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Intel wants top spot in SSD market

Posted: 08 Feb 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solid-state drive? SSD? NAND flash? Intel NAND strategy?

Intel, Micron, Samsung and SanDisk-Toshiba are vertically integrated SSD vendors. They have their own NAND fabs and also have their own controller technologies. This in turn may give these vendors an advantage in the marketplace.

But until now, SSDs have been a niche product. Some high-end notebook PCs and netbooks have SSDs. The problem with SSDs is cost, and, in some cases, reliability, as compared to conventional HHDs.

The idea is to bring SSDs "beyond the niche markets," Rampone said. "In 2010, we see a lot of momentum for SSDs."

The key for Intel and Micron in SSDs is the 25nm NAND part. "Both companies are currently sampling to select customers and controller makers. Both also remarked that this was one further step that would help bring SSDs into the mainstream," said Handy of Objective Analysis.

"At a die size of 167mm a 300mm fab should be able to manufacture just over 400 dice per wafer," said Handy in a report. "This gives a manufacturing cost of about $4.00 per chip, or $0.50/GB. Compare this to a more common 45nm MLC NAND on a 300mm line which should cost about $1.75/GB. Since the price of NAND flash has been hovering around $2.00/GB for the past year, and seems poised to continue at that price through 2010, the 25nm process will give the companies a significant margin boost over their current 34nm chip whose cost we estimate at $1.00/Gigabyte."

The big question is clear: Will SSDs replace hard drives? One new SSD vendor, Seagate, "argues that SSDs will not compete against HDDs but will expand the overall storage market," Handy pointed out.

"Although we agree that there is no reason for mainstream HDDs to be threatened by SSDs, Objective Analysis and several industry participants (OEMs as well as makers of both SSDs and HDDs) believe that the enterprise HDD market will decline as a combination of SSDs and capacity HDDs satisfies the need currently filled by enterprise HDDs. In short, it may not be too long before SSDs render enterprise HDDs obsolete," he said.

Over time, OEMs should also look for a major shakeout in SSDs, as more and more players enter the fray. Seagate, Western Digital and others, for example, are looking at the sector to protect their HDD bases.

"Since SSDs are destined to replace enterprise HDDs, it is extremely important that Seagate, manufacturer of over 60 percent of the world's enterprise HDDs, should participate in the SSD market. If Seagate were to ignore SSDs, then the enterprise market, a market that the company has dominated for 15 years, would slip through the company's fingers. Today Enterprise HDDs are the more profitable part of Seagate's business," Handy said in a recent report.

"Something that separates Seagate from other HDD makers is that the company has internally designed its own SSDs. Western Digital became an SSD manufacturer through the acquisition of SiliconSystems. Hitachi is entering the SSD market by adding enterprise-class interfaces to Intel's basic SSD design. Toshiba-Fujitsu manufactures and sells SSDs through the Toshiba's semiconductor group, but there appears to be little interaction between that business and Toshiba's HDD division," he said in a recent report.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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