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The Micron/Intel 3DXPoint Memory, 2019 Update

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  • July 2019
  • Region: Global
  • Objective Analysis
  • ID: 4850465

This report is an in-depth evaluation of the new Intel-Micron 3D XPoint memory. It explains why and how crosspoint memories work and the manufacturing challenges they present while examining the market and its impact on computing and its competition.

Four years ago Micron and Intel introduced a new memory technology called “3D XPoint.”  Both companies have since introduced support for this technology, Intel with its “Optane” brand of SSDs and DIMMs, and Micron with its QuantX products.  Yet, very little 3D XPoint product is shipping.

What is this technology?  Why have these companies brought it to the market?  Why is it taking so long to grow?

In this detailed study the analyst not only explains why and how 3D XPoint memory has been introduced, but we also explore how its market impact and how it will change the memory business for memory makers, OEMs, and end-users.  The report also explains why Intel is losing so much money on 3D XPoint and why only Intel (and not even Intel’s partner Micron) stands to gain from its availability.

This study exhaustively examines the new memory’s technology and its place in the memory/storage hierarchy.

Readers will gain a thorough understanding of the new technology and its role in the future of computing to understand why 3D XPoint could be an important factor in years to come.

The study is based upon a thorough understanding of both technologies and markets, its years tracking the memory industry, and its deep background in both emerging memory technologies and computer architecture.

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • What Is 3D XPoint Memory?
    • What is a Crosspoint Memory?
    • The “Sneak Path” and Selectors
    • Why Are Selectors So Challenging?
    • On/Off Current
    • I/V Characteristics
    • Process Technologies
    • Complexity
    • Uniformity
    • Stacking Crosspoint Decks
    • Stacking’s Impact on Lithography Costs
    • What is the Memory Cell Made Of?
    • A Brief History of PCM

  • How Is It Used?
    • Improving the Memory/Storage Hierarchy
    • How Can Optane be DDR4 Compatible?
    • NVMe SSDs Also Use 3D XPoint
    • Two Form Factors: NVMe & DIMM
    • NVMe XPoint is Straightforward
    • XPoint on DIMMs Somewhat like an SSD
    • Strong Focus on NVMe in Gaming PCs
    • How does Optane Impact Performance?
    • NVMe XPoint Initial Speed Claims
    • Write IOPS Cost Savings
    • Intel’s Two Confusing Modes
    • Memory Mode
    • App Direct Mode
    • Using Both Modes At Once

  • How Important is Persistence?
  • Nonvolatility for Power Fail
  • Nonvolatility for Data Resilience
  • Persistence in I/O-Bound Systems
  • Nonvolatile Memory Support Status
  • Summary: The Persistent Memory Market is Born
  • How Will The Market Develop?
    • Why is Intel Getting Back Into Memories?
    • How Real is 3D XPoint?
    • Intel’s Losses amid Others’ Gains
    • The “Chicken & Egg” Problem
    • Where is Micron’s QuantX?
    • What Systems Will Use it?
    • Optane DIMMs Require Special CPUs
    • The Issue of Sole-Sourcing
    • Impact on Other Markets
    • Reduced DRAM Growth
    • Little Impact on NAND Flash and HDD
    • Possible Reduced Processor Shipments and ASPs
    • System Cost Adder

  • Achieving Sub-DRAM Costs
    • Pricing XPoint to Market

  • The Intel/Micron Relationship
    • The Breakup

  • Hyperscale Data Centers
    • The Benefit of Closed Systems
    • Cost/Performance Focus
    • First Adopters: Closed Systems

  • What This Means to OEMs
  • What This Means to Storage Architecture
  • What This Means to Computer Purchasers
  • What This Means to the Memory Business
  • Methodology
  • Further Reading



Companies Mentioned

  • Intel
  • Micron