Jim Handy, General Director, Objective Analysis and I were at the FMS 2023 conference in Santa Clara last week and there were a number of interesting discussions at the show. I was particularly struck with the progress being made on the CXL front. I was just a participant but Jim moderated and was on many panels during the show. He also comes with a much deeper understanding of the technologies. Listen to the podcast to learn more.
We asked for some of Jim’s top takeaways from the show.
Jim thought that the early Tuesday Morning Market sessions on the state of the flash, memory and storage markets were particularly well attended. As these were the first day’s earliest sessions, in the past they weren’t as well attended.
The flash and memory markets both seem to be in a downturn. As the great infrastructure buy out of COVID ends, demand seems to have collapsed. As always, these and other markets go thru cycles, i.e., downturn where demand collapses and prices fall, to price stability as demand starts to pick up, and to supply constrained where demand can’t be satisfied. The general consensus seems to be that we may see a turn in the market by middle of next year.
CXL is finally catching on. At the show there were a couple of vendors showing memory extension/expansion products using CXL 1.1 as well as CXL switches (extenders) based on CXL 2.0. The challenge with memory today, in this 100+ core CPU world, is trying to keep the core to memory bandwidth flat and keep up with application memory demand. CXL was built to deal with both of these concerns
CXL has additional latency but it’s very similar to dual CPUs accessing shared memory. Jim mentioned that Microsoft Azure actually checked to see if they can handle CXL latencies by testing with dual socket systems.
There was a lot of continuing discussion on new and emerging memory technologies. And Jim Handy mentioned that their team has just published a new report on this. He also mentioned that CXL could be the killer app for all these new memory technologies as it can easily handle multiply different technologies with different latencies.
The next big topic were chiplets and the rise of UCIe (universal chiplet interconnect express) links. AMD led the way with their chiplet based, multi-core CPU chips but Intel is there now as well.
Chiplets are becoming the standard way to create significant functionality on silicon. But the problem up to now has been that every vendor had their own proprietary chiplet interconnect.
UCIe is meant to end proprietary interconnects. With UCIe, companies can focus on developing the best chiplet functionality and major manufacturers can pick and choose whichever chiplet offers the best bang for their buck and be assured that it will all talk well over UCIe. Or at least that’s the idea.
Computational storage is starting to become mainstream. Although everyone thought they would become general purpose compute engines, they seem to be having more success doing specialized (data) compute services like compression, transcoding, ransomware detection, etc. They are being adopted by companies that have need to do that type of work.
Computational memory is becoming a thing. Yes memristor, pcm, mram, etc. always offered computational capabilities on their technologies but now, organizations are starting to add compute logic to DIMMs to carry out computations close to the memory. We wonder if this will find niche applications just like computational storage did.
AI continues to drive storage and compute. But we are starting to see some IoT applications of AI as well and Jim thinks it won’t take long to see AI ubiquitous throughout IT, industry and everyday devices. Each with special purpose AI models trained to perform very specific functionality better and faster than general purpose algorithms could do.
One thing that’s starting to happen is that SSD intelligence is moving out of the SSD (controllers) and to the host. We can see this with the use of Zoned Name Spaces but OCP is also pushing flexible data placement so host’s can provide hints as to where to place newly written data.
There was more to the show as well. It was interesting to see the continued investment in 3D NAND (1000 layers by 2030), SSD capacity (256TB SSD coming in a couple of years), and some emerging tech like Memristor development boards and a 3D memory idea, but it’s a bit early to tell about that one.
Jim Handy, Director Objective Analysis
Jim Handy of Objective Analysis has over 35 years in the electronics industry including 20 years as a leading semiconductor and SSD industry analyst. Early in his career he held marketing and design positions at leading semiconductor suppliers including Intel, National Semiconductor, and Infineon.
A frequent presenter at trade shows, Mr. Handy is known for his technical depth, accurate forecasts, widespread industry presence and volume of publication.
He has written hundreds of market reports, articles for trade journals, and white papers, and is frequently interviewed and quoted in the electronics trade press and other media.