A fundamental shift is happening in hardware. The shift from good old, reliable DRAM (DDR3) towards DDR4 and 3D NAND is happening on the manufacturing side. In the last few months, supply in DRAM hurt the profits for manufacturers, but the down cycle in demand is signaling many things worth watching.
There was abundance in supply for desktop DRAM in the last quarter. Prices moderated for memory, while demand weakened. PC manufacturers either built up inventory early this year, or are unwilling to stock up too much memory in light of falling prices. There is no catalyst encouraging demand for PCs at this time. This means that without Windows 10 released, sales for desktops will likely moderate for a while.
Memory manufacturers also recognize that the PC market is falling quickly. Growth and demand is strongest in mobile. Firms like Micron Technology are exploring low-powered, 25 nanometer DDR4. The company is anticipating adoption for LPDDR4 (“low power DDR”) in smart phones. As the app software on smart phones gets more complicated and hungry for memory resources, expect DDR4 in devices soon.
In the data center and HPC (“High Performance Computing” data center), DDR4 will become a need for the next upgrade cycle. Demand for completing complex computations in real-time will drive the need for much faster memory. Currently, some hybrid cloud solutions may still offer a platform that supports up to 1 million peak IOPS. 4D Cloud 2.0 provides such a performance for its cloud hosting solution.
NAND becoming main stream
Traditional hard disk space, while cheap and reliable, will give way to faster technology. Smartphones use NAND as a component for storage. It is also used in SSDs for desktops and servers. Seagate recognizes hard drives are moving towards SSDs. This is why it partnered with Micron Technology through a strategic alliance.
In the consumer space, SSD pricing is dropping rapidly. If Microsoft, Intel, and AMD could only make it widely known how much faster Windows boots with SSD, demand would probably sky-rocket. Even without too much advertising, SSDs are becoming standard parts for new PC builds.
3D NAND is the next evolutionary step in NAND storage manufacturing. Once ready (probably by the end of this year), 3D NAND will cut the cost of SSD while offering greater capacity. Even without its availability, Intel is forging ahead in offering high-capacity SSDs on 16 nanometer manufacturing. The Intel SSD Data Center S3510 Series offers capacity ranging from 80GB to 1.6TB. Read and write speeds are as fast as 68,000 IOPS (for random 4KB3 reads). IOPS stands for “Input/Output Operations Per Second.”
Technology is continuing its fast pace forward, but the storage and processing speeds are getting faster. This is due to the improvements in the manufacture of memory and storage. By later this year, storage will get much faster, much cheaper, and much bigger in capacity.