Micron Technology goes from strength to strength in memory chips
#MicronTechnology, compared with other chip companies, is uniquely positioned to take advantage of rising demand for memory technology in a wide range of industries. Though an unknown to many in the market, @Micron MU, -0.94% is one of the largest providers of #DRAM (primary system memory) and #NAND flash (used for fast access, long-term storage) in the world. The Boise, Idaho-based company partners with other technology companies, including Intel INTC, -0.36% to develop leading storage and process technologies. ￼ Demand for those memory products is skyrocketing. Desktop PC and notebook systems are a big driver, and though the market is steady to slightly shrinking, its size gives memory suppliers stability. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets were the next major driver for memory, both DRAM and flash, and are part of what is creating the shortage (and higher prices) of memory we see today. But new areas, including growth in the enterprise and cloud-computing space, autonomous vehicles that require more compute and storage capability, and even the predicted meteoric rise of connected devices in the field of the internet of things (IoT), will drive demand for memory technologies for decades. Diversification into these large markets is a strong indicator for the future health of the memory industry. Samsung SSNLF, +0.00% another memory market giant, will also benefit from this rise in demand of memory technologies. Micron’s leadership in partnerships with major OEMs will likely give it an advantage in early adoption. A recent analysts call with Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra reiterated the company’s claims of a 20%-25% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for DRAM and slightly higher for flash memory. Mehrotra also has plans to move Micron deeper into the vertical markets, selling more of, and higher quality products to, consumer and enterprise customers, rather than be considered a pure component provider. Micron currently sells SSDs (solid state drives) to system OEMs and consumers directly, and to enterprise partners, but by iterating and focusing more on high-value products, Micron can increase margins. Expect to see more frequent and more aggressive SSD products available in early 2018. From a production standpoint, Micron recently launched a 64-layer NAND (flash) technology that it developed in partnership with Intel. Mehrotra says this new “3D NAND” is already being produced at higher, more mature yields than the company’s last-generation 2D technology in the same time frame. 3D NAND provides more bits per wafer (more memory is produced in the same physical area), which Micron can use to address the increasing demand for storage. ￼ Advertisement With an eye toward future storage technology, Micron co-developed 3D XPoint (pronounced “cross point”) with Intel. It uses phase change memory to offer much lower latency and higher endurance alternatives to flash. Though only Intel has used 3D XPoint in a product up to this point, Micron will have options to complement its current lines with storage alternatives. In recent days, Micron’s stock has slumped, with worries about slowing demand in the DRAM and flash fields. This is despite a move from around $9 in mid-2016 to as high as $49 this month. It’s possible that, with new products and continued strong demand, the shares can remain outperformers.