Controllers for controlling SSDs are becoming scarce, and the expected price drops for flash memory should not materialize.
The tense global supply situation in the semiconductor industry could also affect SSDs in the coming months. Market observers report that SSD controllers from Phison and Silicon Motion, among others, are becoming scarce and therefore increasing in price. Most SSD manufacturers install these in their end customer SSDs. (Also Read: XRP steady growth after a huge PUMP and DUMP)
In addition, according to the market watcher Trendforce, previously expected price reductions for NAND flash memory have not yet materialized. At the end of 2020, a 10 to 15 percent decline was forecast. Due to aggressive purchases by some smartphone manufacturers and a high demand from data centers, storage prices are expected to remain constant in the first quarter of 2021.
Companies like Phison and Silicon Motion design their own SSD controllers, but have them produced by chip contract manufacturers, including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC). Most SSD controller chips are manufactured with coarser semiconductor structures of, for example, 40, 28 or 20 nanometers.
SSD controllers contain one or more (ARM) processing cores, accept storage requests from the host via PCI Express, SATA or SAS and distribute them to the NAND flash chips – accelerated if necessary by SDRAM caches.
Trendforce speaks of an “acute shortage” that was already looming at the end of 2020 , according to an older press release . At that time, market observers expected price increases of between 15 and 20 percent for SSD controllers, but at the time only spoke of “tight production capacities”. The wording is now becoming more serious.
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A price increase only for controllers would have little impact on the total cost calculation for an end customer SSD – because the actual NAND flash memory chips and the cache SDRAM, if available, are significantly more expensive. A shortage of SSD controllers would be more noticeable in a tighter SSD supply, which could drive up prices. So far, however, there have been no major abnormalities in the price comparison.
A supply shortage would initially affect models with low capacity, because every SSD requires a controller. Since the SSD manufacturers also earn more from more expensive SSDs, they should prioritize them if enough controllers are not available.
The two manufacturers Samsung and Western Digital have advantages, as they design their own SSD controllers and are therefore not dependent on third-party manufacturers if their respective contract manufacturers deliver. Crucial’s parent company Micron produces its own memory, but buys most of the controllers from Silicon Motion.