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Semiconductor shortages

Memory chip shortage may drive SSD price hike in Q2

By Mar 10, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Samsung's latest 980 NVMe SSD launched today 
Samsung's latest 980 NVMe SSD launched today 


Chip shortages have hit the memory segment of the industry and are likely to have a price impact on solid-state drives (SSDs), storage devices typically used in laptops, servers and data centers, according to Taiwan’s global semiconductor market research firm TrendForce.  

The research firm on Mar. 9 adjusted its Q2 price forecasts for enterprise SSDs from a “0-5% decrease” quarter-on-quarter to a “0-5% increase” and for client SSDs from “mostly flat” to a “3-8% increase.”

TrendForce claimed that SSDs now face increasingly tight supply due to a shortage of NAND flash controllers, or controller IC chips, that was “exacerbated by the power outage at Samsung’s Austin-based semiconductor plant.”

Controllers are often referred to as the brain of NAND flash memory chips as they determine the order as well as the speed of data processing. They are manufactured at foundries based on orders placed by memory chip companies such as Samsung Electronics Co., SK Hynix, Phison and Silicon Motion.

Supply of controllers faced a shortage as early as the end of 2020 when major foundries such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) lacked sufficient manufacturing capacity for the increased demand.

Samsung, the global leader in the memory chip segment, was relatively untouched by the industry-wide issue thanks to its own foundry in Austin, Texas, where 10% of the plant's capacity is allocated for its own controller chip production.

But industry experts believe that the February shutdown of the Austin plant dragged Samsung into the shortage issue as well, even though the plant quickly resumed operations. 

An industry representative remarked that “most customers are calling frequently, asking for details of the current situation and supply schedule.” Samsung and SK Hynix have also reportedly exchanged letters sharing the details of the shortage.

An international news source projected that the “SSD supply shortage will be prolonged,” while another media outlet in Taiwan claimed that Samsung has sent letters to customers saying that the controller shortage will not be resolved until May.

A Samsung representative commented: “We still have inventory of controllers in possession, allowing us to continue to produce SSDs. Some overseas media outlets have somewhat exaggerated the issue.”

Write to Jeong-soo Hwang at hjs@hankyung.com

Daniel Cho edited this article.

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