NAND Flash


2021-11-24

NAND Flash Revenue Rises by 15% QoQ for 3Q21 Thanks to Demand from Smartphone and Data Center Markets, Says TrendForce

The growth of the NAND Flash market in 3Q21 was primarily driven by strong demand from the data center and smartphone industries, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. More specifically, NAND Flash suppliers’ hyperscaler and enterprise clients kept up their procurement activities that began in 2Q21 in order to deploy products based on new processor platforms. Major smartphone brands, on the other hand, likewise expanded their NAND Flash procurement activities during the quarter as they prepared to release their new flagship models. As such, clients in both server and smartphone industries made significant contributions to the revenue growth of the NAND Flash industry for 3Q21. At the same time, however, suppliers also warned that orders from PC OEMs began showing signs of decline. On the whole, the industry’s quarterly total NAND Flash bit shipment increased by nearly 11% QoQ for 3Q21, and the overall NAND Flash ASP rose by nearly 4% QoQ for the same quarter. Thanks to rising prices and expanding shipments, the quarterly total NAND Flash revenue increased by 15% QoQ to a new record high of US$18.8 billion in 3Q21.

Moving into 4Q21, the impact of the ongoing component gaps has widened to numerous application segments of the NAND Flash market as the capacity crunch in the foundry market remains unresolved. Currently, NAND Flash components are in abundance relative to other kinds of key components. For OEMs and ODMs, the differences between the NAND Flash inventory level and the inventory levels of other components have been growing over the past several months. Therefore, they have to scale back orders and reduce stock for NAND Flash. As inventory adjustments are happening, NAND Flash contract prices will start to drop and thus bring about an end to the several quarters of strong revenue growth enjoyed by suppliers.

Samsung

Owing to procurement demand from hyperscalers and smartphone brands, the NAND Flash market generally remained in shortage in 3Q21, thereby driving up Samsung’s ASP by 10% QoQ. Even so, Samsung’s NAND Flash bit shipment increased by only about 5% QoQ due to weakening demand from PC OEMs and low inventory levels of certain other components carried by Samsung’s clients. Samsung’s NAND Flash revenue for 3Q21 reached US$6.51 billion, a 16.5% QoQ increase.

Kioxia

Although orders from PC OEMs began to wane, Kioxia still benefitted from orders from its major smartphone and data center clients in 3Q21, during which Kioxia’s NAND Flash bit shipment underwent a major QoQ increase exceeding 15%. As the NAND Flash market remained in a shortage situation, Kioxia’s ASP increased by about 4% QoQ, resulting in a revenue of US$3.64 billion, which represents a 20.8% QoQ increase and the highest single-quarter revenue in Kioxia’s history.

SK hynix

Among all NAND Flash suppliers in 3Q21, SK hynix registered the highest growth in bit shipment at more than 20% QoQ. This performance can be attributed to several reasons: the cyclical upturn in procurement activities from smartphone brands, persistently strong demand from the data center segment, and inventory-clearing by SK hynix in anticipation of weak demand in the upcoming off-season. Thanks to an ASP increase of about 5% QoQ, SK hynix’s NAND Flash revenue for 3Q21 reached US$2.54 billion, a 25.6% QoQ increase.

Western Digital

Although Western Digital’s PC OEM clients reduced their SSD orders due to supply chain disruptions, and demand from the retail end also remained weak, Western Digital was able to increase its NAND Flash bit shipment by 8% QoQ in 3Q21 due to enterprise SSD demand from the data center segment and NAND Flash demand from smartphone brands for the release of new smartphone models. Nevertheless, Western Digital’s ASP fell by 3% QoQ because the company increasingly focused on major clients and high-density products. Western Digital’s NAND Flash revenue for 3Q21 reached US$2.49 billion, a 2.9% QoQ increase.

Micron

Demand from the data center segment remained strong, and clients continued to adopt Micron’s 176L products. However, Micron’s shipment share in the smartphone market lagged behind that of other NAND Flash suppliers. Furthermore, its PC OEM clients were starting to be affected by the uneven supply of semiconductor chips. In light of these factors, Micron’s NAND Flash bit shipment increased by a modest 4% QoQ. On the other hand, the NAND Flash market remained in a severe shortage in 3Q21, thereby driving up Micron’s ASP by about 5% QoQ. Hence, Micron’s NAND Flash revenue for 3Q21 reached US$1.97 billion, an 8.8% QoQ increase.

