Impact on the computer industry
In a stroke, Intel and Micron are attempting to put a spoke in the wheel of other post-NAND technology developments such as phase-change memory and HP's memristors. They aim to be the productizers of the technology they have developed, and reap the financial rewards from that for many years.
They obviously feel they have a head-start on any other post-NAND technology, and will want to make product technology land-grabs using it, cutting out SK Hynix, Samsung, and Toshiba with their candidate post-NAND technologies in the process.
The two will be aggressively selling this technology to their OEM and other channel partners. The ability to develop drop-in products will be crucial here in persuading partners to play ball.
With two suppliers from the one fab there will be a degree of competition, but we are facing a duopoly in the making here.
We know Intel has a co-development SSD arrangement with HGST, matched by a similar Micron-Seagate deal. Therefore we could imagine HGST and Seagate being potential developers of products using 3D XPoint technology.
Our sister site The Platform notes that the new 3D XPoint chips could find their way into "areas as diverse as high performance computing simulations (enabling higher resolution, faster calculations), genomics (where the data volumes for comparative matching is critical), other large scale pattern recognition and machine learning algorithms, and even in gaming, where the drive for more fidelity and seamless gameplay is bottlenecked by the time it takes between memory and the CPU."
Products and timescales
Chips will be fabricated at IMFT's Lehi foundry in Utah, with output shared between Intel and Micron.
The technology will be priced at more than NAND but less than DRAM.
Although it is a new storage tier between DRAM and NAND, the two suppliers don't see it replacing either. Intel's spokesperson said there was no sense of it relieving pressure to get 3D NAND technology products; it's pedal to the metal on that.
Products will be developed to target pretty much every market that needs DRAM and NAND, probably with high-end products first.
3D XPoint technology will sample later this year with selected customers. Micron and Intel will independently develop products, the first of which can be expected in 2016. The two have no plans to license the technology. ®