Perhaps the DRAM market is on the road to recovery after all. Business has picked up as of late, and according to Pai Pei-Lin, VP and spokesperson of Nanya Technology, contract prices for DRAM chips will continue to climb next month.
In a sort of domino effect, Pai said he expects Windows 7 to set in motion a long overdue upgrade cycle that has been stalled the past three years because of disinterest in Vista. This will mean even higher demand for DRAM chips, potentially reaching the DRAM market's peak it in 1995, and ultimately a shortage of chips in 2010 as memory makers reach their limits in capacity output.
According to Pai, DDR2 and DDR3 will likely split the market evenly in the first quarter of 2010, but their could be a pricing disparity. Contract prices for DDR2 chips have been rising since August and finally surpassed DDR3 this month, and that trend looks to continue for at least the next couple of months, Pai noted.
After a flurry of activity in the solid state drive market, it's been comparatively quiet the past few weeks, but we finally have some new developments to report. As you may recall, the controllers used in SSDs can have a significant impact on performance, and Micron thinks it has a winner on its hands with its just-developed JFM612 NAND flash controller chip.
Micron's first controller ran into some pesky performance problems, some of which they fixed with the JMF602B controller. But the initial hiccups left the door open for competitors to step in, like Indilinx did with its Barefoot controller. Like Barefoot, Micron's new chip is able to use 32nm flash chips, which helps lower the cost of SSDs.
After a few initial issues with the new controller, DailyTech reports that Micron has finally begun mass producing JFM612 chips. The first SSDs to utilize them will be Active Media with the launch of their Predator-X7 series. Along with Micron's new controller, the Predator-X7 will come with 128MB of DRAM cache to eliminate any chance of stuttering, and boast sequential read and write speeds of up to 230MB/s and 180MB/s, respectively.
Six months ago, the the Predator-X7 would have been a real barn burner, but it's tough to get too excited over 180MB/s writes anymore. However, more SSDs built around Micron's new controller are on the way, and you can probably expect these to give today's offerings a run for their money.
SanDisk on Tuesday announced that it has begun shipping flash memory cards based on the company's X4 flash memory technology. Chips built using the new technology hold four bits of data in each memory cell, or twice as many as the cells in conventional multi-level cell (MCL) NAND chips, the company said.
"The development and commercialization of X4 technology represents an important milestone for the flash storage industry," said Sanjay Mehrotra, president and chief operating officer, SanDisk. "Our challenge with X4 technology was to not only deliver the lower costs inherent to 4-bits-per-cell, but to do so while meeting the reliability and performance requirements of industry standard cards that employ MLC NAND."
SanDisk called the shipment of X4 memory a "necessary evolution" for the industry, noting that the technology will result in a cost advantage for consumers.
In a change of pace, DDR2 pricing has finally surpassed DDR3, at least on the contract side. According to DRAMeXchange, contract quotes for 2GB DDR2 modules jumped up to an average of $31.50 in the first half of October, a little above DDR3's $31 quote. In addition, 1Gb (gigabit, not gigabyte) DDR2 chips have settled at $1.78, slightly above DDR3 at $1.75.
In the spot market, DRAMeXchange notes that prices for 1Gb DDR2 surged by 5 percent in a single day on October 8, and average quotes for 1Gb DDR2 800MHz chips managed to top the $2 mark at $2.24.
What this all means going forward is anyone's guess in the unpredictable memory market. But it at least appears that DDR3 will become a better bang/buck investment on the consumer side than DDR2. Elpida has already announced plans to increase output of DDR3 chips from 20,000-30,000 up to around 75,000 wafers per month, and Samsung also said it would ramp up production.
Has your PC been on th fritz lately? If so, there's a good chance it's the system memory causing all those headaches, according to Google's research. Google, which has several thousand computers in its data centers, collected real-world data on its systems and wrote a research paper (PDF) titled "DRAM Errors in the Wild: A Large-Scale Field Study."
"We found the incidence of memory errors and the range of error rates across different DIMMs (dual pin-line memory modules) to be much higher than previously reported," according to the paper written by Bianca Schroeder, a professor at the University of Toronto, and Google's Eduardo Pinheiro and Wolf-Dietrich Weber. "Memory errors are not rare events."
