Samsung Memory Refresh
We talked with Samsung about their various memory product lines. The constant drivers for changes are the demands for higher performance, higher capacity, and in of growing importance, lower power. The specific product lines we discussed were DDR three, SSD, and mobile memories.
At the high performance and of the spectrum, DDR-3 memories are used to populate storage in many server applications. Server memory is growing at a high rate and by '15, a high-end server will have almost 900 GB per system, mid-range servers will have 613 GB, and even entry-level servers will have 104 GB of memory. All of these capacities are up by a factor of 3-4 in the next three years.
The latest versions of DDR-3 are now operate at a supply of 1.3 V. The lower supply voltage, incrase in RAM density, and process changes to 20 nm offer a potential power saving of 67 percent compared to previous generations of DDR, for a 96 GB memory system populated by 4 GB DDR-3 DRAM. The current memories operate at 1.5 V and use 2 GB chips.
The newest DDR RAMS offer higher noise immunity and faster performance than the current versions, in addition to the lower power consumption. The lower heat production also allows for reduced fan noise as the lower power requires less airflow to maintain the lower operating temperature. All together, a data center with 10 k servers can save significant power by switching to the "green" DDR chips and total cost of operations can go down due to the increased servers per rack.
By adding SSDs into the mix, the data center can further reduce power and improve performance by reducing processor wait times for data. The SSDs provide more I/O operations with fewer drives compared with 15k RPM SAS HDDs. The increase in transaction rates is coupled with lower power for the drives.
Overall, combining 20 nm DDR-3 and SSD can reduce power by up to 130 w per server enabling major reductions in power, costs, and space as fewer racks are needed for the same number of servers. If you extrapolate to the entire world's set of servers, the savings account for 74 Tera Watt-hours per year and eliminating 50 M tons of CO2.
While the goal of reducing global greenhouse emissions is laudable, the challenge for SSDs is to get people to make the switch from HDDs. The big corporations are overdue for a storage refresh cycle, but are not looking at SSDs as viable options. The industry needs to step up its education efforts to get users to understand that a pure cost per bit comparison is not realistic.
If users consider total cost of operations, the SSDs are at parity or below the cost of HDDs. Some of the drivers for moves to SSDs are the ultra thin laptop computers and the emergence of cloud storage. If people open their eyes to the new capabilities offered by SSDs, they would opt for faster, lower power, and with self-encrypted drives, the ability to make a drive unrecoverable by wiping the encryption key. The encrypted keys can be erased in a few milliseconds, greatly reducing the potential fallout for a data breach due to a lost laptop.
SSDs are used in enterprise environments as a part of a tiering strategy. The drives can be configured as disk cache to transfer frequently used data to the users, or can be a part of an overall migration strategy that ages data and moves the least used data to the slower rotating drives or to long-term archives.
Finally, they looked at the mobile markets. They forecast 1.4 B new 3G connections by '16 and most of this growth will be in the emerging markets. Total mobile handsets will reach 1.6 B this year, and 40 percent will be smart phones. Most of these new handsets will be built from standard components and a differentiator will be optimal memory configurations.
Average memory in handsets will grow from under 200 MB of RAM and 3.4 GB of flash, to 600 MB of RAM and 13.6 GB of flash by the end of this year. This growth will continue for the foreseeable future with CAGR of over 30 percent. Another area for growth is in tablets. The pundits are expecting 100 M units this year and the entry of new manufacturers and operating systems will fuel further increases in the market.
Tablets will increase average RAM from 700 MB to over 1GB, and average flash volumes will exceed 38 GB this year. The drivers for the increases in memory are higher graphics resolution, more multi-tasking and apps, expectations for all day operation, and perversely, thinner and lighter platforms. The mobile devices will approach the performance of the low-end laptops as user experience and low power trump the performance-driven capabilities of the notebooks.
Advances in designs and packaging will enable low power DDR-3 to operate faster than previous generations at much lower power. Increasing memory density will continue to double every few years, aided by new high-density processes and moves to stacked die in a package. The memory portfolio for mobile will grow to accommodate the gorwing capacity requirements.
Low power DDR-3 will scale to 16 GB, mobile DDR will range from 512 MB to 4 GB depending upon the type of platform. eMMC and NAND flash will be available from 4 GB to 64 GB and some will have TLC to get the capacity.