 2012 - 11:07 AM |
Tagged: purchase, billions, micron, Elpida, rexchip, powerchip, DRAM, flash

Micron has been very busy lately, spending $2.5 billion USD to purchase Elpida and another $334 million USD to purchase another 24% of DRAM maker Rexchip from Powerchip.  The latter of those purchases gives Micron a total of 89% of the existing shares of Rexchip which may not give them outright ownership of Rexchip but gives them such a huge majority that they can determine the outcome of any vote which is presented to shareholders.  Rexchip brings a single 300mm Fab working on 30nm process to the table, which gives Micron a bit more manufacturing capability to utilize for what is likely to be a busy season for them.

The Elpida purchase is much bigger for both the industry and Micron, especially as they decided to buy the company outright instead of purchasing a subsidiary or only the IP of Elpida.  Instead the company will remain intact for the near future though there will likely be changes to the executive structure as they are integrated with Micron.  Not only does this purchase give them access to all property, intellectual or physical, that Elpida currently possesses it give Micron an in at Apple as it was Elpida that supplied much of the chips used by Apple.  That would put Micron in the enviable position of supplying both PC and Apple products.  DigiTimes breaks down the deal here.

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"Micron Technology and Elpida Memory's trustees have signed a definitive sponsor agreement for Micron to acquire Elpida, according to the US memory chipmaker. The agreement has been entered into in connection with Elpida's corporate reorganization proceedings conducted under the jurisdiction of the Tokyo District Court.

Micron revealed that under the agreement, JPY200 billion (US$2.5 billion) total consideration and less certain reorganization proceeding expenses will be used to satisfy the reorganization claims of Elpida's secured and unsecured creditors. Micron will acquire 100% of the equity of Elpida for JPY60 billion to be paid in cash at closing."

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Source: DigiTimes

Micron also looks to buy Elpida

Subject: General Tech, Memory, Mobile | May 12, 2012 - 03:10 PM |
Tagged: micron, Elpida

Micron Technologies has confirmed that they are in talks to purchase Elpida Memory. Despite Toshiba pulling out of the race, the deal would have a rumored value of 2.51 Billion dollars. This deal would move Micron into the second largest DRAM producer, behind Samsung, with a 25 percent market share globally.

Elpida Memory, Inc. has been having troubles as a company for a couple of years.

Elpida was established as a company from its parent companies, NEC and Hitachi, in 1999 and took its current name the next year. Elpida has been delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange in late March, a month after filing for Bankruptcy.

Multiple companies have come and gone in talks to purchase Elpida. Toshiba and SK hynix have somewhat recently pulled out of negotiations as the American TPG Capital LP and the Chinese Hony Capital shared a bid for the manufacturer.

Elpida.jpg

Or buy us and be #2 : D

Micron has just recently announced that they would place a bid for Elpida which, if completed, would push Micron past Hynix into the second largest DRAM producer by market share. Micron also seems to be interested in purchasing Elpida to access its mobile technology. While the actual bid is not public knowledge, it has been rumored to be worth around 2.51 billion dollars.

It may also be possible that none of the above deals would go through. Reuters reports that a group of debt holders for Elpida might push for their own plan if they feel that none of the current deals would suffice.

Source: Reuters

Micron beats JEDEC to DDR4

Subject: General Tech | May 8, 2012 - 11:13 AM |
Tagged: ddr4, jedec, micron

If you are not familiar with JEDEC you might not realize why they are constantly referred to when news breaks about a new technology; if that is the case you should aquaint yourself with them.  The standard for DDR4 is almost finalized with the specific changes being that the DIMM's VDDQ must remain constant at1.2V with plans to reduce VDD and speeds of 1.6 giga transfers per second to an initial objective of 3.2 giga transfers per second.  This seems low considering DDR3-2400 can hit 2.4GT/s so when it arrives we may see speeds cross over like DDR2 did when we saw DDR3 first come onto the stage.

Micron has fabbed 30nm DDR4 chips, both DIMM and SODIMM varieties which operate at the lower voltage.  The initial speed of 4Gbit/s that The Inquirer reports on may seem conservative but for this initial run we are only looking for a proof of concept which can be refined.  Micron expects to see production swing into gear by the end of 2012 but they may not have many customers as neither AMD nor Intel have DDR4 support scheduled by that time.

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"Although JEDEC has yet to finalise the DDR4 specification, Nanya and Micron have been forging ahead designing and now fabricating 30nm 4Gbit DDR4 chips that will be part of the two firms' DDR4 product range that will include registered and low-voltage registered DIMMs and SODIMMs. According to Micron, it is already sampling DDR4 modules and expects its customers to support quick implementation in 2013."

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Source: The Inquirer

Intel / Micron Flash Technology Venture Expands, Micron Assumes Two Plants

Subject: Storage | February 28, 2012 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: micron, Intel, imft, flash, fab

Earlier today we caught some news of Intel and Micron extending their joint agreement to develop and create flash memory under the IMFT name. Along with this extension came some rearrangements to the current plan. Intel will be selling off their stake in two of the smaller fabs, located in Singapore and Manassas, VA. The sale is for $600 million, half of which will stay with Micron as a credit that Intel can use to later purchase NAND flash produced from those factories.

The 'tip of the spear' IMFT fab located in Lehi, Utah, will remain jointly owned and operated. This makes good business sense as the Lehi fab is the first to shift to smaller process nodes. IMFT announced 25nm flash memory production at this very fab in early 2010.

IMFT.jpg

PC Perspective toured IMFT Utah during the 25nm launch announcement.

Some may see this as Intel taking a step away from flash memory, but I see it as quite the contrary. Micron has always tended towards being a bulk producer of memory products, while Intel are the promary innovators in the arena. This move allows Intel to focus on the bleeding edge plant while Micron handles the particulars of cranking out those technologies developed at the Lehi Plant. It is likely that the highest grade flash comes from the Lehi plant, and Intel's half of the output is more than enough to supply their SSD production lines.

Click to view full article for the press release.

Source: Micron