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Samsung tosses lifeline to Netlist NVDIMMs

Turns from Diablo litigation hell to Samsung heaven

Flash DIMM technology developer Netlist has signed a five-year joint development deal with global memory leader Samsung to produce non-volatile DIMMs, giving it a lifeline from years of litigation hell against Diablo Technologies over memory channel storage IP.

The basic concept is to put flash chips on DDR3 and 4 memory DIMMS, thus giving the flash memory channel access, which has lower latency than PCIe flash cards. Netlist and Diablo Technologies worked together on this and then separated, Diablo licensing the resulting Memory Channel Storage to SMART Storage.

SMART then produced ULLtraDIMM product using this tech, and Huawei, Lenovo (IBM servers originally) and Supermicro took it on in OEM deals. SanDisk bought that piece of SMART and inherited the Diablo licensing deal. Western Digital is now buying SanDisk.

NetList alleged Diablo misappropriated its IP and sued it, with Diablo countersuing, and the two entering costly and ongoing IP litigation hell.

Business results for Netlist have been poor. Revenues for its third 2015 quarter were a slim $1.6m, compared to $4.8m a year go. There was a $5.4m net loss; it was $4.1m a year ago. Ho hum, you think, this company is really struggling.

Step forward Sammy in white knight guise, with a gift of $8m cash from Samsung Electronics and a $15m investment in Netlist from Samsung Venture Investment Corporation. That $23m will come in very handy indeed. Netlist and Samsung intend to sample NVDIMM product to select customers in 2016.

This product will use Samsung DRAM and NAND, and Netlist’s HyperVault technology.

Netlist CEO and president C.K. Hong talked of this being a transformational partnership with Samsung.

They are intent on using open standards, adopting the Storage Network Industry Association’s NVDIMM-P (NV-P) scheme to describe storage class memory products combining the functionalities of persistent DRAM and block-accessed NAND Flash, and operating in the memory channel.

They say no system software modifications will be needed. Target application areas include big data analytics, virtualisation, in-memory database, online transaction processing and high performance databases.

By having such technology, Samsung will have a base on which to mount potential ReRAM chips and have a competitor to Intel and Micron’s 3D XPoint memory, along with the HP-SanDisk-ReRAM initiative. ®

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