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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday October 21 2018, @01:44AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the micro-investment dept.

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

Related Stories

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

Intel Announces 3D XPoint Persistent Memory DIMMs 23 comments

Intel has announced 3D XPoint DIMMs ranging from 128 GB to 512 GB per module:

Intel today announced the availability of their long-awaited Optane DIMMs, bringing 3D XPoint memory onto the DDR4 memory bus. The modules that have been known under the Apache Pass codename will be branded as Optane DC Persistent Memory, to contrast with Optane DC SSDs, and not to be confused with the consumer-oriented Optane Memory caching SSDs.

The new Optane DC Persistent Memory modules will be initially available in three capacities: 128GB, 256GB and 512GB per module. This implies that they are probably still based on the same 128Gb 3D XPoint memory dies used in all other Optane products so far. The modules are pin-compatible with standard DDR4 DIMMs and will be supported by the next generation of Intel's Xeon server platforms.

The Optane DC Persistent Memory modules Intel is currently showing off have heatspreaders covering the interesting bits, but they appear to feature ten packages of 3D XPoint memory. This suggests that the 512GB module features a raw capacity of 640GB and that Optane DC Persistent Memory DIMMs have twice the error correction overhead of ECC DRAM modules.

Also at Tom's Hardware and Ars Technica.

Original Submission

Micron: 96-Layer 3D NAND Coming, 3D XPoint Sales Disappoint 1 comment

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

Crossbar Searching for Funding and Customers for its ReRAM Products to Compete with Intel's Optane 3 comments

Crossbar, which has talked up its version of a post-NAND memory/storage technology for years with little to show for it, now has to compete with the elephant in the room:

Crossbar, developer of Resistive RAM (ReRAM) chips, is setting up an AI consortium to help counter, er, resistance to the technology, speed up its adoption, and hopefully outrun Intel's Optane.

ReRAM is a type of non-volatile memory with DRAM-class access latency. So, flash-style solid-state storage with RAM-ish access. However, it is taking a long time to mature into a practical technology that can be deployed in devices to fill the gap between large-capacity, non-volatile, relatively slow NAND, and high-speed, relatively low capacity, volatile DRAM.

[...] Crossbar claims it can design "super dense 3D cross-point arrays, stackable with the capability to scale below 10nm, paving the way for terabytes on a single die." Beat that, Optane. Check out a white paper from the upstart here (registration needed.)

Crossbar continued to develop its ReRAM, inking a licensing agreement with Microsemi in May last year, involving the use of sub-10nm ReRAM tech in coming Microsemi products.

[...] Crossbar says it's working with Japanese authorities to review opportunities for the 2020 Olympics, including video-based event detection and response capability. We'll see if anything comes of that.

Previously: Crossbar 3D Resistive RAM Heads to Commercialization

Related: SanDisk and HP Announce Potential Competitor to XPoint Memory
Fujitsu to Mass Produce Nantero-Licensed NRAM in 2018
Two Resistive Random Access Memory (RRAM) Papers
Intel Announces the Optane SSD 900P: Cheaper 3D XPoint for Desktops
Intel Unveils 58 GB and 118 GB Optane SSDs
Rambus and Gigadrive Form Joint Venture to Commercialize Resistive RAM
Micron Buys Out Intel's Stake in 3D XPoint Joint Venture

Original Submission

Micron Follows Through, Buys Out Intel's Stake in NAND and 3D XPoint Joint Venture 3 comments

Micron Exercises Option to Buyout Intel's Share of IMFT

Micron is following through with the next step in the breakup of their long alliance with Intel for storage technology. As announced last October, Micron is exercising their call option to buyout Intel's share of IM Flash Technologies, the joint venture in Lehi, UT where several generations of flash memory were developed and the current center of R&D and production for 3D XPoint memory.

The public acts of the Intel/Micron breakup began a year ago with the announcement that the two companies would no longer co-develop NAND flash memory, going their separate ways after the completion of R&D for their 96-layer design. The companies have for several years been manufacturing their own supplies of NAND flash each at their own fabs, and they have rather different priorities so that part of the split is neither surprising nor will it have a huge impact on the storage market in the short term. Several months later, they announced a similar split for 3D XPoint memory development. With 3D XPoint R&D for the two companies set to diverge, it is natural that they would not continue to share the IMFT fab. Since IMFT is the only place currently manufacturing 3D XPoint, Micron's buyout of Intel's 49% stake in IMFT will likely force Intel to buy 3D XPoint memory from Micron until Intel can spin up production elsewhere.

Previously: Micron Buys Out Intel's Stake in 3D XPoint Joint Venture

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'.