Intel

Although persistently strong demand from the data center segment led to a massive price hike for enterprise SSDs and a nearly 6% increase in Intel’s ASP in 3Q21, the company was unable to fully meet its client demand since it could not procure sufficient upstream components. This lack of upstream components resulted in a severe decline of about 5% QoQ in Intel’s NAND Flash bit shipments and offset the upward momentum generated by an increase in Intel’s ASP. Intel’s NAND Flash revenue for 3Q21 reached a mere US$1.11 billion, a slight 0.6% QoQ increase.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-11-04

Annual DRAM Revenue for 2022 Expected to Reach US$91.5 Billion, with Prices Likely to Rally in 2H22, Says TrendForce

Despite the forecasted 18.6% YoY growth in total DRAM bit supply next year, the global DRAM market is still expected to shift from a shortage situation to an oversupply, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. This shift can primarily be attributed to the fact that, not only are most buyers now carrying a relatively high level of DRAM inventory, but DRAM bit demand is also expected to increase by only 17.1% YoY in 2022. On the price front, the oversupply situation will result in a drop in DRAM ASP in 2022 but not a major decline in annual DRAM revenue, thanks to the oligopolistic nature of the DRAM industry. Annual DRAM revenue for 2022 is expected to reach US$91.54 billion, which represents a slight YoY increase of 0.3%.

Based on an analysis of DRAM sufficiency ratio (which refers to the surplus of supply in comparison with demand) for each quarter in 2022, TrendForce forecasts a 15% YoY decrease in DRAM ASP for 2022, with prices undergoing the more noticeable declines during the first half of the year. Heading into 2H22, however, owing to the rise in DDR5 penetration rate, as well as the arrival of peak seasonal demand, the decline in DRAM ASP will likely narrow. TrendForce does not rule out the possibility that DRAM ASP may even hold flat or undergo an increase in 2H22.

Annual NAND Flash revenue is expected to experience yet another increase next year by 7.4% YoY while numerous suppliers compete in higher-layer NAND Flash market segment

Turning to the NAND Flash market, TrendForce forecasts a 31.8% increase in total bit supply for 2022 and a 30.8% increase in total bit demand. Hence, NAND Flash ASP will likely experience a downtrend next year as a result of the oversupply situation. In addition, due to the perfect competition in the NAND Flash market, the decline in NAND Flash ASP next year will be more noticeable than the decline in DRAM ASP. However, NAND Flash suppliers continues to make progress in the stacking of NAND Flash layers, so the growth in NAND Flash bit supply next year will therefore remain above 30%. TrendForce thus expects NAND Flash revenue to have more room for growth and reach US$74.19 billion in 2022, a 7.4% YoY increase.

TrendForce’s forecast based on an analysis of NAND Flash sufficiency ratios for each quarter in 2022 similarly points to an 18.0% YoY decline in NAND Flash ASP next year. Much like DRAM, NAND Flash prices will undergo the more noticeable declines during 1H22. Arrival of peak seasonal demand in 2H22 will potentially result in a narrowing of price drops and a potential for quarterly prices to hold flat.

On the whole, the revenue performance of the DRAM industry and that of the NAND Flash industry over the years show that the annual total DRAM revenue is growing at more stable pace. Again, this has to do with the oligopolistic structure of the DRAM market. Since the DRAM market has a different competitive landscape, the fluctuations in the overall DRAM ASP have been relatively modest over the long run. However, the development of the DRAM manufacturing technology is approaching a physical bottleneck as process nodes shrink below the 20nm level. This means that the bit growth derived from the deployment of a more advanced process is becoming more and more limited over the years. On the other hand, not only are NAND Flash suppliers relatively more unstable in their capacity expansion plans compared to the DRAM industry, but further improvements in NAND Flash layer-stacking technology also remains feasible. Hence, the fluctuations in the overall NAND Flash ASP have been relatively more volatile over the long run. On account of these factors, the DRAM industry generally has smaller YoY revenue growth rates compared with the NAND Flash industry, although the DRAM industry continues to surpass the NAND Flash industry in terms of profitability.

