The CEO of memory maker Micron (NASDAQ:MU), Mark Durcan, recently presented at a conference hosted by J.P. Morgan (NYSE:JPM). During the conference, Durcan touched on a number of topics that should be of interest to potential and current shareholders of the company.
Here are the points that stood out the most to me.
What's going on with 3DXPoint?
A while back, Micron and its non-volatile memory joint-venture partner, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), announced a new type of memory known as 3DXPoint. The bottom line is that it is a type of storage that's much faster than typical NAND flash, is non-volatile like NAND flash (meaning that it retains the data written to it even when power is removed), but is much faster.
During the conference, Durcan said that this technology has "applicability in a lot of different end markets."
"We have engagements with enterprise customers, with data center customers, and with mobile customers," Durcan added.
In terms of when investors should expect to see a material financial impact to Micron, Durcan says that "early commercial shipments" will occur in 2017, but that in 2018 the technology will be "financially significant to Micron in terms of both revenue and margin."
How about 3D NAND?
Although 3DXPoint is arguably the "shiny new technology," NAND flash -- commonly used as storage in a wide range of applications from smartphones to servers today -- is likely to remain Micron's bread-and-butter in the non-volatile memory market for a long time to come.
A critical technology to Micron's NAND efforts is known as 3D NAND. The idea behind 3D NAND is that as it becomes more difficult to shrink memory cells to pack more of them into a given area, it makes sense to stack these cells on top of each other in order to achieve more storage capacity in a given footprint.
Although Micron (and Intel) weren't first to go into production on 3D NAND, Durcan talked up the cost benefits of the company's current and upcoming 3D NAND technologies relative to competing solutions.
"It's a significant cost reduction for us beyond Gen. 1 [3D NAND] although even Gen. 1 is a cost reduction for us relative to planar [NAND], which I think other competitors are not able to achieve necessarily today," the executive explained.
As far as manufacturing yields go, Durcan was also quite positive.
"We couldn't be happier with the progress we're making on our 3D NAND ramp," Durcan started. "I would say that [manufacturing] yields are close to mature already."
An update on 20-nanometer DRAM
A problem that Micron has faced is that it has been slow to transition to a 20-nanometer process for its DRAM products. This has led to some cost structure issues (smaller manufacturing technologies generally mean lower cost per bit) that have ultimately negatively impacted the company's overall gross profit margins.
"We're very, very focused on making sure we get our 20-nanometer technology and products deployed and qualified now to the customer base on the DRAM front," Durcan said.
As far as the 20-nanometer transition goes, Durcan claims that the company is "very, very happy with the way 20-nanometer DRAM yields are trending."