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posted by martyb on Sunday June 24 2018, @07:30AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Layers:-A-bunch-of-hens dept.

Micron Non-Volatile Update (Q2'18): 96L 3D NAND in H2, 4th Gen 3D NAND Enroute, Sales of 3D XPoint Disappoint

At present Micron is ramping up production of its 64-layer 3D TLC NAND memory (2nd Gen 3D NAND) and last quarter it achieved production output crossover with other types of NAND the company manufactures. This is particularly good news for Micron because 64-layer 3D NAND devices are significantly more cost-efficient in terms of cost per bit compared to 32-layer 3D NAND memory, which allows Micron to earn more. In fact, 64-layer 3D NAND enabled Micron to launch two major products. First, the company released its 2.5-inch SATA 5200 ECO SSDs with up to 7.68 TB capacity in January targeting mainstream servers. Second, 64-layer 3D QLC memory enabled Micron to compete for nearline storage segment with its 5210 ION drives launched back in May.

Earlier this month we reported that at least two developers of SSD controllers have qualified Micron's 96-layer 3D TLC NAND memory for SSDs. During the conference call, Micron confirmed that it was on track to ship its 3rd Gen 3D NAND in volumes for commercial products in the second half of calendar 2018. It is not clear whether the initial batches of such memory will be used for various removable storage solutions (memory cards, USB flash drives, etc.) as it happens usually, but it is evident that Micron's 96-layer 3D NAND is making a good progress with designers of SSD controllers. Maxio Technology intends to use Micron's 3D TLC B27A memory for inexpensive drives based on its MAS0902A-B2C DRAM-less controller, whereas Silicon Motion is so confident of this memory that it has qualified it with its top-of-the-range SM2262EN controller for high-performance SSDs.

[...] While sales of Micron's SSDs are growing (and currently account for 50% of Micron's storage business revenue, or $507 million) and the company continues to shift to high-value specialized NAND products from selling raw NAND chips, shipments of 3D XPoint are below expectations. According to Micron, it sold "very little" 3D XPoint memory to its unnamed parter (almost certainly Intel) during its Q3 FY2018.

Micron's 4th-generation 3D NAND could have up to 128 layers.

Related: "String-Stacking" Being Developed to Enable 3D NAND With More Than 100 Layers
64-Layer 3D NAND at Computex
SK Hynix Developing 96 and 128-Layer TLC 3D NAND
Intel and Micron Boost 3D XPoint Production
Micron Launches First QLC NAND SSD


Original Submission

Related Stories

"String-Stacking" Being Developed to Enable 3D NAND With More Than 100 Layers 2 comments

Tom's Hardware reports on a crude method that may enable the production of vertical/3D NAND with more than 100 layers in the future:

Today's 3D NAND weighs in at 32 to 48 layers, but increasing the density beyond 100 layers appears to be an impossible challenge due to the limitations of high-aspect ratio etch tools, which etch the holes in the NAND (1.8 billion for Samsung 48-layer NAND). Today's tools have 30:1 to 40:1 aspect ratios for 32- and 48-layer NAND, respectively, but creating 64-layer NAND will require an aspect ratio of 60:1 to 70:1. The only problem? There are no tools that can achieve that aspect ratio.

Several NAND vendors are reportedly developing a new "string-stacking" method that will merely stack the 3D NAND devices on top of each other. For instance, three 48-layer stacks will be stacked upon each other to create a 144-layer chip. String stacking may allow for scaling up to 300 layers, but the challenge will be how to link the stacks and produce it in a cost-effective manner. Unfortunately, the NAND fabs have not even mastered that for standard 3D NAND as of yet.

In other NAND news, there may be a shortage of 3D NAND, indicated by Samsung using 16nm 2D TLC NAND in its new 750 EVO SSDs.


Original Submission

64-Layer 3D NAND at Computex 7 comments

A number of companies have made announcements related to 64-layer 3D NAND production and products at Computex 2017:

64-layer NAND, and subsequently products with the technology, will make the largest splash at Computex 2017 this week. Toshiba, Western Digital, and SanDisk have product announcements in queue, with others set to follow. Toshiba already released some information about the technology at Dell World, so the other shoe has to drop from manufacturing partner WD. This is the moment many of us have waited for.

