Initial reports for the 2014 NAND market are mixed so far. The good news is coming from the growing demand for enterprise solid state drives (SSDs), smartphones/tablets and other end devices, all of which utilize NAND flash memory. According to TrendForce, NAND flash demand is anticipated to hit 36% this year. However, the bad news is that consumer-level SSD demand and pricing still remain unpredictable.
As we saw last September, SSDs were poised to take over the storage market for several reasons: hard disk drives (HDDs) have reached their speed limit, demand for mobile devices is ever increasing, and SSDs are much more reliable than HDDs. However, a stagnant 2H13 for NAND, combined with slow holiday sales for the more-reliable SSDs, experts predict that SSD prices will probably remain steady for much of 2014. Enterprise SSD demand has grown significantly, keeping the average capacity of an SSD around 200GB – still a small amount of storage for the average consumer who typically prefers to store everything on one drive.
Manufacturers are promoting their SSD lines, highlighting everything from speed to storage capacity to performance enhancers, but pricing seems to be the primary deciding factor. Although SSDs are still not in line with HDDs on a dollars-per-GB basis, they have many advantages over HDDs, including faster speed, less power consumption and a more robust construction and design. Also, SSD manufacturers are always working to build lines using the newest in NAND advancements. Typically, these builds require reengineering which results in a new, separate product. At the same time, buyers continue to focus on two criteria when purchasing an SSD: minimum price and maximum storage.
To further confuse the future of the NAND market, chip manufacturers are working on new types of memory chips that combine the non-volatile storage power of NAND with the cache capabilities of DRAM. There are two types of chips in R&D right now: Magnetoresistive RAM (MRAM), which stores data in each memory cell using a magnetic charge, and Resistive RAM (RRAM), which utilizes a three-layer structure made with two materials of different resistances, to store data. Both chip types offer faster write performance, less power consumption and a higher durability when compared to NAND flash memory. The greatest advantage offered with these chip types is that these RAMs allow users to immediately return to their computing session even though their machine had been powered down. Although MRAM and RRAM are still in the very early stages of design, we could see a pretty big change in the current architecture of our computers in the next few years.