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posted by martyb on Friday March 19 2021, @01:28AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the fab-u-less dept.

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

Related Stories

Intel and Micron Announce 3D XPoint, A New Type of Memory and Storage 17 comments

Intel and Micron have announced a new type of non-volatile memory called "3D XPoint", which they say is 1,000 times faster (in terms of latency) than the NAND flash used in solid-state disks, with 1,000 times the endurance. It also has 10 times the density of DRAM. It is a stackable, 20nm, technology, and is expected to be sold next year in a 128 Gb (16 GB) size:

If all goes to plan, the first products to feature 3D XPoint (pronounced cross-point) will go on sale next year. Its price has yet to be announced. Intel is marketing it as the first new class of "mainstream memory" since 1989. Rather than pitch it as a replacement for either flash storage or Ram (random access memory), the company suggests it will be used alongside them to hold certain data "closer" to a processor so that it can be accessed more quickly than before.

[...] 3D XPoint does away with the need to use the transistors at the heart of Nand chips... By contrast, 3D XPoint works by changing the properties of the material that makes up its memory cells to either having a high resistance to electricity to represent a one or a low resistance to represent a zero. The advantage is that each memory cell can be addressed individually, radically speeding things up. An added benefit is that it should last hundreds of times longer than Nand before becoming unreliable.

It is expected to be more expensive than NAND, cheaper than DRAM, and slower than DRAM. If a 16 GB chip is the minimum XPoint offering, it could be used to store an operating system and certain applications for a substantial speedup compared to SSD storage.

This seems likely to beat similar fast and non-volatile "NAND-killers" to market, such as memristors and Crossbar RRAM. Intel and Micron have worked on phase-change memory (PCM) previously, but Intel has denied that XPoint is a PCM, memristor, or spin-transfer torque based technology. The Platform speculates that the next-generation 100+ petaflops supercomputers will utilize XPoint, along with other applications facing memory bottlenecks such as genomics analysis and gaming. The 16 GB chip is a simple 2-layer stack, compared to 32 layers for Samsung's available V-NAND SSDs, so there is enormous potential for capacity growth.

The technology will be sampling later this year to potential customers. Both Micron and Intel will develop their own 3D XPoint products, and will not be licensing the technology.


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

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 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

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

Analyst Predicts 3D XPoint Shipments Could Surpass DRAM (in Capacity) by 2028 7 comments

XPoint capacity to surpass DRAM by 2030

We have just learned about a report by Coughlin Associates and Objective Analysis called Emerging Memories Take Off, courtesy of Tom Coughlin. The report looks at 3D XPoint, MRAM, ReRAM and other emerging memory technologies and says their revenues could grow to $44 billion by 2031. That's because they will displace some server DRAM, and also NOR flash and SRAM — either as standalone chips or as embedded memory within ASICs and microcontrollers.

The emerging memory market is set to grow substantially with 3D XPoint revenues reaching $20 billion-plus by 2031, and standalone MRAM and STT-RAM reaching $1.7 billion in revenues by then. The report predicts that the bulk of embedded NOR and SRAM in SoCs will be replaced by embedded ReRAM and MRAM.

A chart shows XPoint capacity ships crossing the 100,000PB level in 2028 and so surpassing DRAM, whose capacity growth is slowing slightly. The chart shows XPoint capacity shipped being 1000PB this year. That number will grow 100x to 100,000PB in 2028.

Related: Micron Abandons 3D XPoint, Puts Fab Up for Sale
Micron Sells 3D XPoint Fab to Texas Instruments, Not Intel


Original Submission

Micron Sells 3D XPoint Fab to Texas Instruments, Not Intel 1 comment

Micron Sells Lehi 3D XPoint Fab to Texas Instruments for $900M

Back in March of this year, Micron announced that it would be getting out of the 3D XPoint business entirely, abandoning the technology and putting its sole 3D XPoint fab up for sale. Now a short few months later, Micron has secured a buyer for the fab – and it's not Intel. Rather it will be Texas Instruments who picks up the fab, buying it off of Micron for $900 million with plans to convert it over to analog and embedded processors.

The sale of the Lehi fab is the latest and final chapter in Micron's years-long efforts to unwind its non-volatile memory joint venture with Intel, IM Flash. Over the last decade Micron has acquired Intel's share of the business in multiple stages, culminating in acquiring the crown jewel of the former partnership, the Lehi, Utah 3D XPoint fab, in 2018. Since then, Micron decided that it would dissolve its 3D XPoint partnership with Intel entirely, culminating with the company abandoning the technology entirely, leaving Micron with a modern fab that it didn't have an immediate need for.

Previously: Micron Abandons 3D XPoint, Puts Fab Up for Sale


Original Submission

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