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Global Ranking of Top 10 SSD Module Makers for 2020 Shows 15% YoY Drop in Annual Shipment, Says TrendForce

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic led to severe delays in manufacturing and logistics. In particular, governments worldwide began implementing border restrictions in 2Q20 to combat the ongoing health crisis, leading to a sudden decline in order volumes for channel-market SSDs, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. Annual shipment of SSDs to the channel (retail) market reached 111.5 million units in 2020, a 15% YoY decrease. In terms of market share by shipment, Kingston, ADATA, and Kimtigo once again occupied the top three spots, respectively.

Looking at the channel market for SSDs as a whole, NAND Flash suppliers (among which Samsung possessed the largest market share) accounted for around 35% of the total shipments in 2020, while SSD module makers accounted for the other 65%. The top 10 module makers accounted for 71% of channel-market SSD shipments from all SSD module makers. Taken together, these figures show that the market remained relatively oligopolistic in 2020. However, it should be noted that TrendForce's ranking of SSD module makers for 2020 takes account of only products bound for the channel market and under brands owned by the module makers themselves; NAND Flash suppliers were therefore excluded from the top 10 ranking.

SK hynix Inc. Reports Third Quarter 2021 Results

SK hynix Inc. (or 'the Company', www.skhynix.com) today announced financial results for its third quarter 2021 ended on September 30, 2021. The consolidated revenue of the third quarter 2021 was 11.805 trillion won, while the operating profit amounted to 4.172 trillion won and the net income 3.315 trillion won. Operating margin for the quarter was 35% and net margin was 28%.

SK hynix achieved record high quarterly revenue since its foundation, and regained operating profit more than 4 trillion won after two and a half years since the fourth quarter of 2018. The increased semiconductor memory demand for server and smartphone (mobile) applications, alongside the improved product prices, contributed to the Company's record-breaking quarterly revenue.

Apacer Launches PA32CF Series Military-grade CFexpress Cards

In response to the demand for visual content, the pursuit of higher-resolution imaging and large amounts of stored data, Apacer, a leading global supplier of industrial storage and memory, has launched a professional-grade, high-endurance and military-grade CFexpress Type B card tailored for photographers and designers. Its excellent reliability and fast read/write speeds have made it a favorite among cinematographers. Apacer has been deeply involved in the industrial memory field for more than 20 years, and put its extensive experience in the audio-visual memory card market to work in developing this cutting-edge CFexpress card.

Apacer's CFexpress Type B cards are lightweight and extremely durable. They adopt only high-endurance NAND Flash ICs and also make use of high-speed PCIe Gen 3x2 interfaces, which have the advantages of ultra-high performance and extremely low latency. The continuous read/write speeds can reach up to 1,700 MB/s and 1,200 MB/s respectively, meeting the needs of next-generation high-speed cameras. They support 4K and 8K video capture as well as firmware adjustment for mainstream camera equipment, delivering a higher level of image detail and post-production tolerance. Through the CFexpress card, photographers and editors can enjoy the high performance brought by high-speed reading and writing everywhere, and also take advantage of high-resolution files and high-stability recording quality, capturing important moments at any time and putting no limits on audio and video creativity.

NAND Flash Prices Projected to Enter Cyclical Downturn in 2022 Due to Modest Demand Growth and Competition for Higher-Layer NAND, Says TrendForce

Contract prices of NAND Flash products are expected to undergo a marginal drop of 0-5% QoQ in 4Q21 as demand slows, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. Hence, the current cyclical upturn in NAND Flash prices will have lasted for only two consecutive quarters. Looking ahead, NAND Flash suppliers' capacity expansion plans will be affected by the outlook on future trends and the supply of other non-memory components. At the same time, attention will have to be paid to the demand projection. At the moment, NAND Flash suppliers appear likely to downsize their capacity expansion activities for 2022, resulting in a 31.8% YoY increase in NAND Flash bit supply next year. Annual bit demand, on the other hand, is projected to increase by 30.8% YoY. With demand being outpaced by supply and competition intensifying among suppliers for higher-layer products, the NAND Flash market will likely experience a cyclical downturn in prices in 2022.