Profitability of suppliers may be constrained if total revenue fails to keep pace with continuously rising CAPEX

Regarding the CAPEX (capital expenditures) of DRAM suppliers, there has been a gradual increase in these suppliers’ CAPEX to sales ratio in recent years, for two reasons. First, the development of the DRAM manufacturing technology is approaching a physical bottleneck. Die improvements have become more and more limited after process nodes have shrunk below the 20nm level. Micron’s 1alpha nm process can offer an almost 30% increase in bits per wafer, but the 1Xnm-to-1Ynm migrations and the subsequent 1Ynm-to-1Znm migrations that the major suppliers have undertaken in the recent period have yielded increases of no more than 15% in bits per wafer. Looking at future technological developments, Samsung and SK hynix have already integrated EUV lithography into their most advanced process technologies. However, orders for EUV lithography tools have a much longer lead time, and the costs of these tools are also high. Hence, the three dominant suppliers have allocated a large chunk of capital expenditure in advance to place orders for EUV lithography tools ahead of time.

Secondly, the oligopolistic structure of the DRAM market has also helped establish a regime where there is a very low chance of a supplier’s ASP dipping under its fully-loaded cost despite the recurrence of the cyclical price downturn. Moreover, DRAM suppliers have accumulated a substantial amount of profit from their products. In view of the difficulties in die shrinking, suppliers ranging from the three dominant suppliers to others with less market share (such as Nanya Tech and Winbond) have developed tangible plans for capacity expansions. These plans have, in turn, become the other main driver behind the ongoing increase in the CAPEX to sales ratio.

The CAPEX to sales ratio of NAND Flash suppliers have likewise risen substantially following the transition to 3D NAND technology in 2017. Notably, the average CAPEX to sales ratio fell within the 25-30% range prior to 2017, but it has since climbed to nearly 40% as of now. This growth can primarily be attributed to the fact that, as the number of 3D NAND layers increases, there is a corresponding increase in the lead times of NAND Flash products and in the degree of precision as well as difficulty involved in the etching process. While the mainstream layer count of NAND Flash products approaches 1YY layers, suppliers are currently planning to move forward with the development of products with 2XX layers, which place an ever-increasing demand on etch depth. The CAPEX of NAND Flash suppliers will continue to grow alongside increases in layer count and revenue.

TrendForce indicates that NAND Flash layer-stacking technology will continue to progress, meaning suppliers will continue to pursue the stacking of additional layers as a way to lower their manufacturing cost per GB. As such, the NAND Flash industry’s CAPEX will have additional potential for growth going forward, with a CAPEX to sales ratio of close to 40% or above. It should be noted, however, that if total NAND Flash revenue fails to keep pace with the growth in CAPEX in the next few years, NAND Flash suppliers’ CAPEX to sales ratio may potentially undergo an excessive increase, thereby constraining the profitability of suppliers.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-10-25

Global Ranking of Top 10 SSD Module Makers for 2020 Shows 15% YoY Drop in Annual Shipment, Says TrendForce

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic led to severe delays in manufacturing and logistics. In particular, governments worldwide began implementing border restrictions in 2Q20 to combat the ongoing health crisis, leading to a sudden decline in order volumes for channel-market SSDs, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Annual shipment of SSDs to the channel (retail) market reached 111.5 million units in 2020, a 15% YoY decrease. In terms of market share by shipment, Kingston, ADATA, and Kimtigo once again occupied the top three spots, respectively.

Looking at the channel market for SSDs as a whole, NAND Flash suppliers (among which Samsung possessed the largest market share) accounted for around 35% of the total shipments in 2020, while SSD module makers accounted for the other 65%. The top 10 module makers accounted for 71% of channel-market SSD shipments from all SSD module makers. Taken together, these figures show that the market remained relatively oligopolistic in 2020. However, it should be noted that TrendForce’s ranking of SSD module makers for 2020 takes account of only products bound for the channel market and under brands owned by the module makers themselves; NAND Flash suppliers were therefore excluded from the top 10 ranking.

