Micron is following through with the next step in the breakup of their long alliance with Intel for storage technology. As announced last October, Micron is exercising their call option to buyout Intel's share of IM Flash Technologies, the joint venture in Lehi, UT where several generations of flash memory were developed and the current center of R&D and production for 3D XPoint memory.

The public acts of the Intel/Micron breakup began a year ago with the announcement that the two companies would no longer co-develop NAND flash memory, going their separate ways after the completion of R&D for their 96-layer design. The companies have for several years been manufacturing their own supplies of NAND flash each at their own fabs, and they have rather different priorities so that part of the split is neither surprising nor will it have a huge impact on the storage market in the short term. Several months later, they announced a similar split for 3D XPoint memory development. With 3D XPoint R&D for the two companies set to diverge, it is natural that they would not continue to share the IMFT fab. Since IMFT is the only place currently manufacturing 3D XPoint, Micron's buyout of Intel's 49% stake in IMFT will likely force Intel to buy 3D XPoint memory from Micron until Intel can spin up production elsewhere.

Intel and Micron are expecting to wrap up development of their second generation of 3D XPoint memory in the first half of this year. Neither company has provided any updates on this recently, and Intel has continued to announce new Optane products using their first-generation 3D XPoint. Micron has yet to publicly announce any 3D XPoint products, though they have announced that such products will be under their QuantX brand.

Though their intentions have been public for months, Micron could not actually exercise their call option until the beginning of 2019. Intel now has the option of postponing the closing of Micron's purchase for up to one year from today, and Micron doesn't expect the deal to be finalized for at least six months. Micron expects to pay about $1.5 billion for Intel's stake in IMFT. Intel has issued a statement reiterating their earlier statement that today's action from Micron was expected and that Intel has been planning for this for some time. They have not yet disclosed when or where they expect to begin manufacturing 3D XPoint at one of their own fabs, but in the meantime Intel maintains that their plans to continue expanding the Optane product family will continue uninterrupted.

Source: Micron

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  • wumpus - Saturday, January 19, 2019 - link

    Except that this was Micron's decision. Of course if Intel cared enough, they could presumably cough up enough money (to the point of a hostile takeover of Micron) to keep the fab if they really wanted it. But they weren't willing to fight that hard over a billion+ dollar fab (that isn't bringing them any closer to 10nm).
  • Yojimbo - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    This was entirely Micron's option and not Intel's. Also, Intel plans to continue floating gate. Intel seems to plan to continue 3D XPoint. It is Micron that is switching to charge trap and developing something different from 3D XPoint as a successor to the 2nd gen. of it.
  • Jad77 - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    My house is in that picture, way in the back!
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    Woah. You have a nice house...
  • The_Assimilator - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    So this finally confirms what we all knew from the start, XPoint/Optane is DOA.
  • PeachNCream - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    I hope it isn't dead. I've just started to see a few notebook and desktop consumer PCs on the market that pair up a 16GB Optane cache with a mechanical hard drive pop up on a few online retailers. There's no question that the technology in its first generation iteration didn't deliver on much of the hype, but I had my fingers crossed that Intel and Micron would continue to improve on cost and capacity. We very much need a NAND replacement given what the industry is trying to do to stretch 3D NAND out beyond reasonable durability using TLC and QLC. 0.1 DWPD is abysmal compared to Optane's 60 DWPD that effectively makes it capable of supporting infinity years of client workloads.
  • Yojimbo - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    This doesn't confirm that at all. The technology is just getting started. In fact, this suggests the exact opposite. If Micron wasn't interested in either 3D XPoint or the successor to it that they are developing then they wouldn't spend the money to buy this fab.
  • twotwotwo - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    Seems like a good thing for consumers that it won't be just one company with the first gen of this NVRAM tech, any necessary patents, etc. Not sure Micron's on even footing with Intel here (like, they haven't shipped any products, dunno how far they are along on designing a controller), and duopoly isn't quite like full competition, but seems better than Intel or Micron having it to themselves.

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