Micron Announces Over $150 Billion in Global Manufacturing and R&D Investments to Address 2030 Era Memory Demand

Micron Technology, Inc. (Nasdaq: MU), the only U.S.-based manufacturer of memory and one of the world's largest semiconductor manufacturers, today announced that it intends to invest more than $150 billion globally over the next decade in leading-edge memory manufacturing and research and development (R&D), including potential U.S. fab expansion. Micron's investment will address increasing demand for memory that is essential to all computing.

Memory and storage are a growing portion of the global semiconductor industry, and today represent approximately 30% of the semiconductor market. Secular growth drivers like 5G and AI will expand usage of memory and storage across the data center and the intelligent edge, and in areas like automotive and a diversity of user devices.

SkyHigh Memory expands its single-level cell (SLC) NAND Flash Memory family on 1xnm process technology, one of the industry's most advanced technology

SkyHigh Memory Limited., a global leader in embedded storage solutions, is introducing 3.0 V 1 Gb - 4 Gb densities 4 KB page and 2 KB page ML-3 products to its family of NAND Flash memories. The new 1 Gb - 4 Gb ML-3 SLC NAND Flash product family devices are designed on 1xnm, the industry's most advanced technology node for SLC NAND products. Available with different interfaces, SkyHigh Memory first-generation Serial (SPI) SLC NAND and third-generation Parallel SLC NAND complete the third generation ML-3 4 Gb - 16 Gb parallel SLC NAND product family already in production.

The new 1 Gb - 4 Gb devices will be offered to support high-reliability systems that store critical data and operate at extended temperatures, up to +105°C. Thanks to its internal ECC engine, the ML-3 product family can support chipsets with as low as a 1-bit ECC engine to accommodate legacy chipsets and modern chipsets with higher ECC engines.

Micron Technology Reports Results for the Fourth Quarter and Full Year of Fiscal 2021

Micron Technology, Inc. (Nasdaq: MU) today announced results for its fourth quarter and full year of fiscal 2021, which ended Sept. 2, 2021. "Micron's outstanding fourth quarter execution capped a year of several key milestones," said Micron Technology President and CEO Sanjay Mehrotra. "In fiscal 2021, we established DRAM and NAND technology leadership, drove record revenues across multiple markets, and initiated a quarterly dividend. The demand outlook for 2022 is strong, and Micron is delivering innovative solutions to our customers, fueling our long-term growth."

Investments in capital expenditures, net were $2.01 billion for the fourth quarter of 2021 and $9.72 billion for the full year of 2021, which resulted in adjusted free cash flows of $1.88 billion for the fourth quarter of 2021 and $2.75 billion for the full year of 2021. Micron repurchased approximately 13.9 million shares of its common stock for $1.05 billion during the fourth quarter of 2021 and 15.6 million shares of its common stock for $1.20 billion during the full year of 2021 and ended the year with cash, marketable investments, and restricted cash of $10.46 billion, for a net cash position of $3.69 billion.

SSD-Insider++ Promises Ransomware-free SSDs

Over the past couple of years there has been a huge increase in ransomware attacks, and now scientists claim to have a solution that could help protect SSDs from getting encrypted by ransomware. The SSD-Insider++, as the solution has been named, claims to be able to detect ransomware activity and reverse the encryption on the fly.

SSD-Insider++ was developed by a group of engineers from South Korea's Inha University, Daegu Institute of Science and Technology, and the Cyber Security Department at Ewha Womans University (EWU), as well as a researcher from the University of Central Florida in the US. It's a firmware level based protection that looks for patterns of ransomware activity on the drive and stops it before any damage has been done.

Et tu, Samsung? Samsung Too Changes Components for their 970 EVO Plus SSD

A number of manufacturers have been caught red-handed, so to speak, by changing components on their SSD products without as much as a product specifications change. This has happened in the past with ADATA, Patriot, and more recently with Western Digital and its WD Blue SN550; now, it's Samsung that's being on the receiving end of a more attentive look at their recent batches of the 970 EVO SSD - particularly its 1 TB configuration.

