70: GreyBeards talk FMS18 wrap-up and flash trends with Jim Handy, General Dir. Objective Analysis

In this episode we talk about Flash Memory Summit 2018 (FMS18) and recent trends affecting the flash market with Jim Handy, General Director, Objective Analysis. This is the 4th time Jim’s been on our show and has been our go to guy on flash technology forever.

NAND supply?

Talking with Jim is always a far reaching discussion. We quickly centered on recent spot NAND pricing trends. Jim said the market is seeing a 10 to 12% pricing drop, Quarter/Quarter, almost 60% since the year started, in NAND spot pricing which is starting to impact long term contracts. During supply glut’s like this, DRAM spot prices typically drop 40-60% Q/Q, so maybe there’s more NAND price reductions on the way.

A new player in the NAND fab business was introduced at FMS18, Yangtze Memory Technology from China. Jim said they were one generation behind the leaders which says their product costs ($/NAND bit) are likely 2X the industry. But apparently, China is prepared to lose money until they can catch up.

I asked Jim if they have a hope of catching up – yes. For example, there’s been some shenanigans with DRAM technology and a Chinese DRAM Fab. They  have (allegedly)stolen technology from Micron’s Taiwan DRAM FAB. They in turn have sued Micron for patent infringement and won, locking Micron out of the Chinese DRAM market. With DRAM market tightening, Micron’s absence will hurt Chinese electronics producers. Others will step in, but Micron will have to focus DRAM sales elsewhere.

3D Xpoint/Optane?

There wasn’t much discussion on 3D XPoint. Intel did announce some customers for Optane SSDs and that they are starting to produce 3D XPoint in DIMMs. The Intel-Micron 3D XPoint partnership has disolved. Intel seems willing to continue to price their Optane and 3D XPoint DIMM below cost and make it up selling micro processors.

Jim predicted years back there would be little to no market for 3D Xpoint SSDs. With Optane SSDs at 5X higher cost than NAND SSDs and only 5X faster, it’s not a significant enough advantage to generate volumes needed to make a profitable product. But in a DIMM form factor, hanging off the memory bus, it’s 1000X faster than NAND, and with that much performance, it shouldn’t have a problem generating sufficient volumes to become profitable.

Other NAND/SCM news

We talked about the emergence of QLC NAND. With 3D NAND, there appears to be sufficient electrons to make QLC viable. The write speeds are still horrible,  ~1000X slower than SLC. But vendors are now adding SLC NAND (write cache) in their SSDs to sustain faster writes.

The other new technology from FMS18 was computational storage. Computational storage vendors are putting compute near (inside) an SSD to better perform IO intensive workloads. Some computational storage vendors   talked about their technology and how it could speed up select workloads

There’s SCM beyond 3D XPoint. These vendors have been quietly shipping for some time now, they just aren’t at the capacities/bit density to challenge NAND. Jim mentioned a few that were in production, EverSpin/MRAM, Adesto/ReRAM and Crossbar/FeRAM.

Jim said IBM was using EverSpin/MRAM technology in their latest FlashCore Modules for their FlashSystem 9100. And EverSpin MRAM is being used in satellites. Adesto/ReRAM is being used medical instrument market.

The podcast runs ~42 minutes. We apologize for the audio quality, we promise to do better next time. Jim’s been the GreyBeards memory and flash technology guru before our hair turned grey and is always enlightening about the flash market and technology trends.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Jim Handy, General Director, Objective Analysis

Jim Handy of Objective Analysis has over 35 years in the electronics industry including 20 years as a leading semiconductor and SSD industry analyst. Early in his career he held marketing and design positions at leading semiconductor suppliers including Intel, National Semiconductor, and Infineon.

A frequent presenter at trade shows, Mr. Handy is known for his technical depth, accurate forecasts, widespread industry presence and volume of publication. He has written hundreds of market reports, articles for trade journals, and white papers, and is frequently interviewed and quoted in the electronics trade press and other media.  He posts blogs at www.TheMemoryGuy.com, and www.TheSSDguy.com

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