In short, Toshiba/WD are supposed to take us out of the NAND recession by delivering third-generation 3D NAND called BiCS FLASH.

BiCS FLASH may gain praise for reducing the strain on NAND supply, but our readers will be left behind for several quarters. SanDisk has said for years that the future focus will be on 3-bit per cell NAND (or TLC). That philosophy carried over to infect Western Digital after the SanDisk acquisition. No one talks about BiCS MLC for use in the client space, even though 3D TLC is unproven technology for high-performance products (outside of Samsung).

SK Hynix Developing 96 and 128-Layer TLC 3D NAND 3 comments

SK Hynix is currently developing 96-layer and 128-layer 3D NAND with 3 bits per cell, but may be skipping quad-level cell 3D NAND for some time:

The 64-layer 3D NAND about to land from Micron and Toshiba certainly sounds impressive, but it pales in comparison to what Sk Hynix is working on for future release. The company is developing 96-layer and 128-layer 3D NAND flash. The new flash won't be available for a few years, but that makes it no less exciting. We have yet to see 72-layer 3D from Sk Hynix in our lab, but it will begin shipping soon in the PC401 using 256Gbit TLC die, according to the UNH-IOL list of tested products.

The information we found about the successor to 256Gbit 72-layer 3D TLC shows 96 layers with 512Gbit die capacity. The follow up to that is a massive 1Tbit die from 128-layer TLC from the other South Korean SSD manufacturer with full vertical integration.

Toshiba (or whichever company acquires Toshiba's memory division) may be more likely to introduce QLC 3D NAND.

Previously:
SK Hynix Plans 72-Layer 512 Gb NAND for Late 2017
64-Layer 3D NAND at Computex


Original Submission

Intel and Micron Boost 3D XPoint Production

Intel and Micron will produce more 3D XPoint non-volatile memory/storage:

Intel appears confident in the future of its 3D Xpoint media and the Optane products that incorporate it. The company announced today that it's finished an expansion of the facilities at IM Flash in Lehi, Utah (a joint Intel-Micron Technologies venture) that will allow it to produce more of its high-speed, low-latency non-volatile memory. Given the introduction of the Optane SSD 900P series of drives for consumers and the increasing capacities of Optane data-center SSDs, along with the existing Optane Memory line of storage-caching accelerators, Intel will likely have no problem finding homes for the chips it produces with this additional capacity.

The facility also produces 3D NAND.

Also at Digitimes and bit-tech.

Previously: Intel Announces the Optane SSD 900P: Cheaper 3D XPoint for Desktops


Original Submission

Micron Launches First QLC NAND SSD 4 comments

Intel and Micron's jointly-developed 3D QLC (4 bits per cell) NAND memory is featured in a new Micron enterprise SSD, the 5210 ION. The drive will have a capacity of 1.92 TB, 3.84 TB, or 7.68 TB, and a write endurance of less than 1 drive write per day (possibly as low as 0.1 DWPD):

The cost reduction brought by QLC NAND is a much-awaited advance for enterprise storage. Most NAND flash manufacturers have started sampling QLC NAND within the past year, generally built on the same 64-layer 3D NAND processes that current-generation TLC NAND uses. Micron has previously shown wafers of 512Gb 64-layer QLC when announcing the addition of QLC to their roadmap, but today they are also announcing a 1Tb 64L QLC part—the first 1Tb memory chip to hit commercial availability. That 1Tb part is organized as four planes that can be processing I/O commands in parallel, compared to two planes for previous Intel/Micron NAND parts. This helps offset most of the performance loss associated with increasing per-die capacity. Thanks to the "CMOS under the array" design of Intel/Micron 3D NAND, the extra peripheral circuitry requried by doubling the number of planes doesn't add much to the overall die size.

It was initially feared that QLC write endurance would be low enough that drives would need to be treated more or less as write-once, read-many (WORM) devices, requiring careful handling on the software side. With multiple manufacturers now rating their QLC NAND for around 1k P/E cycles, it is clear that QLC-based SSDs aren't too fragile and can handle many existing workloads without needing major software changes to reduce writes.

