Nand flash shortage to push up solid-state drive prices

Flash storage chip supply is being squeezed by smartphone manufacturers’ demand, increased notebook and datacentre hardware demand, and difficulties switching to 3D Nand production

An acute supply shortage in the Nand flash market for the rest of 2016 is expected to raise prices, lengthen lead times and provide higher margins to suppliers at the expense of buyers.

That’s according to DRAMexchange, a price and supply-monitoring organisation that covers the CPU, memory and storage silicon markets.

The key reasons cited by DRAMexchange are sustained high levels of smartphone demand – in particular a doubling of storage capacity in new iPhone 7 options – and increased demand from manufacturers for solid-state drives (SSD).

Other factors include the increase in demand from Chinese smartphone makers such as Huawei, Oppo and Vivo, and the growing prevalence of flash storage deployment by datacentre hardware makers. There’s also high demand from PCs and notebooks, with average flash adoption in notebooks expected to exceed 30% for the first time in 2016.

Increasing levels of SSD deployment in personal computing and datacentre hardware are driven by the growing competitiveness in price between flash drives and spinning disk hard disk drives, which are thought to achieve parity at some point in 2017. 

An added difficulty in supply comes from the problems Nand flash manufacturers are experiencing in switching to 3D Nand production. 3D Nand flash stacks memory cells vertically, unlike 2D or planar flash, boosting storage capacity and density.

“Though major Nand flash suppliers are speeding up their respective timetables for 3D Nand flash production, almost all of them apart from Samsung are currently facing challenges related to raising the yield rate and improving production efficiency,” said Sean Yang, research director of DRAMexchange.

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