As the pandemic eliminated tier-2 and tier-3 suppliers at an increasingly rapid pace, the collective market share of the top 10 module makers continued to rise

Kingston demonstrated the competitive advantage that it derived from having a global strategy while the pandemic took place. The company saw its market share increase by 1% against market headwinds in 2020 and comfortably took the number one spot among the top 10 SSD module makers. At the same time, Kingston sourced its SSD controller ICs from a diverse group of suppliers in order to avoid potential issues with SSD production due to insufficient foundry capacities. By ensuring a stable supply of controller ICs, Kingston will likely raise its market share even further going forward. On the other hand, ADATA had previously shifted the focus of its R&D and manufacturing operations to SSD products. Not only did ADATA release high-end products ahead of most of its competitors, but it also raised its markets share thanks to the increased demand for its gaming products during the pandemic. ADATA took the second spot on the top 10 list.

Kimtigo, ranked third on the list, shifted its focus to mid-range and high-end products due to their relatively high profitability. Furthermore, Kimtigo successfully expanded its market share both overseas and online, in turn taking the number one position in China. In light of China’s policies prioritizing domestic semiconductor production as well as Kimtigo’s ongoing efforts to cultivate a presence in tier-3 and tier-4 cities in China, the company will likely continue to increase its market share going forward. Netac similarly possessed comprehensive sales networks in China and the overseas markets, in addition to having committed to long-term developments in online sales channels. As the pandemic drove up online sales last year, Netac was able to leapfrog to fourth place in the rankings. Likewise, Lexar saw a slight growth in its market share last year due to not only the comprehensive global sales network it had previously developed, but also its gradually maturing manufacturing operations and aftersales customer services.

The COVID-19 pandemic drove up orders for Teclast’s self-branded notebook computers and displays. As a result, Teclast’s shipment of SSDs last year underwent an increase that in turn led to a corresponding increase in its market share. As for Colorful and Galaxy, the two companies primarily focused on the gaming market. Hence, the increase in demand for gaming consoles and high-end notebooks allowed Colorful and Galaxy to enjoy increased visibility in the SSD market. Lenovo’s shipments fell slightly in 2020 because the other competing brands increased their efforts in developing the overseas markets. As a result, its place in the ranking also dropped from 2019. As the ranking indicates, the competition among brands in the Chinese market remained very intense. There is the possibility that the brands’ positions in the ranking will undergo more reshuffling for 2021.

It should be pointed out that TrendForce has noted the participation of additional brands in the SSD module market in recent years. One such brand is Gigabyte, which has registered remarkable performances. Gigabyte grew its shipment of SSD products by more than 30% YoY in 2020 through leveraging its preexisting reputation in the motherboard and graphics card markets. Although Gigabyte has yet to enter the top 10 list at the moment, it will likely do so within the coming years thanks to its comprehensive global sales network and the growing visibility of its SSD products.

Rise of YMTC strengthens China’s domestic NAND Flash production, and Chinese SSD manufacturers are gradually gaining a brand advantage

As the trend of the localization of semiconductor manufacturing comes to the forefront of the Chinese memory market, YMTC is carrying out a massive capacity expansion plan. In terms of layer technology, YMTC is steadily advancing to 128L and catching up to the major NAND Flash suppliers. Among Chinese SSD brands, Biwin secured financial support from the China IC Industry Investment Fund (the Big Fund) this September; it is now expanding the production capacity of its plant in Huizhou. Besides this, Biwin has also acquired sufficient product development capability to meet clients’ demand for customized products and services. The company is therefore expected to experience a wave of growth in the future.

Turning to Taiwan-based SSD brands, Liteon’s shipments of branded SSDs have slowed down significantly after the company was fully incorporated into Kioxia in July 2020. Due to certain considerations pertaining to the allocation of internal resources, Kioxia will assign the Liteon SSD team to support the development of SSDs for PC OEMs. In the future, Kioxia’s focus will not be on brand development. As for other Taiwan-based SSD brands, they will unlikely return to the top 10 ranking because they have not been able to catch up to the brands based in Mainland China with respect to the economies of scale. TrendForce believes that Taiwan-based brands will continue to be on the decline.

PCIe G4 SSDs become new main offerings, and module makers have adopted QLC solutions

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to a significant increase in the average memory density of SSDs this year. With 512GB becoming the mainstream capacity size, the cost advantage of QLC will become increasingly recognizable. Hence, module makers will be introducing QLC products into their SSD offerings. In the aspect of interface technologies, the proportion of SATA in the retail SSD market has been declining over the years, and module makers are switching to PCIe for their new products. TrendForce’s research finds that PCIe products accounted for almost 30% of retail SSDs shipped in 2020. With shipments of PCIe G4 SSDs expected to grow rapidly in the future, module makers will assign PCIe as the mainstream interface for new products.

