In a sudden however maybe not too stunning announcement, Micron has acknowledged that they’re ceasing all R&D of 3D XPoint reminiscence expertise. Intel and Micron co-developed 3D XPoint reminiscence, revealed in 2015 as a non-volatile reminiscence expertise with increased efficiency and endurance than NAND flash reminiscence.
Intel has been answerable for nearly all the industrial quantity of 3D XPoint-based merchandise, beneath their Optane model for each NVMe SSDs and chronic reminiscence modules within the DIMM type issue. Micron in 2016 introduced their QuantX brand for 3D XPoint merchandise, however by no means shipped something beneath that model. Their first and solely actual product based mostly on 3D XPoint was the X100 high-end enterprise SSD which noticed very restricted launch to shut companions. Micron has now determined that additional work to commercialize 3D XPoint reminiscence is not definitely worth the funding.
Micron at the moment owns the one fab geared up to mass-produce 3D XPoint reminiscence: the Lehi, Utah fab that was previously the house of the Intel-Micron flash and 3D XPoint three way partnership IMFT. Intel and Micron started splitting up their partnership in 2018, first parting ways for 3D NAND flash reminiscence improvement, adopted by dissolving the 3D XPoint partnership after finishing improvement on the second era 3D XPoint. In 2019, Micron exercised their rights to buy out Intel’s share of the IMFT fab, leaving Micron as the only proprietor of the fab and Intel within the place of buying 3D XPoint wafers from Micron to make use of in Optane merchandise. Intel’s Optane merchandise haven’t been sufficient to totally make the most of the capability of that fab, and Micron’s non-GAAP working income have been taking a success of over $400 million per yr in underutilization prices.
Micron is now placing that 3D XPoint fab up on the market, and is at the moment engaged in discussions with a number of potential consumers. Intel is the obvious potential purchaser, having not too long ago begun the lengthy technique of selling their NAND flash and flash-based SSD business to SK hynix whereas maintaining their Optane merchandise. Intel has already moved their 3D XPoint R&D to Rio Rancho, NM however has not constructed up any 3D XPoint mass manufacturing capability of their very own; shopping for the Lehi, UT fab would save them the difficulty of equipping eg. their NAND fab in Dalian, China to additionally manufacture 3D XPoint.
Nonetheless, Intel is just not assured to be the customer of the Lehi, UT fab. They’ve likely had alternatives to take action earlier than as Intel and Micron unwound their partnership. Micron states that the Lehi, UT fab could possibly be used to provide analog or logic ICs, not simply reminiscence—and that changing it to large-scale manufacturing of DRAM or NAND flash reminiscence wouldn’t be as interesting to Micron as merely increasing capability at their different present fabs. With widespread semiconductor shortages affecting nearly all corners of the business, this fab is more likely to promote shortly even when the customer must put substantial effort into retooling.
Micron doesn’t have a direct alternative lined up for 3D XPoint reminiscence expertise, however continues R&D into new reminiscence and storage applied sciences. Micron’s announcement is emphasizing a pivot towards growing reminiscence merchandise that may use the Compute Categorical Hyperlink (CXL) interface, which guarantees to be a vendor-neutral interface for DRAM and non-volatile recollections resembling 3D XPoint.