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posted by chromas on Thursday January 17 2019, @11:22AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the flash-fabs dept.

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

Related Stories

Micron Announces 176-layer 3D NAND 5 comments

Micron Announces 176-layer 3D NAND

Just in time for Flash Memory Summit, Micron is announcing their fifth generation of 3D NAND flash memory, with a record-breaking 176 layers. The new 176L flash is their second generation developed since the dissolution of Micron's memory collaboration with Intel, after which Micron switched from a floating-gate memory cell design to a charge-trap cell. Micron's previous generation 3D NAND was a 128-layer design that served as a short-lived transitional node for them to work out any issues with the switch to charge trap flash. Micron's 128L flash has had minimal presence on the market, so their new 176L flash will in many cases serve as the successor to their 96L 3D NAND as well.

Micron is still withholding many technical details about their 176L NAND, with more information planned to be shared at the end of the month. But for now, we know their first 176L parts are 512Gbit TLC dies, built using string stacking of two 88-layer decks—Micron would seem to now be in second place behind Samsung for how many layers of NAND flash memory cells they can fabricate at a time.

The switch to a replacement gate/charge trap cell design seems to have enabled a significant reduction in layer thickness: the 176L dies are 45µm thick, about the same total thickness as Micron's 64L floating-gate 3D NAND. A 16-die stacked package comes in at less than 1.5mm thick, suitable for most mobile and memory card use cases. As with previous generations of Micron 3D NAND, the chip's peripheral logic is mostly fabricated under the NAND memory cell stacks, a technology Micron calls "CMOS under Array" (CuA). This has repeatedly helped Micron deliver some of the smallest die sizes, and Micron estimates their 176L 512Gbit die is about 30% smaller than the best their competitors currently offer.

Related: Micron Follows Through, Buys Out Intel's Stake in NAND and 3D XPoint Joint Venture
SK Hynix Finishes 128-Layer 3D NAND, Plans 176-Layer 3D NAND
China's Yangtze Memory Technologies Develops 128-Layer 1.33 Tb QLC 3D NAND


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

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: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 17 2019, @06:45PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 17 2019, @06:45PM (#787979)

    What effect will this have on the market?

    • (Score: 2) by AssCork on Thursday January 17 2019, @07:07PM

      by AssCork (6255) on Thursday January 17 2019, @07:07PM (#787988) Journal

      The memory market has always been a greedy lil bitch. If there's a fart in the wind, they'll raise prices 80% for a few months, then slowly drop back down.

      Source: OPEC was the Memory market's high-school Economics teacher.

      --
      Just popped-out of a tight spot. Came out mostly clean, too.
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday January 17 2019, @07:11PM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Thursday January 17 2019, @07:11PM (#787992) Journal

      It shouldn't affect the fab's output IMO. Maybe XPoint pricing will go down if Intel and Micron start competing.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
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