Also, an increasing number of Chinese IC design houses are now involved in the development of SSD controller ICs. This, in turn, has led to more PCIe G4 SSD controllers entering mass production. As China pursues the localization of semiconductor manufacturing, module makers will be tested to develop suitable solutions that can maintain growth in the Chinese market.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-10-20

NAND Flash Prices Projected to Enter Cyclical Downturn in 2022 Due to Modest Demand Growth and Competition for Higher-Layer NAND, Says TrendForce

Contract prices of NAND Flash products are expected to undergo a marginal drop of 0-5% QoQ in 4Q21 as demand slows, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Hence, the current cyclical upturn in NAND Flash prices will have lasted for only two consecutive quarters. Looking ahead, NAND Flash suppliers’ capacity expansion plans will be affected by the outlook on future trends and the supply of other non-memory components. At the same time, attention will have to be paid to the demand projection. At the moment, NAND Flash suppliers appear likely to downsize their capacity expansion activities for 2022, resulting in a 31.8% YoY increase in NAND Flash bit supply next year. Annual bit demand, on the other hand, is projected to increase by 30.8% YoY. With demand being outpaced by supply and competition intensifying among suppliers for higher-layer products, the NAND Flash market will likely experience a cyclical downturn in prices in 2022.

YoY Growth of bit supply for 2022 is projected to reach 31.8% as competition for higher-layer NAND Flash remains fierce

With demand surging for a significant part of this year, customers have accelerated their adoption of higher-layer NAND technologies. Suppliers have also revised their production plans several times so as to raise output, reaching a YoY growth of nearly 40% in total NAND Flash bit supply in 2021. In light of the somewhat high base for comparison and the relatively weak demand outlook next year, TrendForce expects annual NAND Flash bit supply to increase by only about 31.8% YoY in 2022.

NAND Flash bit demand will grow by just 30.8% due to high base for comparison and factors related to arrival of post-pandemic era

The analysis of the demand side of the NAND Flash market finds that the shipment volumes of smartphones, notebook computers, and servers have been undergoing robust growths in 2021, resulting in a relatively high base period for comparison against next year’s figures. Hence, substantial YoY increases in device production or shipment in 2022 will be difficult. In addition, the procurement side still suffers from mismatched availability of components. With NAND Flash supply being relatively healthy and device manufacturers carrying a growing NAND Flash inventory, NAND Flash procurement for the upcoming period will likely be limited. TrendForce expects NAND Flash bit demand to increase by 30.8% YoY in 2022, which represents a slower growth compared with the increase in NAND Flash bit supply.

Regarding the smartphone market, the persistent shortage of components, including chipsets and driver ICs, is expected to exacerbate the decline in smartphone shipment during the traditional off-season of the first quarter. As for the average storage capacity of handsets, one driver of growth is the iPhone series, which is adopting a 1TB solution for the first time with this year’s line-up (i.e., iPhone 13 Pro/Pro Max). This will encourage brands in the Android camp to follow suit and have a 1TB solution featured in the future flagship models that are released in 2022, thus slightly increasing the shipment share of high-density solutions. Furthermore, brands in the Android camp will be focusing on pushing models with 256GB or 512GB in response to Apple’s storage upgrade for this year’s iPhone lineup. TrendForce forecasts that the NAND Flash bit demand related to smartphones will rise by around 28.5% YoY in 2022, which is noticeably lower than the growth rates that approached almost 30% for the years prior to 2021.

Regarding the notebook market, orders for notebook computers will enter a period of downward correction in 2022 compared to the peak growth that took place in 2021 as increasingly widespread vaccinations lead to a gradual easing of border restrictions. Although the workforce’s return to physical offices has now generated some upside demand for commercial notebooks, the demand for consumer notebooks and Chromebooks, which are highly contingent on the education sector, will undergo a sharp decline. Taking these factors into account, TrendForce forecasts a modest 23.2% YoY growth in client SSD bit demand in 2022, which falls short of the growth in 2021 by a considerable margin.