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) by DECbot on Sunday October 21 2018, @03:21PM (3 children)

    by DECbot (832) on Sunday October 21 2018, @03:21PM (#751674) Journal

    Thanks for posting articles like this, I find it quite interesting as I once worked at a Micron facility.
    I wonder what drove them to buyout Intel? If it is to price gouge customers on the XPoint product, I think Micron will have troubles finding customers. It would make more sense if Micron is buying IMFT strictly for control of the Lehi fab so they could produce more units of traditional products at that fab and completely drop the XPoint product.

    cats~$ sudo chown -R us /home/base
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday October 21 2018, @07:48PM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday October 21 2018, @07:48PM (#751753) Journal [] []

      They had the option available and are taking it.

      Intel's out here getting that Big Bang Theory actor to promote 3D XPoint in television commercials. But consumer awareness or interest in XPoint is low. Micron skipped the first generation of the technology and will probably focus on enterprise customers more.

      Too bad XPoint is not the magical post-NAND technology [] we were dreaming of. Just another tier sandwiched uncomfortably between NAND and DRAM.

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
      • (Score: 1) by DECbot on Monday October 22 2018, @07:01AM

        by DECbot (832) on Monday October 22 2018, @07:01AM (#751891) Journal

        I see a spot for XPoint in enterprise for swap, database cache, ZFS L2ARC, and such where you're maxed out the ram on the motherboard, but you're not ready for replacing the motherboard. However, since that is such a small market in comparison to NAND, the point of my previous post, I think Micron will repurpose the Lehi fab to increase capacity for NAND flash and let XPoint go to the wayside. They'll likely let Intel continue to produce XPoint, but it will be done at Intel's fabs. Since the market is so small for XPoint, Micron will not risk competing against Intel on a lackluster product.

        cats~$ sudo chown -R us /home/base
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday October 22 2018, @05:31PM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Monday October 22 2018, @05:31PM (#752050) Journal []

      Micron’s statement is a pre-announcement. They can’t officially make the call until January 1, 2019. The operation of the IMFT factory would not change until after the close of the call, which is at Intel’s discretion for up to one year. There is no near-term change to Intel’s plans in the coming quarters—this has been part of our planning for some time now. Intel has a number of manufacturing options available to us within the time window. We’ve been shipping a broad portfolio of Intel Optane technology products for over a year with a continually expanding product line. We will continue to lead the industry with this exciting new technology.

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
  • (Score: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Sunday October 21 2018, @04:29PM

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <> on Sunday October 21 2018, @04:29PM (#751701) Homepage Journal

    That box is slow as molasses. However it has two Thunderbolt 2 ports. Or when the AppleCare expires I could put in an internal SATA.

    I use my mini for coding drivers because they never take long to compile. I use my MacBook Pro to test them because it boots so fast - it's storage is flash on a PCIe card.

    I just have to sing on the street until I get enough tips. When I sing I make roughly six bucks an hour. I figure I'll make more once I learn to plan my keyboard while singing. I can sing, I can play piano but I can't sing and play piano at the same time. But that is a skill one can learn.

    Yes I Have No Bananas. []
  • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Sunday October 21 2018, @04:39PM (1 child)

    by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Sunday October 21 2018, @04:39PM (#751706) Journal

    Out of idle curiosity, I was wondering if the gumstick-format Optane drive, the 800p, would work in the m.2 2280 slot on a given AM4 board. It's not really a good investment compared to a decent 64-layer TLC drive but it's an interesting proposition and has amazingly low latency ad tiny queue depths. No matter where I look, though, I can't find anything definite about this.

    I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by MrNemesis on Sunday October 21 2018, @11:59PM

      by MrNemesis (1582) on Sunday October 21 2018, @11:59PM (#751817)

      Assuming you're using linux, any PCIe M2 slot should see optane just fine, be it on an AMD or Intel board. I'm not using that combination currently, but my first-gen optane M2 workload fine on my 2400G motherboard as a regular block device. IIRC it's only if you want to use them under windows that you're restricted to Intel kit by way of their drivers, because segmentation.

      That said, it's a rare workload that'll benefit greatly from an optane drive; I bought one also out of idle curiosity mainly because the tiny 16GB gumstick had reached "toy" prices when the 800p came out and I figured it'd be nice to see if it would benefit me. Currently it's sitting in a file server as a dm-cache writethrough SSD where it provides a decent improvement to common random read IO. Larger/beefier optane drives are a very popular choice for providing SLOG/ZIL functionality to huge ZFS arrays because of their exceedingly low latency for sync writes. However if you're not doing the sync write thing then a decent enterprise SSD will likely be better value (and for my needs at least a decent SATA SSD is nearly indistinguishable from an NVMe device but clearly I'm not bottlenecked on random IO).

      "To paraphrase Nietzsche, I have looked into the abyss and been sick in it."