Intel and Micron have enjoyed many benefits from their long-standing partnership for the development of NAND flash memory, but it turns out that this particular relationship is about to end. While the two companies intend to wrap up work on the third generation of 3D NAND, Intel and Micron have announced that they will go their separate ways after that point.
While Intel and Micron might be parting ways regarding the development of 3D NAND, the announcement reaffirms their commitment to working together on 3D XPoint. After all, the two companies just boosted their production of the non-volatile memory product last November. This work will continue at the Lehi, Utah lab, which was just expanded in order to increase production. The companies haven't announced much about the third generation of their 3D NAND technology, but we now know that they intend to start delivering it to customers near the end of 2018.
The partnership between Intel and Micron, known as IM Flash, goes back to 2006 when the companies initiated the joint venture. Intel's first solid-state drive, the X25-M, revealed the potential of the companies' partnership, and its 335-series drives showed that they could make the technology affordable, too. In 2014, Intel and Micron started producing 3D NAND together, and to this day, IM Flash produces the 3D NAND that Intel and Micron ship in their respective products. Currently, Intel and Micron are delivering their second-generation 64-layer 3D NAND in products like Intel's SSD 545.
Questions remain as to why the companies are parting ways regarding the development of 3D NAND. The announcement is polite and vague, claiming that the move will let the companies pursue technological optimizations that best fit their "individual business needs." Whatever the reason, folks interested in the memory market will doubtless be paying considerable attention to how Intel and Micron start to differentiate their products in the coming years.