How the new data economy is driving memory to 3D NAND

An article written by Lynnette Reese, Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Systems Engineering – In the past, growth has primarily been driven by processors with architecture that has been focused on computation. However, the next generation of computing has shown itself to be more memory-centric, with a lake of data in the center of processing power.

Semiconductor markets are seeing the emergence of memory-centric computing. The current trends of the data economy and Artificial Intelligence (AI) seem to be driving growth in memory. Backing this up, SEMI (, a global industry association serving the manufacturing supply chain for the electronics industry, has increased its worldwide semiconductor revenue forecast for the latter half of 2018 to 15 percent higher [THAN 2017 REVENUES?] rather than the original 7.5 percent higher. The growth engine for chip revenue has been processors with computation-focused architecture—think desktops and supercomputers. This type of processor is physically placed in the middle of the cluster on the die and interfaces with the southbridge, while the northbridge has interfaces to the CPU, DRAM, PCIe, and to the hard drive or a Solid-State Drive (SSD). However, the next generation of computing is proving to be more memory-centric, with a lake of data in the center of processing power.

New data economy brings changes
Cloud services like Amazon Web Service (AWS) access a centralized “data lake” that is easily 100 or 200 TB of DRAM. According to AWS, a data lake “allows you to store all your structured and unstructured data at any scale. You can store your data as-is, without having first to structure the data.” The surrounding processors access the data lake for different purposes. GPUs might be tuned for machine learning, FPGAs might be accelerating other processes, and other processors might just be driving data traffic. However, the relatively new data economy and cloud-related elements such as the data lake architecture are one of the factors that have been propelling the growth in memory sales over the last two or three years. DRAM prices increased dramatically due to shortages in 2018, although DRAMExchange indicates that memory prices may drop by as much as 15% – 25% next year as a reaction to the oversupply.

Mike Howard, VP of DRAM and Memory Research and Walt Coon, VP of NAND and Memory Research, both at Yole Developpement, maintain that “In the last two years, the DRAM and NAND memory business hit record-high revenues. The industry announced an impressive 32% CAGR between 2016 and 2018, with revenue growing from US$ 77 billion to an estimated US$ 177 billion.” Both DRAM graphics cards and servers were the cause of the high demand for DRAM in the recent past. The latest innovation in memory is 3D NAND, in which memory cells are stacked in multiple layers. 3D NAND memory is enabling a new storage solution primarily due to all the data that we are creating, saving, and analyzing. Up to recent times, storage has been about hard drives versus flash memory or SSD. Flash memory is fast, but it is more expensive, whereas the hard drive is slower but less expensive. 3D NAND technology is closing the cost gap rapidly… Full article