According to Computerbase, a YouTube channel in Asia seems to have first noticed the difference. They've tested the older version of Samsung's 970 Evo Plus 1 TB (product number MZVLB1T0HBLR, April 2021 production date, a Phoenix controller [S4LR020] and 96-layer 3D TLC NAND) against the newer (product number MZVL21T0HBLU and is equipped with an Elpis controller [S4LV003] and 3D-NAND with the identifier K9DUGY8J5B-CCK0), which likely features different packaging and density for the same 96-layer 3D TLC NAND.

NAND Flash Revenue for 2Q21 Rises by 10.8% QoQ Due to Strong Notebook Demand and Procurements for Data Centers, Says TrendForce

NAND Flash suppliers' Clients in the data center segment were gradually stepping up enterprise SSD procurement after finishing inventory adjustments, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. Moreover, the adoption rate of 4/8 TB products in the enterprise SSD market increased substantially on account of the releases and adoption of the new server processor platforms from Intel and AMD. Although the recent wave of COVID-19 outbreaks that struck Southeast Asia weakened smartphone sales in 2Q21, the quarterly total NAND Flash bit shipments rose by nearly 9% QoQ, as PC OEMs still had plenty of component orders in 2Q21 due to the fairly robust notebook demand during the period. On the other hand, the shortage of controller ICs became more severe during the period, and the winter storm that battered Texas this February affected the operation of Samsung's foundry fab Line S2 in Austin. As demand for NAND Flash products rose, the overall ASP also rose by nearly 7% QoQ, and the quarterly total NAND Flash revenue rose by 10.8% QoQ to US$16.4 billion in 2Q21.

DRAM Revenue Undergoes 26% Increase QoQ for 2Q21 Owing to Rising Quotes and Higher-Than-Expected Shipment, Says TrendForce

After DRAM prices made a rebound into an upward trajectory in 1Q21, buyers expanded their DRAM procurement activities in 2Q21 as they anticipated a further price hike and insufficient supply going forward, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. Not only was demand robust from clients in the notebook segment, which benefitted from ongoing WFH and distance learning applications, but CSPs also sought to gradually replenish their DRAM inventories. Furthermore, demand for products that are relatively niche, including graphics DRAM and consumer DRAM, remained strong. Hence, DRAM suppliers experienced better-than-expected QoQ increases in their DRAM shipment for 2Q21. At the same time, DRAM quotes grew by a greater magnitude compared to the first quarter as well. With both shipment and quotes undergoing growths in tandem, DRAM suppliers registered remarkable growths in their revenues in 2Q21. Total DRAM revenue for 2Q21 reached US$24.1 billion, a 26% QoQ increase.

Kingston Announces New Industrial microSD Cards

Kingston today made available its new Industrial microSD card lineup with a rated operating temperature of -40 °C to 85 °C, allowing normal operation even in "extreme desert heat and subzero conditions" based on the information provided by the company. The cards use TLC NAND in pSLC mode to provide transfer speeds of up to 100 MB/s, and are rated for endurance of up to 1920 TBW with 30K P/E cycles. There is a built-in feature set specific to endurance, performance and industrial needs. Kingston's Industrial microSD ships with a UHS-I SD adapter and is available in capacities from 8 GB-64 GB. Industrial features include bad block management, ECC engine, power failure protection, wear levelling, auto-refresh read distribution protection, dynamic data refresh, SiP - System in Package, garbage collection, and health monitoring.

Penetration Rate of Ice Lake CPUs in Server Market Expected to Surpass 30% by Year's End as x86 Architecture Remains Dominant, Says TrendForce

While the server industry transitions to the latest generation of processors based on the x86 platform, the Intel Ice Lake and AMD Milan CPUs entered mass production earlier this year and were shipped to certain customers, such as North American CSPs and telecommunication companies, at a low volume in 1Q21, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. These processors are expected to begin seeing widespread adoption in the server market in 3Q21. TrendForce believes that Ice Lake represents a step-up in computing performance from the previous generation due to its higher scalability and support for more memory channels. On the other hand, the new normal that emerged in the post-pandemic era is expected to drive clients in the server sector to partially migrate to the Ice Lake platform, whose share in the server market is expected to surpass 30% in 4Q21.