The results might surprise you. Google's research reveals that correctable memory errors occur in one of every three of the company's servers each year, and one in a hundred suffer an uncorrectable error, which usually leads to a crash.
It's important to note that Google's servers use ECC (error correction code) memory, yet each module, on average, suffered nearly 4,000 correctable errors per year. So what's the big deal if they're correctable? A correctable error on a Google machine is likely an uncorrectable error on your PC, says Peter Glaskowsky, an analyst at the Envisioneering Group.
However, Glaskowsky also points out that most consumer PCs aren't manipulating tons of data in memory.
Look for low-power DDR3 modules to hit retailers before the end of the year. That's because Elpida Memory today said it has finished development of its 40nm 2-gigabit (2Gb, with a lowercase 'b') DDR3 SDRAM and will ship samples next November. Mass production is slated to begin before the end of 2009.
On the manufacturing side, Elpida's smaller 40nm chips allows the company to achieve a 44 percent higher chip yield per wafer compared to 50nm, and a 100 percent yield for DDR3 products that operate at 1.6Gbps, the company said.
Elpida claims its 40nm 2Gb DDR3 chips use about two-thirds less current and support 1.2V to 1.35V operation, in addition to the DDR3 standard 1.5V. That's about a 45 percaent reduction in power consumption, which might not sound like much for a typical home user, but could add up in a server farm.
For probably the first time in a very long time, the future appears bright for the memory market. Either that, or A-Data chairman Simon Chen is sporting an awfully bright pair of rose-colored glasses.
According to Chen, both the NAND flash and DRAM sectors have recovered in the second half of 2009, following the easing of an oversupply of chips that previously kept prices uncomfortably low. Chen views this as a positive sign moving forward, saying the overall memory sector is expected to return to its 2006 or 2007 form in 2010.
If true, this bodes particularly well for A-Data, who has aspirations of once again reigning as the most profitable among Taiwan-based memory module companies in 2010. A-Data is planning on expanding in India, Russia, Brazil, and Mexico, and according to Chen, sales generated from the emerging markets should grow significantly in 2010.
Like that cold you can't seem to shake, DDR2 has been hanging onto the market place, even as new platforms make a push for DDR3. That all changes six months from now, as DDR3 finally becomes the mainstream memory, says Morgan Stanley analyst Frank Wang.
Samsung, Hynix, Elpida, and Micron have all started to reshuffle manufacturing to allocate more capacity to DDR3 output, and of course that means scaling down DDR2 parts. And for those who are unable to produce DDR3 chips, they will be forced to pack their bags and exit the market when DDR3 supplants DDR2, Wang said.
In the meantime, DDR2 pricing is poised to fall once again. However, Wang warned that chip suppliers shouldn't take this as a sign that DDR2 is here to stay and they need to be aware of DDR3's impending march into the mainstream.
The price suppliers pay for DDR2 RAM has been climbing slowly for some time. Now it may have finally crossed paths with DDR3 prices, says price tracker DRAMexchange. The cost of a 1Gb 800Mhz chip has risen to $2, about the same as DDR3.As more platforms add support for DDR3, adoption has accelerated.
The increase in price had been accelerating in the last few weeks. It has gotten to the point that PC OEMs find supplies of DDR2 chips to be dwindling. When an OEM can get more advanced DDR3 for the same price, the market should switch over, according to analysts.This means you may be seeing a lot more DDR3 RAM in computers going forward.
OCZ on Thursday expanded its DDR3 lineup to include its new Black Edition 4GB kits intended for AMD's next-gen Phenom II processors, the memory maker said.
"OCZ is excited to launch our new AMD Black Edition Ready Series which is designed specifically to work with AMD's OverDrive software utility," said Eugene Chang, vice president of Product Management at OCZ. "The new OCZ Black Edition modules not only interact with AOD to overclock the memory, but also communicate with the BIOS to increase the frequency and performance of the memory controller. The result is a symbiotic relationship between memory and the rest of the system to unleash the full power of the Dragon Platform."
Two new kits make up the new series, both spec'd at 1600MHz and boasting a low 1.65 voltage. The only difference between the two comes down to timings, with the looser kit rated at 8-8-8-24 and the tighter timed kit sporting 7-7-7-24 latencies.