Regarding the server market, CSPs’ continued procurement of servers in 2022 is expected to drive up annual server shipment by about 4.5% YoY. In particular, the average storage capacity of enterprise SSDs is expected to experience a more significant growth next year compared to previous years due to the gradual release of new server CPU platforms with PCIe Gen 4 support, which features more PCIe lanes allocated to SSD data transfer. These new CPUs will also come with substantial upgrades in terms of both core count and processing power. Adoption of large-capacity enterprise SSDs enables servers equipped with such CPUs to achieve improved computing performance and in turn allows CSPs to cut down on the number of server nodes required, thereby optimizing the cost of data center build-out. In terms of applications, computing demand from AI and big data will continue growing, and this growth will also contribute to the increase in the average storage capacity of enterprise SSDs next year. In addition to the aforementioned developments, the release of Intel’s Sapphire Rapids platform, which supports PCIe Gen 5, will bring about a further bump in enterprise SSD data transfer speed, as well as average storage capacity, which is expected to increase by 33.5% YoY in 2022.

Annual NAND Flash revenue is projected to increase by merely 7% YoY in 2022 while falling quotes offset growth in bit shipment

NAND Flash ASPs have not shown significant downturns for two consecutive years since 2020. At the same time, as the COVID-19 pandemic drives up the demand for electronic products and cloud services, the overall growth in NAND Flash bit demand has been remarkable, resulting in an annual NAND Flash revenue growth of more than 20% YoY in both 2020 and 2021. Looking ahead to 2022, the YoY increase in NAND Flash bit demand will diminish due to the high base for comparison this year. The NAND Flash market is projected to enter a period of price downturn, with an over 18% decline in NAND Flash ASP. While such a decline offsets the rise in bit shipment, annual NAND Flash revenue will likely increase by merely 7% in 2022, the lowest YoY growth in three years.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-09-23

NAND Flash Market Will See Falling Quotes and 0-5% QoQ Declines in Contract Prices for 4Q21, Says TrendForce

The latest analysis of the NAND Flash market from TrendForce finds that shipments have been below expectations for consumer electronics such as smartphones, Chromebooks, and TVs during this second half of the year. At the same time, demand remains sluggish for retail storage products including memory cards and USB drives. Data centers and enterprise servers represent the only applications that show relatively strong demand. With the inventory level of the demand side steadily rising, the procurement momentum of NAND Flash buyers will become more constrained going forward. The gradual weakening of demand is also relieving the shortage of NAND Flash controller ICs. Taking account of these factors, TrendForce forecasts that quotes for NAND Flash products will begin to fall in 4Q21, and NAND Flash contract prices will register QoQ declines of 0-5% for that period.

For 4Q21, Contract Prices of Client SSDs Will Drop by 3-8% QoQ, Whereas Contract Prices of Enterprise SSDs Will Rise Slightly by 0-5% QoQ

Countries in North America and Europe are gradually lifting COVID-19 restrictions as their vaccination rates rise. Consequently, schools and businesses in those countries have also reopened and resumed normal operation. Due to this development, the demand for Chromebooks, which are mainly purchased by academic institutions, has started to slide rapidly. The demand for consumer notebook (laptop) computers has slowed down as well. Among different types of notebook computers, only commercial models continue to experience growing demand. On the side of device manufacturers, the shortages of other types of non-memory ICs are disrupting the operations of ODMs. In particular, the prolonged nationwide lockdown in Malaysia has aggravated the undersupply situation for PMICs. This problem not only impacts the production of PCs and notebook computers but also affects the product assembly capacity of some SSD suppliers.

Additionally, NAND Flash suppliers are rapidly raising production capacity for NAND Flash products that are 128 or higher in layer count. As a result, supply is gradually outpacing demand for SSDs. TrendForce believes that suppliers will become increasingly proactive in pricing in order to raise the consumption of their production output by customers and thus prevent excess inventory. Hence, contract prices of client SSDs are forecasted to make a downward turn in 4Q21 and register QoQ declines of 3-8%.

Regarding enterprise SSDs, customers in the data center segment have raised the volumes of their orders for two quarters straight, and their inventories have been climbing steadily as well. Therefore, the demand for enterprise SSDs will start to weaken in 4Q21. The procurement of enterprise SSDs by server OEMs will continue to be sustained by server shipments to medium and small enterprises in 4Q21. However, the total server shipments for the same period will be impacted by the ongoing IC shortage. Server shipments are forecasted to drop by nearly 9% QoQ for 4Q21, and the demand bits related to enterprise SSDs will also fall by 7% QoQ for the same period.