ATP SATA SSDs Qualify for Compatibility and Interoperability with Microchip's New Tri-Mode Storage Adapters

ATP Electronics, a global leader in specialized storage and memory solutions, has announced that its A600Sc Series serial ATA solid state drives (SATA SSDs) have been successfully qualified for compatibility and interoperability with Adaptec Smart Storage PCIe Gen 4 Tri-Mode SmartRAID 3200, SmartHBA 2200, and HBA 1200 Smart Storage adapters.

Designed for storage platforms in next-generation data centers, the Adaptec PCIe Gen 4 SAS/SATA/NVMe HBA and RAID tri-mode adapters deliver significantly higher performance through PCIe Gen 4 x16 CPU interfaces as well as SAS and SATA storage. The new offerings simplify integration and provide flexibility to aggregate diverse storage devices with Microchip's proven security and manageability features for the most demanding server storage applications.

Samsung Electronics Announces Second Quarter 2021 Results

Samsung Electronics today reported financial results for the second quarter ended June 30, 2021. Total consolidated revenue was KRW 63.67 trillion, a 20% increase from the previous year and a record for the second quarter. Operating profit increased 34% from the previous quarter to KRW 12.57 trillion as market conditions improved in the memory market, operations normalized at the Austin foundry fab, and as effective global supply chain management (SCM) helped maintain solid profitability for the finished product businesses.

The Semiconductor business saw a significant improvement in earnings as memory shipments exceeded previous guidance and price increases were higher than expected, while the Company strengthened its cost competitiveness. For the Display Panel Business, a one-off gain and an increase in overall prices boosted profits.

TrendForce: Enterprise SSD Contract Prices Likely to Increase by 15% QoQ for 3Q21 Due to High SSD Demand and Short Supply of Upstream IC Components

The ramp-up of the Intel Ice Lake and AMD Milan processors is expected to not only propel growths in server shipment for two consecutive quarters from 2Q21 to 3Q21, but also drive up the share of high-density products in North American hyperscalers' enterprise SSD purchases, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. In China, procurement activities by domestic hyperscalers Alibaba and ByteDance are expected to increase on a quarterly basis as well. With the labor force gradually returning to physical offices, enterprises are now placing an increasing number of IT equipment orders, including servers, compared to 1H21. Hence, global enterprise SSD procurement capacity is expected to increase by 7% QoQ in 3Q21. Ongoing shortages in foundry capacities, however, have led to the supply of SSD components lagging behind demand. At the same time, enterprise SSD suppliers are aggressively raising the share of large-density products in their offerings in an attempt to optimize their product lines' profitability. Taking account of these factors, TrendForce expects contract prices of enterprise SSDs to undergo a staggering 15% QoQ increase for 3Q21.

SK hynix Reports Second Quarter 2021 Results

SK hynix Inc. today announced financial results for its second quarter 2021 ended on June 30, 2021. The consolidated revenue of the second quarter 2021 was 10.322 trillion won, while the operating profit amounted to 2.695 trillion won and the net income 1.988 trillion won. Operating margin for the quarter was 26% and net margin was 19%.

It was the first time in three years that SK hynix recorded the quarterly revenue of more than 10 trillion won as the memory market condition, which began to recover earlier this year, continued to improve in the second quarter. The company last logged more than 10 trillion won in the third quarter of 2018 when the memory market was booming.

Asgard Announces AN4 PCIe 4.0 SSD - 128 Layer 3D TLC NAND, 7,500 MB/s Read

Chinese manufacturer Asgard has announced the company's (and the Chinese market's) first PCIe 4.0 SSD. The AN4 pairs 128 Layer 3D TLC NAND manufactured by YMTC (Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., Ltd) Xtacking 2.0 technology, which uses a two-step manufacturing process wherein both NAND cells and interconnects are manufactured in two separate wafers and then optically fused. The NAND memory is then paired with Innogrit's IG5236 Rainier controller. The AN4 is rated for 7,500 MB/s and 5,500 MB/s sequential read and write speeds and features a "high" TBW endurance rating, though Asgard didn't clarify the exact random performance figures, nor the TBW rating for the SSD. Pricing is similarly up in the air - Asgard has only announced market availability for the 1 TB SSD solution come August, with additional 2 TB and 512 GB capacities being readied to market for a later timeframe.

