Entering 2017, the global DRAM market continues to witness demand outpacing supply. The latest research by DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce, projects that contract prices of server DRAM modules will increase by almost 40% sequentially on average this first quarter. The contract market for server DRAM modules is expected to see another sequential price hike of 10% in the second quarter. By that time, the global average sales price (ASP) of DDR4 16GB server DRAM may reach the threshold of US$130.
DRAMeXchange’s analysis finds that tight supply and soaring prices in PC DRAM market have kept pulling up server DRAM prices since the fourth quarter of 2016. Furthermore, server DRAM demand rose above the expected level during last year’s second half as server vendors stock up to fulfill large orders related to data center projects.
The market outlook is very bright going into 2017. All types of DRAM will remain in short supply as major DRAM suppliers proceed with more conservative capacity expansion plans. Prices of server DRAM therefore are expected to rise through the first half of 2017.
In terms of technology strategies, Samsung’s major plan for DRAM production this year is to expand the wafer capacity of its 18nm process. Meanwhile, SK Hynix and Micron will focus on raising the yield rates of their respective 20/21nm processes. Efforts from these three major suppliers will accelerate the market penetration of high-density server DRAM modules.
Furthermore, Chinese server vendors including Huawei and Inspur have sampled and accepted leading-edge memory products. With the qualification completed, suppliers will begin transitioning to the 20nm or more advanced manufacturing processes in the second quarter of 2017. DRAMeXchange estimates that nearly 60% of the global server DRAM output will come from the 20nm or superior technologies before the fourth quarter. Progresses made in the technology migration will also push high-density 16GB and 32GB modules into more application segments within the server market.
DRAMeXchange also points out that the general transition of server DRAM production onto the 20nm-class processes will make 8Gb mono-die chips mainstream this year and increase the availability to 16GB and 32GB modules. Moreover, Intel and AMD will respectively release server processors based on their latest platforms during the second half 2017. First-tier server ODMs such as QCT will be compelled to upgrade their products with high-density DRAM modules for better performances. Therefore, the increase in the content per box will still be the main demand driver in the server DRAM market this year.