The new storage-class memory (SCM) category will be the biggest emerging NVM market, with embedded MCU seeking emerging NVM for strategic differentiation.
PCM leads the race to storage-class memory (SCM), but RRAM will catch up soon
In 2015, the Micron/Intel alliance presented a breakthrough stand-alone memory product called 3D Xpoint, developed in secret for many years, which uses PCM material instead of RRAM as we expected. Thus, after being down and out for a while, PCM made a big comeback in the emerging NVM race. This product has an amazingly high density for an emerging NVM (128 Gb), which is close to the latest NAND thanks to high node (20nm), a 3D crosspoint structure, and a good selector. We expect PCM will have the largest emerging NVM market share by 2021, thanks to its prominent promoters (Micron/Intel), which have sufficient influence to create a new SCM category using 3D Xpoint in the memory hierarchy. Indeed, creating a new memory category is a sea-change that will require numerous hardware and software developments by all memory ecosystem players. And while there is no general agreement, many experts believe DRAM sales will decrease due to SCM’s increased use. For this reason, many incumbent players, especially DRAM ones, have postponed their SCM product introduction in order to extend their DRAM profits, which over the last several years have been very high.
SCM will be the clear go-to market for emerging NVM in 2021. SCM will be adopted in enterprise storage and client applications, and later in mobile. SCM will greatly enhance systems’ speed and data protection, especially in data centers where traffic will explode in the coming years. Customers will use either PCM or RRAM for SCM Storage (S) type applications that require high capacity, and STTMRAM for SCM Memory (M) type applications where high endurance and speed are required.
A main selection criterion for memory is chip scalability/density, since this impacts both performance and cost. To this end, Yole’s report provides a precise memory roadmap in terms of technological nodes, chip density, and pricing.
In the stand-alone market mostly focused on SCM for the next five years, the big players’ technological choices are now quite clear: Micron/Intel have chosen PCM, SK Hynix and Sandisk/Western Digital have selected RRAM as the competitor to PCM for SCM applications, and Samsung seems also to favor RRAM thanks to its compatibility with the vertical 3D approach used for 3D NAND.
Substitution of 3D NAND by RRAM and DRAM by STTMRAM will commence very slowly before 2021, focused in niche applications where price is less sensitive. Indeed, incumbent technologies have found new solutions to further scale down their technologies, as has happened many times in the past.
This report provides a market forecast for each technology: by application, in units, in Gbit, by revenue, and also in number of wafers. It also presents a review of the main technological trends and some key technical developments by the main players.
Emerging NVM are key differentiating technologies for embedded MCU
Embedded MCUs often use eflash NVM technology, but this technology consumes lots of power and its scalability becomes cost-prohibitive at 28 nm node. With its recent scalability progress, emerging NVM will be increasingly used in low-power IoT & wearable, smart card, and other markets, first at 40 nm thanks to its lower power consumption, and then at 28 nm thanks to its competitive cost. The big question is, which emerging NVM to choose? Some early movers like Panasonic and SMIC have selected RRAM, while top foundries (TSMC, GF, Samsung) will propose STTMRAM in 2017 – 2018, and ST Microelectronic selected PCM for the 28 nm node in 2020. But many key players (Renesas, Infineon, Texas Instruments, MicroChip, Cypress) have not yet officially chosen. Considering the trend toward STTMRAM among the foundries, we expect STTMRAM will lead the embedded market in 2021. However, thanks to its lower cost, RRAM/PCM could take a larger market share if it is selected by some players.
This emerging NVM report describes why and how emerging NVM technologies will be increasingly used in various markets. The key market segments described in this report are: enterprise storage SCM; client SCM; low-power IoT & wearable; MCU smart card and other markets; mobiles devices; mass storage; and industrial, transportation, and consumer electronics.
Multiple players in the supply chain are participating in the emerging NVM market’s growth
Emerging NVM sales are still moderate ($53M in 2015), and limited to niche markets due to the limited density available. Higher density products’ introduction have been delayed by MRAM pioneers (Everspin, Crocus, Avalanche), and Micron/Intel delayed their PCM sales to 2017. The emerging NVM market in 2015 was thus considerably lower than the dominant volatile DRAM and non-volatile Flash memory businesses, which had combined revenues of almost $80B in 2015.
However, the global emerging NVM market will soar from $53M in 2015 to $4.6B by 2021, exhibiting an impressive growth of +110%/year. This forecast is based on a conservative scenario, but our report also provides a best-case scenario with an even broader adoption of NVM.
There are a wide variety of technologies, business models, and markets (stand-alone vs. embedded) in the emerging NVM market. As such, this report analyzes in detail the different supply chain players in the stand-alone and embedded markets, and their strategies to adopt emerging NVM:
- Integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) with internal manufacturing capabilities: These players dominate the highly concentrated stand-alone memory supply chain, with five players accounting for 90% of DRAM and NAND sales
- Foundries: These players (i.e. TSMC, GF, Samsung, TowerJazz) are the main chip manufacturers for embedded memory markets, namely mobile microprocessor units (MPU) and MCUs. They are very interested in initially adopting emerging NVM for the embedded business, but in the long run emerging NVM could also help them enter the stand-alone memory market and feed their expensive fabs.
- Emerging start-up NVM companies (Everspin, Crossbar, Adesto, Avalanche, etc.) target both stand-alone and embedded markets and rely on foundries’ manufacturing infrastructure. They are expected to be acquired by big IDMs when the emerging NVM market ramps up.
One big technological transition occurring right now is the substitution of HDDs with semiconductor NAND SSDs. The next revolution will be emerging NVM’s arrival. We have analyzed the supply chain’s dynamics to understand who today’s key market players are in each application and technology, and how the competitive landscape will evolve with the arrival of emerging NVM. We have also conducted a special analysis of the Chinese memory supply chain, which is growing rapidly thanks to huge Chinese government financing plans and the country’s substantial memory needs.
Objectives of the Report
This report’s objectives are to:
- Present an overview of the semiconductor memory market: NAND, DRAM, embedded MCU, and mobile MPU
- Provide an understanding of emerging NVM applications for seven applications : technologies, market trends, players, challenges, drivers.
- Offer market forecasts for the emerging NVM business for seven applications and three technologies : PCM, MRAM/STTMRAM, RRAM
- Describe emerging NVM technologies and players : roadmap, technical trends, key products.
- New market segment: Client SCM
- Modification of wearables segment into new “low-power Internet of Things (IoT) & wearables” segment
- Updated market forecast for phase-change memory (PCM), MRAM/STTMRAM, and RRAM
- Addition of chip density (Gb/mm2) to the market forecast
- Analysis of China’s memory market
- Main scientific conferences: trends analysis
- Main R&D labs: mapping
- In-depth analysis of embedded markets (MCU and mobile CPU)
- Deep analysis of foundry positions in the supply chain
- Start-up funding analysis
- Analysis of new entrants
- Analysis of technical trends for MRAM/STTMRAM, RRAM, and PCM