Micron Technology knows as well as anyone just how bad the memory market has become. For the eight-straight time, the Boise, Idaho-based memory maker posted a loss as it struggles to cope with declining chip prices. But despite the company's best efforts, Micron posted a net loss of $706 million, or 91 cents per diluted share, for the quarter ended December 4, 2008.
While the loss itself doesn't come as a surprise, the total amount does. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg were expecting Micron to post a loss of 45 cents per share, but slumping prices continues to take its toll. Prices for DRAM and NAND flash memory have fallen 34 percent and 24 percent respectively, Cnet reports, and relief doesn't appear to be on the way anytime soon as memory companies look to cut production.
"The rate at which capacity comes back online will be determined by what the demand profile is through the first half of '09," Micron CEO Steve Appleton said during a conference call. "If you talk to the equipment guys, they will tell you that they may not have any business in '09 in certain categories."
Earlier this year, Micron announced plans to cut 15 percent of its global workforce as part of a two-year restructuring plan.
Micron this week announced it has been working with Sun Microsystems to develop a new single-level cell (SLC) NAND technology the company claims "dramatically extends the lifespan of flash-based storage." Just how dramatic? According to Micron, production devices are capable of one million write cycles, offering the highest available write and erase cycling of any NAND technology currently available.
"Micron is pleased to work with Sun on this landmark achievement, enabling the use of flash in new applications that were previously not possible because of the inherent write/erase cycle limitations of standard SLC and MLC NAND," said Brian Shirley, vice president of Micron’s memory group. "We expect this technology to revolutionize the enterprise storage hierarchy and be adopted by a wide range of transaction-intensive applications, including solid state drives and storage systems, disk caching, as well as networking and industrial applications."
Micron said it is sampling its Enterprise NAND in densities up to 32Gb (that's gigabits, not gigabytes), with volume production on slate for the first quarter of 2009. The company also plans to unveil SLC and multi-level cell (MLC) enterprise versions of its 34nm NAND process early next year.
If you're going to throw the gauntlet down, do it a big way and let the competition know what they're up against. That's exactly what Micron has done, who demoed a new SSD drive like no other we've seen before.
Unlike standard SSDs, which come equipped for either a PATA or SATA interface, Micron's prototype drive eschews such quaint bandwidth limits and instead makes do with a PCI-E slot. The end result is a new level of benchmarking that blows every other SSD to date out of the water, including Intel's mighty X-25M.
The YouTube video does a poor job of zeroing in on the benchmarks during the demonstration, but Micron's Joe Jeddeloh reads off the numbers as the two-card test setup runs through a short series of tests. During an Iometer run, Jeddeloh claims the dual drive configuration posted 200,000 IOPS (input/output operations per second), proclaiming "that's what Flash can do when managed correctly."
While the demonstration showed two cards running in unison, later in the video Jeddeloh holds up a single PCI-E card that combines the two displayed in the test bed with 16 Flash channels and an x8 PCI-E connector. He says the card will achieve over 1GB/s of bandwidth and at least 200,000 IOPS, "coming to you soon."
Intel and their memory-producing partner, Micron, have recently started mass-producing the first of their 34nm NAND flash memory. The smaller chips allow the two companies behind them to make single chip layers with 4GB of storage. This paves the way for two layer stacks that can hold as many as 64GB.
This new and improved flash memory is currently being aimed at portable electronics such as cell phones or MP3 players. What’s even better, is the possibility of a substantial increase in size of solid-state drives! And it shouldn’t be too far off, either. Thanks to their speedy manufacturing they’re currently looking to implement the first wave of chips in early 2009.
It’s expected that one of the first companies to take advantage of the tiny chips is Apple, who has been stuck at a 32GB storage ceiling on the popular iPhone and iPod touch.
SSDs are the hottest trend in storage, but how long will an SSD last? Right now,there's no industry standard for longevity or reliability. However, Cnet reports that Seagate and JEDEC are working together to establish a standards-based method for determining those factors.
Seagate isn't alone in working with JEDEC, the standards body responsible for standards in the solid-state industry. Earlier this year, X-bit Labs reported that JEDEC's JC-64.8 committee, which is responsible for developing SSD standards for embedded and removable storage, is being co-chaired by Micron Technologies and Seagate.
Micron brings its experience in memory technologies, while Seagate brings its experience in drive reliability to the endeavor. As Cnet reports:
Seagate says it can tap into the decades of expertise it has in error correction. "Some of the skills we've picked up along the way, to deal with imperfect media, has applicability to dealing with imperfect media on NAND."
Seagate's own SSDs won't hit the market until 2009, but hopefully its work with JEDEC to set standards for reliability will help make all SSDs more reliable.
So, what do you think? Will Seagate's presence on the JEDEC committee responsible for SSD standards make this latecomer to SSDs the one to trust when product finally hits the street? Or, are you ready to use SSDs right now? Join us after the jump for your chance to sound off.
Cheap memory prices are taking a toll on chip manufacturers, with Micron last week reporting a $344 million fourth quarter loss, the seventh quarter in a row the company has been in the red. The fallout of another quarterly loss was to fall on the shoulders of executives, who Micron said would see a 20 percent pay cut. Now it appears it won't be enough.
In addition to the high level pay cuts, Micron now says it plans to reduce its global workforce by about 15 percent. The job reduction is part of a restructuring plan and will be rolled out over the next two years with most of the cuts taking place in Boise, Idaho.
"The combination of declining customer demand and product oversupply in the marketplace has driven selling prices for NAND flash memory significantly below manufacturing costs," Micron said in a statement.
Because of this, IM Flash Technologies (IMFT), which is a joint venture between Micron and Intel, will stop producing NAND flash memory from Micron's Boise facility, a move that will reduce IMFT's flash production by about 35,000 wafers per month.
One of the biggest hurdles preventing solid state drives from bursting into the mainstream continues to be the relatively high price points compared to traditional hard drives. Recent strides have started to reverse this trend, with OCZ pushing its lower cost Core series and Super Talent slashing the price tag on its MasterDrive MX line, but SSDs still have a ways to go if they're to challenge HDDs for the bang-for-buck crown.
Stepping to the plate is Micron, who today announced it will ship a series of speedy SSDs up to 256GB in capacity as part of its next-generation RealSSD line. But the real story here is that Micron's new line will check in at one third the price per gigabyte of existing drives.
Hit the jump to see what Micron has to say about the RealSSD's pricing strategy after the jump.