Intel Corp., the world’s No. 1 non-memory semiconductor producer, has shown off its advanced technology in memory semiconductors in Seoul, issuing a challenge to Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, the two leaders of the global memory industry.
“We know that the yield of 128-layer NAND flash memory-based solid state drive (SSD) of our competitors is not very high. But Intel’s yield is high enough not to worry about mass production next year,” said Rob Crooke, Intel senior vice president and general manager of Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group during an event held at JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul hotel in Jung-gu on Sept. 26.
Intel held “Memory & Storage Day 2019” in South Korea, where Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix that are two powerhouses in the memory semiconductor market, for the first time with a great number of key executives of the headquarters in attendance. At the event, the company presented its memory semiconductor strategy and showed its strong confidence in the memory chip market, citing the yield issue of South Korean competitors.
Intel announced that it will release not only the second generation of its Optane Data Center Persistent Memory (DCPM), which targets the memory market, but also the world’s first data center SSD with 144-layer quad level cell (QLC) NAND flash memory, which is more integrated than 128-layer NAND products of Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, next year. It is part of its strategy to respond to the demand of data centers and computer users which require advanced technology that can stack more cells than the triple level cell (TLC) NAND flash which is in wide use.
In this regard, market experts said, “It seems that Intel wants to show off its high technical skills in the memory sector in where Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix have strengths such as DRAM and NAND and keep Samsung which is seeking to expand investment in the non-memory sector in check.”
In particular, Crooke expressed his strong confidence in its 144-layer quad level cell (QLC) NAND flash memory product which would be a weapon to attack SK Hynix and Samsung Electronics and stressed that the company would compete fiercely with South Korean businesses in the SSD market next year. He said, “Intel has always remained in first or second place in the data center SSD market, and we will continue to maintain it.”
Crooke hinted the possibility of development of “in-package technology” which combines the central processing unit (CPU) and the Optane memory. The industry believes that Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix will be hit hard if Intel, which records a share of more than 90 percent in the server processor market, dominates the memory market as well. Crooke said, “Intel which has strengths both in memory and system memory chips will pursue strategy based on platforms that maximize the potential of systems through memory chips.”
Intel jointly developed the Optane persistent memory with Micron in 2017. The new technology has merits of both DRAM and NAND flash memory chips so it keeps data safe and has a higher processing speed even if there is an interruption to the power supply.
Intel announced that it has already agreed to supply its Optane DCPM to not only global leading companies, such as Microsoft, Dell, Oracle and Baidu, but also major firms in South Korea, including Hyundai Motor, Naver and Netmarble. Hyundai Motor is planning to use the Optane memory technology in the research and development (R&D) sector to respond to the autonomous driving and connected car markets, while Naver will strengthen its competitiveness in clouds by introducing Intel’s second generation of Xeon processor and Optane DCPM at the same time.
Intel also unveiled the memory production line of its Rio Rancho plant in New Mexico for the first time in the world. The company has been manufacturing its Optane memory at Micron’s plants so far. However, it will now produce the memory at the new production line on its own.