Updates: Globalization, Matrix 3D, & SSDs

Globalization: India
More on: “One Billion New Consumers

Clearly Eli and Sanjay understand the opportunities afforded by globalization. My biggest worry is that SanDisk’s middle management is complacent in California. It is one thing to talk the talk and entirely another to walk the walk, or put another way Calcutta is a long way from Milpitas.

My hope is that the msystems acquisition is going to be a blessing in this regard. Those in Kfar Saba don’t live in a one-language world, or even a two-language world for that matter. Imagine it must have been a tremendous shock for those folks to go from reporting to Dov to being subsumed by what must have felt like USA-centric middle-management lethargy.

As I understand the new SanDisk corporate organizational chart, it seems likely that the tables have been turned for some in California who now have to report to Kfar Saba. To my mind these CA folks are the lucky ones. They get initiated into globalization ASAP.

Also encouraging is SNDK’s India strategy. India along with China ranks as one of the most important growth opportunities for the next two decades. India’s rising and unique middle class will reshape global consumer markets.

In 2006 SanDisk made two important strategic moves to help focus on India. First in February SanDisk opened a flash memory design center in Bangalore, then in October announced distribution relationships with Ingram Micro and Rashi Peripherals, to sell SanDisk products throughout India. It was thought that these two distribution relationships will add more than 14,000 outlets for SanDisk products in India in 2007.

Matrix 3D
More on: “The Promise and Challenge of Matrix 3D

In the Q2 conference call, both Sanjay Mehrotra and Judy Bruner had interesting things to say about SanDisk’s Matrix 3D technology.

According to Sanjay it is now down to two to three years of R&D for the R/W “to really fully materialize.” To make a comment like this, suspect that SNDK already has working lab samples.

Judy noted that last quarter SanDisk purchased equipment for 3D products and processes. This equipment in now at a “foundry.” As discussed in the 3D post, believe this foundry is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.

Have been doing some research into how SNDK might be planning to turn its 3D antifuse technology from OTP to R/W. Believe the old-time home fuse is a good analogy. OTP is like these old fuses. When such a fuse blows the circuit is interrupted and electricity stops flowing permanently (or at least until the fuse is changed.)

R/W is more like a modern circuit breaker. When required, a switch shuts off the flow of current. To reset (or R/W), the switch is reset.

So basically suspect SNDK has found a switchable semiconductor memory material (doped polycrystalline silicon) which can have various resistance states. Believe this material is likely a variation of a conventional semiconductor material in structure, works for 3D chips and is scalable to small size. Hence SNDK’s optimism.

SSDs and MLC
More on: “SSDs: From HDD Replacement to Removable Cards

Expect that we will get an announcement before the end of the year that SanDisk has started using MLC for SSDs. This will be a milestone, particularly for consumer SSDs which are particularly sensitive to cost. Current SSDs are SLC.

“SanDisk’s two-bit per cell flash.. could lower [SSD] costs ‘a few tens of percentage points,’ a SanDisk spokesman said.”

“Daniel Gelbtuch, CIBC: Ok, and then turning to SSD. Obviously with the pricing going up for a component, I guess not for you guys, but for everyone else in the world, I was wondering where do you think we should see the inflection point for SSD coming? Is it going to be function of how NAND compares in price to magnetic? Is there some trigger point that you think we will see a tipping, or a ramp of SSD?

Eli Harari: Well, we said, I said several times, that SSD really needs to shift to multilevel cell, MLC flash even, at basically at any technology node. In order for the SSD to become attractive at 32 GB or 64 GB for the consumer space, it certainly needs to go to the 56 nanometer or 50 nanometer or so, a generation of MLC and this is what we are focused on.

In the enterprise space, the service space, the pricing is substantially higher, the requirements are different, although the market there is relatively small, I mean smaller than the notebook market, it’s still a very substantial market and as you know that the disk drive people make all of their margins, the majority of their margin in the enterprise space. So, with the announcement about IBM server design win, we’re basically signaling that we are going to be addressing both the consumer SSD market and the server market.” Eli Q2cc


4 Responses to Updates: Globalization, Matrix 3D, & SSDs

  1. sambatyon says:

    Hi Savo,
    I would like to hear your comment on the WSJ article about new Hynix/Sandisk
    chip plant and Elis’s statement that they make something similar to NAND
    will this be X4 or maybe 3D?


  2. savolainen says:

    Hi Sambatyon

    Likely this “news” of the proposed new Hynix/SNDK 300 mm fab builds on the pr from March of this year where Hynix and SNDK announced a JV for x4 technology. The x4 JV is to manufacture memory components and sell NAND memory system solutions. Believe that all of this goes back to FLSH/Hynix unannounced technology cooperation for x4.

    Seems likely this fab would also produce MLC. Maybe 3 bit.

    Find it rather curious that Eli chose to “leak” the Hynix/SNDK fab news rather than just make an official announcement. Suspect there are some unannounced wrinkles to this.

    EE Times Europe picked up the story and noted that a German web site Heise.de reported that the new fab will be built in Switzerland. That seems a bit bizarre.

    There is a Swiss side to the Hynix NAND story though. Hynix’s ex-ish NAND partner STMicro is Swiss. As you are probably aware, STM and SNDK have been wrangling over patents. STM doesn’t/didn’t want to pay up. Probably not so important now.

    STM was hoping to be a major player through their Hynix partnership. It didn’t work out and STM is in retreat mode. STM’s plan is to spin off its NOR and NAND business.

    Seems like SNDK is in position to replace STM as Hynix’s partner. STM was Hynix’s partner for its new Wuxi Chinese 300mm fab. Maybe SNDK will replace STM in that partnership. WSJ might have missed that angle. A pr would clear this up. Maybe that’s why we haven’t gotten one yet?

    In any case have a few more thoughts on potential angles including 3D, but will leave it at that. Have been thinking of doing another update post after TSEM. If things work out that way will expand then and there.


  3. Poofypuppy says:

    Hi Savo,

    While eagerly awaiting your next post, I wanted to comment on SSD in the enterprise space. The organization where I work as an HP SAN with 146GB Fibre Channel hard drives. Since this SAN supports all our production Oracle databases, it is essential that we maintain our support contracts with HP on it. The monthly support cost is roughly $150 per month for each 146GB disk drive… a lot of money! Out of the 140 total disks in our SAN, we experience one disk failure about every 8 weeks. Although I’m not 100% positive, I believe that most of the drives fail for mechanical reasons. The introduction of flash SSDs should improve performance (higher I/O) and also reduce electrical usage and also cooling needs. As long as the issue of read/write cycles is suitably handled (favoring SLC over MLC?), the support costs for SSDs should be significantly lower than for rotating disks. It appears that SanDisk capacities only go up to 64GB, but if/when they reach 128GB (and do so reliably), they will be entering the large-enterprise, big-dollar, prime-time arena.


  4. savolainen says:

    Hi poofy,

    That TSEM post was a mouthful. Still a lot more to say. For example skipped over the TSEM design center. Had to stop where I did, to be done — today. Find Ellwanger a rather likeable guy. The politics of TSEM must be rather amazing. Bet he has stories to tell. Find it remarkable that he has landed on his feet in Migdal Haemek.

    Doubt he speaks Hebrew. How many Mormons do?

    One of my favorite parts of the TSEM presentation is when Ellwanger notes that “Time is the teller of all truth.” Yep.

    Thanks for the info on your personal experience of SSD enterprise issues/challenges. My sense is that 2008 will be known as the year of the SSD. SanDisk is the obvious pure-play.


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