DRAMeXchange has published a report with six forecasts for the DRAM and NAND flash memory market in 2012 - 2015. According to the firm, DDR3 will remain the mainstream DRAM standard until 2014, ultrabooks will become the battleground for PC and mobile DRAM and SSD prices may drop under the $1 per GB mark in the second half of 2012.
According to DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce, the following report presents a forecast of six major DRAM and NAND Flash industry trends in 2012-2015.
Trend-1: Mainstream PC DRAM Specification DDR3 to Dominate Market Until 2014
DDR3 has been the mainstream PC DRAM specification since 2011, and DRAMeXchange expects it will remain so until 2014. Although JEDEC will officially announce standards for DDR4 in 2012, DRAMeXchange is conservative as to whether the new specification will follow the historical pattern set by DDR and DDR2 and hit the market in 2014-2015, as the marginal benefit to PC performance provided by DDR4 will be limited. However, Intel will still hold decisive influence over the matter.
Trend-2: Maturity of TSV and 2.5D/3D IC Technology will Influence Mobile DRAM Mainstream Specification
Since 2011, the mainstream specification for mobile DRAM chips has been LPDDR 2Gb. 2Gb LPDDR2 shipment volume is expected to see rapid growth in 2012, replacing LPDDR as the mainstream. In the future, mobile device bandwidth requirements will continue increasing to meet 3D multimedia needs; for the current maximum LPDDR2 bandwidth is only enough to fulfill demand in 2012. LPDDR3 is expected to take over in 2013. However, DRAMeXchange believes the competition between the LPDDR series and Wide I/O will continue in order to meet bandwidth requirements in 2014-2015. DRAMeXchange anticipates that the future maturity of TSV and 2.5D/3D IC technology will decide whether or not Wide I/O will rise in popularity.
Trend-3: Ultrabook to Become Battleground for PC and Mobile DRAM
In 2011, the mainstream ultrabook chip specification was DDR3 2Gb, and standard content per box was 4GB. In the future, as Intel’s new Ivy Bridge and Haswell platforms hit the market, possible DRAM choices will include DDR3L and LPDDR3. This is an indication that ultrabooks will be a battleground for PC and mobile DRAM. Mobile DRAM has the advantage of supporting ultrabook features such as AOAC (Always On, Always Connected) and quick recovery while consuming less power than PC DRAM, thereby meeting the ultrabook standby time requirement. DRAMeXchange expects if mobile DRAM is able to successfully break into the ultrabook supply chain, the former’s market size may exceed that of the latter to become the largest DRAM application market in 2015.
Trend-4: SSD Unit Cost May Fall Below US$1 Mark in 2H12, Growth Potential to be Unleashed
After SSD manufactured on the latest process technology enters mass production in 2H12, unit cost may fall below US$1 – the pricing sweet spot the market has been anticipating. When this occurs, DRAMeXchange expects ultrabook makers will transition from adopting hybrid HDD solutions to pure SSD solutions, and mainstream capacity will increase to 128GB. Ultrabook market share is expected to rise rapidly beginning in 3Q12. SSD NAND Flash consumption volume is expected to increase from 5.1% in 2011 to 15% in 2012. SSD will become the NAND Flash application product with the most explosive growth momentum.
Trend-5: SATA 3.0 to be Main PC-SSD Interface, May See Upgrade to Higher Speed, “PCle-like” Interface in the Future
In 2011, the standard data transfer interface used by PC-SSD was SATA 2.0. In 2012, after Ivy Bridge hits the market, SATA 3.0 will gradually become the mainstream interface, pushing bandwidth to the 600MB/s mark. However, once ONFI 3.0 and toggle DDR 2.0 NAND Flash enters mass production, the SSD transfer speed bottleneck will move from the NAND Flash chip to the IC controller. This development has already caused SATA-IO to begin working on SATA Express standards(note: SATA Express integrates SATA software infrastructure and PCle transfer interface). SATA Express’ maximum transfer speeds will reach 1000MB/s and 2000MB/s. According to historical patterns, Intel could introduce new platforms with support for SATA Express or “PCle-like” high-speed interfaces to maximize the potential of ONFI 3.0 or toggle DDR 2.0 in 2014-2015 at the earliest.
Trend-6: As System Products Bring “Affordable Elegance”, DRAM and NAND Flash Competition Heats Up
While DRAM and NAND Flash generally make up for each other’s shortcomings, as system products like ultrabooks and smartphones gradually exhibit a high quality, low price trend, the competition between DRAM and NAND Flash will only increase. DRAMeXchange believes, restricted by limited budgets, OEM/ODMs will devote their resources to NAND Flash as opposed to DRAM; increased product performance due to NAND Flash upgrades are more apparent, making it easier to attract consumers.