Intel and Micron’s joint NAND development is coming to an end

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.

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    • not@home
    • 2 years ago

    My guess is Intel is going to focus on Optane products and Micron is going to continue with flash.

      • cynan
      • 2 years ago

      3D Xpoint is technically flash, though not NAND.

      I hope Micron gets some sort of exciting products out of the 3D Xpoint collaboration. It would be nice to see some [b<]crucial[/b<]ly lacking competition to Intel's high end and sky high-priced SSDs.

        • meerkt
        • 2 years ago

        3DXP appears to be phase-change or resistive RAM, not flash.

          • chuckula
          • 2 years ago

          According to Wikipedia (I KNOW): [quote<]Flash memory is an electronic (solid-state) non-volatile computer storage medium that can be electrically erased and reprogrammed.[/quote<] [url<]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_memory[/url<] Given that definition you are right that 3D Xpoint is technically not "flash" because, while it is non-volatile and is electrically erasable/programmable, it is arguably not "electronic" in the sense that each element of Xpoint is not an "electronic" element in the same way as other flash memory types (even non-NAND flash devices).

            • cynan
            • 2 years ago

            After noticing that there really is no specific gold standard definition for “flash memory” – 3D Xpoint can either meet or not quite meet the given definition de website- I withdraw the distinction I attempted to make. (Edit: 3D Xpoint meets the minimum specificity of the definition of a solid state, non volatile memory chip).

            • chuckula
            • 2 years ago

            It’s not a hard-fast definition other than flash is definitely not a traditional hard drive or optical drive. Beyond that things get fuzzy.

            • cygnus1
            • 2 years ago

            I feel like that definition was written before flash became a mass market technology, and for me that wiki definition is a little too technology agnostic. It would cover any non-volatile electronic block storage device. I think charge trap style, specifically NAND, storage devices are pretty much the definition of it to me just because they’ve been the only mass market product called Flash for so many years now. So to me, Xpoint is definitely not flash and now that the 2 companies have 2 different technologies, it makes sense for them to focus on them separately.

            • meerkt
            • 2 years ago

            I think flash would mean charge trapping of some sort?

            • willmore
            • 2 years ago

            A Floating Gate is the distinctive feature of Flash memory. That’s how it stores a charge, so you’re right.

      • Chrispy_
      • 2 years ago

      This. I think Intel will develop its own NAND to act as tiered storage for 3D-XPoint. General purpose designs for NVMe and SATA uses aren’t going to be as well suited as NAND and controllers designed from the ground up to work with 3D-XPoint.

    • chuckula
    • 2 years ago

    Micron just got tired of Intel’s constant [i<]Meltdowns[/i<]. [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSUIQgEVDM4<]This is the end.[/url<] My only friend, the end.

    • JosiahBradley
    • 2 years ago

    Let’s just hope this doesn’t affect 3DXpoint production for Micron specific deployments.

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