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October 2018, Vol. 17, No. 7

New memory technologies challenge NAND flash dominance

Flash memory rose to prominence as soon as Intel shipped the first NOR chips in 1988. NOR, in turn, paved the way for NAND flash three years later. NAND enjoyed the fastest adoption of any semiconductor technology ever, ramping from $1.8 billion to $18 billion in 10 short years. By 2017, the technology hit a record $50 billion in revenue, matching the size of the global semiconductor market of 1990. NAND flash is clearly big business. But change looms as the industry develops several new memory technologies as possible replacements. NAND flash faces hard limit During the past 40 years, the number of transistors on a semiconductor chip doubled every year or two by reducing the size of a single bit by an average of 30% a year thanks to Moore's Law. This, in turn, drove cost reductions that enabled chips to find broader use. These 30% reductions are called process shrinks, and the ongoing phenomenon of constant size and cost reductions is known as scaling. Continuing shrinks could be sustained for most semiconductors, but flash ...

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