Micron is primarily marketing the 5210 ION SSDs as replacement for hard drives, rather than replacements for any existing tier of enterprise SSD products. In this role, the 5210 ION will have clear advantages in density (with 2-8TB per 2.5" drive) and performance. QLC NAND only provides incremental improvements to cost, so the 5210 ION won't be matching 7200RPM hard drives for price per GB, but 10k RPM drives will probably be feeling the pressure, especially from TCO calculations that take into account the power efficiency advantages of SSDs.

The next generation of Intel/Micron 3D NAND will have 96 layers, potentially using string-stacking to combine two 48-layer dies. After that, Intel and Micron will go their separate ways.


Original Submission

Micron Buys Out Intel's Stake in 3D XPoint Joint Venture 7 comments

What Next for 3D XPoint? Micron to Buy Intel's Share in 3D XPoint Fab

Micron on Thursday announced plans to acquire Intel's stake in IM Flash Technologies, a joint venture between the two companies. IM Flash owns a fab near Lehi, Utah, which is the only producer of 3DXPoint memory that Intel uses for its premium Optane-branded solid-state storage products. Once the transaction is completed, Intel will have to ink a supply agreement with Micron to get 3D XPoint memory after the current agreement finishes at the end of 2019. This will have important ramifications for Intel's 3D XPoint-based portfolio.

Under the terms of the joint venture agreement between Intel and Micron signed in 2005, the latter controls 51% of company and has a right to acquire the remaining share under certain conditions. Intel already sold Micron its stakes in IM Flash fabs in Singapore and Virginia back in 2012, which left IM Flash with only one production facility near Lehi, Utah (pictured below). The fab is used exclusively to produce 3D XPoint memory right now.

[...] While Intel will continue to obtain 3D XPoint from IM Flash until at least mid-2020, there is a big catch. The two companies are set to finish development of their 2nd Gen 3D XPoint [sometime] in the second or the third quarter of calendar 2019. The joint development takes place in IM Flash R&D facilities and the design is tailored for the IM Flash fab and jointly-developed process technology. Therefore, the transaction may potentially affect Intel's ramp up plans for the 2nd Gen 3D XPoint memory. In fact, Intel can manufacture 3D XPoint memory at Fab 68 in Dalian, China, the company said earlier this year. However, since the fab is busy making 3D NAND, Intel may have to adjust its production plans for both types of memory.

Related: Intel and Micron Boost 3D XPoint Production
Intel Announces 3D XPoint Persistent Memory DIMMs
Micron: 96-Layer 3D NAND Coming, 3D XPoint Sales Disappoint


Original Submission

SK Hynix Finishes 128-Layer 3D NAND, Plans 176-Layer 3D NAND 22 comments

SK Hynix Starts Production of 128-Layer 4D NAND, 176-Layer Being Developed

SK Hynix has announced it has finished development of its 128-layer 1 terabit 3D TLC NAND flash. The new memory features the company's charge trap flash (CTF) design, along with the peripheral under cells (PUC) architecture that the company calls '4D' NAND, announced some time ago. The new 128-layer TLC NAND flash devices will ship to interested parties in the second half of this year, and SK Hynix intends to offer products based on the new chips in 2020.

[...] In the first half of next year SK Hynix promises to roll out its UFS 3.1 storage products based on the new 1 Tb devices. The company plans to offer 1 TB UFS 3.1 chips that will consume up to 20% less [power] when compared to similar products that use 512 Gb ICs.

[...] String stacking technology, as well as the multi-stacked design, will enable SK Hynix to keep increasing the number of layers. SK Hynix says that it is currently developing 176-layer 4D NAND flash, but does not disclose when it is expected to become available.