The manufacturing technology of YMTC results in NAND that's as fast as Micron's latest 192-layer NAND tech, and beats well-established Kioxia's 96-layer technology performance-wise. One Bilibili forum user put the drive through its paces, and discovered that to unlock its full potential, one has to have a system capable of 512 bit maximum payload size (MPS), which is currently only supported by AMD motherboards - maximum Intel MPS currently stands at 256 bit, which "only" enables sequential performance of up to 7,150 MB/s. The user put the AN4 through a variety of tests, including PCMark 10's Drive Performance Consistency Test - a 10 to 20 hours workload marathon that puts more than 23 TB of drives on the SSD. It seems that Chinese manufacturers have achieved parity with the top western manufacturers, meaning there is one more option in the global, high-performance NAND market.

Innodisk Releases Industrial-grade 112-Layer 3D TLC SSDs

Innodisk, a leading global provider of industrial flash and memory solutions, announces its industrial-grade 112-Layer 3D TLC SSDs along with the world's highest capacity up to 8 TB. The 112-layer SSDs introduces a complete product line including the SATA 3TG6-P and 3TE7 series, as well as the PCIe Gen 3 x4 and Gen 4 x4 series.

The new TLC SSD Series marks Innodisk's continued development with 3D NAND design, bringing better efficiency, faster performance, and increased capacity. Compared to the previous 96-layer technology that offered a maximum of 2 TB storage, the new 112-layer PCIe Gen 4x4 series increase the capacity to 8 TB for U.2 SSD, which is the highest in the industry, while increased the capacity to 4 TB for M.2 (P80). Beyond capacity increases, 112-layer is also faster, with the PCIe Gen 4x4 series clocking in at speeds up to 7500/6700 MB/s (8CH) and 3800/3000 MB/s (4CH). The marked increase in performance meets the growing needs of AIoT applications and industries in 5G, edge computing, deep learning, smart surveillance and smart medical where speed and higher capacity support are critical.

NAND Flash Contract Prices Likely to Increase by 5-10% QoQ in 3Q21 as Quotes Continue to Rise, Says TrendForce

The recent wave of COVID-19 outbreaks in India has weakened sales of retail storage products such as memory cards and USB drives, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. However, demand remains fairly strong in the main application segments due to the arrival of the traditional peak season and the growth in the procurement related to data centers. Hence, the sufficiency ratio of the entire market has declined further. NAND Flash suppliers have kept their inventories at a healthy level thanks to clients' stock-up activities during the past several quarters. Moreover, the ongoing shortage of NAND Flash controller ICs continues to affect the production of finished storage products. Taking account of these demand-side and supply-side factors, TrendForce forecasts that contract prices of NAND Flash products will rise marginally for 3Q21, with QoQ increases in the range of 5-10%.

Micron Technology Reports Results for the Third Quarter of Fiscal 2021

Micron Technology, Inc. (Nasdaq: MU) today announced results for its third quarter of fiscal 2021, which ended June 3, 2021. "Micron set multiple market and product revenue records in our third quarter and achieved the largest sequential earnings improvement in our history," said Micron Technology President and CEO Sanjay Mehrotra. "Our industry-leading 1α DRAM and 176-layer NAND now represent a meaningful portion of our production, and Micron is in the best position ever to capitalize on the long-term demand trends across the data center, intelligent edge and user devices."

IDC Forecasts Solid Growth for the Hard Disk Drive and Solid State Drive Markets to Meet Increasing Demand for Data Storage Capacity

International Data Corporation (IDC) recently published new forecasts for the worldwide hard disk drive (HDD) and solid state drive (SSD) markets. While both markets were affected the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook looks good as demand for storage remains strong in multiple areas. Worldwide HDD industry petabyte shipments are expected to see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.5% over the 2020-2025 forecast period and average capacity per drive is forecast to increase at a five-year CAGR of 25.5%.

