While Micron co-invented 3D XPoint together with Intel, the company has not used the new type of memory widely so far. At present, Micron's fab in Lehi, Utah, is underutilized as it mostly produces 3D XPoint memory for Intel, but Micron remains optimistic about the technology. In fact, it has plans to release a family of products based on 3D XPoint in the next couple of years.
"So we are in really early stages, I would say that," said David Zinsner, the CFO of Micron, at Sanford C. Bernstein Operational Decisions Conference Call, reports SeekingAlpha. "We still have not had any meaningful revenue outside of wafers that we're selling to our prior partner in 3D XPoint, Intel."
Micron introduced its first X100-series SSDs that use 3D XPoint memory in October 2019 and David Zinsner admits that the product was mostly a 'teaser' which allowed Micron to learn more about behavior of the new memory type on commercial products. As a result, sales of Micron's X100-series drives are still rather low. Going forward, the company expects to introduce more heavy-duty SSDs based on 3D XPoint as well as non-volatile 3D XPoint DIMMs in the coming years.
"I think we look to that over the next year or two, I think we'll be in a better place there," said Zinsner. "I would say also on a relative basis, beyond just progress made on DRAM and NAND, eventually, we want to continue to build out a portfolio for 3D XPoint, which I think makes us unique in the marketplace, being able to supply DRAM, NAND and be able to supply 3D XPoint, which we think has some pretty interesting use cases particularly in the AI space."
Unlike Intel, Micron has always pinned more hopes on the second and consequent generations of 3D XPoint memory that promise lower costs per bit amid higher performance. Meanwhile, only Intel currently uses 2nd generation 3D XPoint memory for its Optane 200-series products. By contrast, Micron is in the early stages of adoption of 3D Xpoint in general.
One of the reasons why Micron is behind Intel with its 3D XPoint-based products is because Intel has its own computer platforms and can relatively easily tailor SSDs and NVDIMMs for them. By contrast, Micron has to work with platform designers and PC makers to ensure that its 3D XPoint products deliver expected performance and capabilities.
"We obviously are working with some of the really big players in the space with this technology," said Zinsner. "The early read has been very positive, quite honestly, about it. But like all emerging technologies, adoption takes some time to get the use cases to the right place and get the cost and the performance at the right place."
It should be noted that going forward Micron will develop 3D XPoint memory completely in house, which is why it is reasonable to assume that the upcoming generations will be more suitable for Micron's own products and therefore the latter will be more widespread.