Previously: "String-Stacking" Being Developed to Enable 3D NAND With More Than 100 Layers
SK Hynix Developing 96 and 128-Layer TLC 3D NAND

Related: Expect 20-30% Cheaper NAND in Late 2018
Micron: 96-Layer 3D NAND Coming, 3D XPoint Sales Disappoint
Western Digital Samples 96-Layer 3D QLC NAND with 1.33 Tb Per Die
Samsung Shares Plans for 96-Layer TLC NAND, QLC NAND, and 2nd-Generation "Z-NAND"


Original Submission

Micron Abandons 3D XPoint, Puts Fab Up for Sale

Micron Abandons 3D XPoint Memory Technology

In a sudden but perhaps not too surprising announcement, Micron has stated that they are ceasing all R&D of 3D XPoint memory technology. Intel and Micron co-developed 3D XPoint memory, revealed in 2015 as a non-volatile memory technology with higher performance and endurance than NAND flash memory.

Intel has been responsible for almost all of the commercial volume of 3D XPoint-based products, under their Optane brand for both NVMe SSDs and persistent memory modules in the DIMM form factor. Micron in 2016 announced their QuantX brand for 3D XPoint products, but never shipped anything under that brand. Their first and only real product based on 3D XPoint was the X100 high-end enterprise SSD which saw very limited release to close partners. Micron has now decided that further work to commercialize 3D XPoint memory isn't worth the investment.

[...] Micron is now putting that 3D XPoint fab up for sale, and is currently engaged in discussions with several potential buyers. Intel is the most obvious potential buyer, having recently begun the long process of selling their NAND flash and flash-based SSD business to SK hynix while keeping their Optane products. Intel has already moved their 3D XPoint R&D to Rio Rancho, NM but has not built up any 3D XPoint mass production capacity of their own; buying the Lehi, UT fab would save them the trouble of equipping eg. their NAND fab in Dalian, China to also manufacture 3D XPoint.

Micron exercised its contract right to buy out the Utah fab in 2019, Intel paid Micron to manufacture 3D XPoint memory (likely with a price hike in 2020), and now Intel may be buying back the entire fab.

See also: Micron's 3D XPoint departure is not good news for Intel Optane
3D XPoint Memory At The Crossroads

Also at Tom's Hardware.

Previously: Intel and Micron Announce 3D XPoint, A New Type of Memory and Storage
Micron: 96-Layer 3D NAND Coming, 3D XPoint Sales Disappoint
Micron Buys Out Intel's Stake in 3D XPoint Joint Venture
Micron Follows Through, Buys Out Intel's Stake in NAND and 3D XPoint Joint Venture
Intel and Micron Sign a New 3D XPoint Agreement


Original Submission

Intel and Micron Sign a New 3D XPoint Agreement 1 comment

Intel & Micron Sign New 3D XPoint Wafer Supply Agreement

Intel and Micron have inked a new 3D XPoint memory wafer supply agreement. Analysts believe that Intel will now have to pay Micron more than it did previously as it is now the only maker of 3D XPoint. The new pact also shows that Intel wants to continue making products based on 3D XPoint, but details about the products remain to be seen.

Having ended its NAND and 3D XPoint partnerships with Micron, Intel sold its former partner its stake in their mutually owned fab in Lehi, Utah. Since the company yet has to move production of 3D XPoint memory used for its Optane-branded products to its Fab 68 in Dalian, China, the chipmaker had to sign a supply agreement with Micron, under which the latter would sell the memory to its former ally at pre-agreed prices for one year after it gains ownership of the fab.

Micron gained ownership back in October, which is when the agreement came into effect. As it turns out, the two companies terminated the deal on March 9 and signed a new one 'with changes to pricing and forecast terms'. The companies did not reveal additional details, but Micron said that the deal was 'not material to Micron and does not change Micron's previously-communicated outlook'.

Previously:
Micron: 96-Layer 3D NAND Coming, 3D XPoint Sales Disappoint
Micron Buys Out Intel's Stake in 3D XPoint Joint Venture
Micron Follows Through, Buys Out Intel's Stake in NAND and 3D XPoint Joint Venture


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by XivLacuna on Sunday June 24 2018, @03:56PM

    by XivLacuna (6346) on Sunday June 24 2018, @03:56PM (#697596)

    It'll be more successful if it can get its price per GB to be comparable to flash based SSDs. It wins on speed, durability, and failure mode (it becomes read only when it fails), but it is still costs too many shekels per GB for people to really buy into it. I would love to have a 2TB m.2 stick of 3D XPoint memory.

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