"While the client HDD market continues a long-term secular decline due to rising SSD attach rates, the COVID-19 pandemic has over the near term increased the demand for certain types of HDDs, particularly mobile HDDs as well as capacity-optimized HDDs," said Edward Burns, research director, Hard Disk Drive and Storage Technologies at IDC. "And the demand for storage capacity continues to grow at a steady pace as the world creates and stores more and more data."

Western Digital May Introduce Penta Layer Cell (PLC) NAND by 2025

Western Digital has apparently delayed the introduction of Penta Layer Cell (PLC) NAND-based flash to 2025. The company had already disclosed development on the technology back in 2019, around the same time that Toshiba announced it (Toshiba which is now Kioxia, and a Western Digital partner in the development of the technology). The information was disclosed at Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2021 Global Technology Conference, where Western Digital's technology and strategy chief Siva Sivaram said that "I expect that transition [from QLC to PLC] will be slower. So maybe in the second half of this decade we are going to see some segments starting to get 5 bits per cell."

PLC is another density-increase step for NAND flash, whereby each NAND cell can have five bits written into it, thus increasing the amount of information available in the same NAND footprint. To achieve these 5 bits, each cell must store one of 32 voltage states, which in turn inform the flash controller of which corresponding data bits are stored herein. Siva Sivaram said that he expect the technology to take some more time to mature than most, due to the need for controller development that can take advantage of the increased density while making up for the shortcoming in this increased bit-per-cell approach (lower endurance and lower performance). PLC won't bring us HDD-tier storage density by itself (it only enables storage of 25% more data per cell); however, when paired with increasing layers of NAND flash, those 25% extra quickly add up.

Samsung Preparing to Deploy 176-Layer V-NAND in PCIe 4.0, PCIe 5.0 SSD Products

Samsung is preparing to deploy their latest innovations in NAND density with the next-generation V-NAND (7th gen). Samsung says it is preparing products that leverage both V-NAND's higher density (at 176 layers per chip versus up to 136 layers on 6th gen) with the throughput of both PCIe 4.0 and PCIe 5.0. This would of course mean higher density drives available, as well as a reduction in the overall $/GB equation. Due to Samsung's vertical integration (meaning that they are one of the few companies that can design and produce all SSD components in-house), the company is also developing next-gen NAND controllers that can leverage throughputs of 2,000 MT/s transfer rates and thus "optimized for multitasking huge workloads".

Samsung expects to be able to scale V-NAND well past the 1,000 layer mark - a far-cry from the claims made by SK Hynix, who have only talked about a theoretical 600-layer NAND configuration. While the 176-layer, 7-gen V-NAND is only now entering mass production and the final stages of product development, Samsung has already taped out the initial batches of their 8th-gen V-NAND, which feature "more than 200 layers". It's likely that Samsung's 1,000-layer claim actually looks towards the future in a timeframe of decade(s?) and isn't actually something to look forward to in the approximate future.

Enterprise SSD Prices Projected to Increase by More Than 10% QoQ in 3Q21 Due to Growing Procurement Capacity, Says TrendForce

Enterprise SSD procurement has been rising on the back of growing server shipments since 2Q21, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. In particular, the share of 8 TB products in shipments of SSDs to data centers has shown the most noticeable growth, which is expected to persist through 3Q21. However, certain SSD components and parts may be in shortage due to insufficient foundry capacity. TrendForce is therefore revising the QoQ hikes in contract prices of enterprise SSDs for 3Q21 to 10-15% from the previous projection of 5-10%.

TrendForce further indicates that the high demand for enterprise SSDs in 3Q21 is attributed to several factors. First, North American cloud service providers (hyperscalers) have pretty much completed their inventory adjustments and now continue to expand their storage capacity. Second, the flow of incoming orders to traditional server brands is getting stronger over the quarters as government agencies and SMBs increase their budgets for IT infrastructure. Third, Intel and AMD are ramping up production for server CPUs based on their respective new processor platforms. Following the adoption of new CPUs, the overall demand for enterprise SSDs has also shifted to higher-density products because clients want to upgrade their computing power and storage capacity. Specifically, demand is mainly trending toward 4/8 TB SSDs since raising NAND Flash density can lower the cost of SSD deployment.
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