The 3D XPoint joint venture between Intel and Micron will end next year and it appears Intel is significantly more bullish about the technology than its former partner. EE Times had an interview with Bill Leszinske, vice president of Intel's non-volatile memory solutions group, and got to hear that Intel believes in the technology. The biggest change due to the wind-down of the joint-venture is that each company will have to completely fund its own technology development.
It's been 3.5 years since the initial reveal of 3D XPoint and so far the technology hasn't really lived up to the hype. For solid state disk it's not as compelling as hoped, and the DIMM versions haven't materialized yet.
Objective Analysis analyst Jim Handy notes that Micron's Lehi, Utah facility is idle, which suggests there's a big oversupply of 3D XPoint as that's the only thing that fab was making the past six months. It appears Intel is willing to lose money on the technology, whereas Micron is getting more conservative:
"Micron's in an interesting place because they know exactly what it cost to make 3D XPoint memory and they have chosen not to introduce SSDs," said Handy. "Which, to me, says that they don't want lose money on it like Intel is." Micron would have to answer to investors if they lose money on the technology, but for Intel, losing money is fine as long as 3D XPoint helps with its Xeon sales, Handy said.
That being said, Intel's storage unit has been underperforming while everyone else in the NAND flash business "has been reaping in gobs of money," said Handy. And although Intel may optimistic about the opportunities for 3D XPoint, Intel being the only supplier of the technology might put a damper on plans by OEMs such as Dell or HP to build a product line around Optane. "How warm and fuzzy would you feel about your source of supply?"
The oversupply bit isn't really news as we've seen that Intel is teaming up with motherboard makers to bundle Optane memory with motherboards as the chip giant seems to have a hard time clearing inventory. No one really wants it as the price/performance ratio isn't interesting enough.