Turning to the supply side of the enterprise SSD market, lead time has been prolonged for the enterprise SSD controller ICs from Intel because Intel’s main base for packaging and testing this kind of chip is located in Malaysia, which is now a COVID-19 hotspot. The situation is not expected to improve in 4Q21, so bit shipments of enterprise SSDs from Intel will shrink from 3Q21. Since Intel’s market share for enterprise SSDs is fairly large, the effect of the recent COVID-19 outbreaks in Malaysia on contract prices of enterprise SSDs will be significant. TrendForce currently forecasts that contract prices of enterprise SSDs will rise by 0-5% QoQ for 4Q21. The hike will be mainly caused by the lack of components on the supply side rather than an increase in demand.

5-10% Reduction Projected for eMMC Prices amidst Significant Drop of End Demand

The demand for major consumer products, such as TVs and tablets, has started to weaken after the conclusion of the traditional peak season of stocking, as well as the gradual withdrawal of subsidization policy from the US. The continuous elevation of the vaccination rate in European and American countries, followed by a progressive mitigation of lockdown measures in various countries and successive resumption of school operations, have yielded an apparent impact to the demand for notebooks and tablets related to education purposes, while the aggravated stocking from the buyers during 1H21 in fear of shortages in NAND Flash controller IC has increased the inventory level and further suppressed eMMC orders. Despite stable capacity for low density 2D MLC NAND, as well as confined supply of NAND Flash controller due to the full load capacity of 28/40nm processes from foundries, the prices have been deprived of support owing to the sizable depletion in end demand, where a prominent decrement of 5-10% is expected for relevant products during 4Q21 after the substantial increase in 2Q21.

0-5% Reduction Projected for UFS Prices amidst Enhanced Supply and Diminished Demand

TrendForce has downward revised the projections to the annual production of smartphones under the fluctuating COVID-19 pandemic status in Southeast Asia. In addition, the stocking demand for new iPhones and flagships of various brands will gradually decelerate upon entering 4Q21, while the peak season of stocking is soon to be transitioned to the imminent off season. Purchase dynamics of UFS are expected to further subside. Regarding supply, mobile clients are currently using similar layers in products to that of PC OEMs after the spontaneous incorporation of 1xxL by different brands during 1Q21, and the provision of products with higher layers is expected to amplify under PC products’ expansion of market satisfaction and the unmitigated component gaps of ODMs. UFS quotations are estimated to deteriorate by 0-5% in 4Q21 under enhanced supply and diminished demand.

NAND Flash Wafer Prices to Sustain the Largest Quarterly Decrease of 10-15% amidst Subsided Demand for Major Applications

The demand performance for retail end products has been sluggish since the beginning of 2021 aside from the temporal nourishment from the related demand for a storage-based cryptocurrency (Chia) between April and May. Memory cards and USB flash drives have been sluggish in sales since 2Q21 due to the successive exacerbation of the pandemic status in India and Southeast Asia, and the sales of retail SSD from channels have been impeded owing to the shortages of graphics cards, which obstructs the bundling with assembled computers. The fluctuation of cryptocurrency prices, for which the plummeting had slightly improved the shortages of graphics cards at one time, has triggered another recovery in the demand for mining, and further inhibits the sales volume of SSD. It is worth noting that the diverted tendency between end products and upstream components has manifested considerable pressure to module houses.

Pressure from the sales of NAND Flash wafer inventory is expected to gradually magnify for suppliers under the worse-than-expected demand for products such as notebooks, smartphones, and TVs. Few suppliers have signaled their willingness in active provision during 4Q21, though the continuously enlarging void of PMIC has instead entangled the shipment of finished enterprise SSD, which intensifies the sales pressure of NAND Flash wafer. Furthermore, YMTC, WDC, and Micron have initiated an active supply of 128, 112, and 176L product samples to module houses for testing and incorporation. The incorporation of higher layers will further refine shipment cost that will obtain additional room in price reduction for suppliers. 3D NAND wafer is expected to sustain the largest depletion among all product categories at 10-15% during 4Q21.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

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