NAND Flash suppliers’ Clients in the data center segment were gradually stepping up enterprise SSD procurement after finishing inventory adjustments, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Moreover, the adoption rate of 4/8TB products in the enterprise SSD market increased substantially on account of the releases and adoption of the new server processor platforms from Intel and AMD. Although the recent wave of COVID-19 outbreaks that struck Southeast Asia weakened smartphone sales in 2Q21, the quarterly total NAND Flash bit shipments rose by nearly 9% QoQ, as PC OEMs still had plenty of component orders in 2Q21 due to the fairly robust notebook demand during the period. On the other hand, the shortage of controller ICs became more severe during the period, and the winter storm that battered Texas this February affected the operation of Samsung’s foundry fab Line S2 in Austin. As demand for NAND Flash products rose, the overall ASP also rose by nearly 7% QoQ, and the quarterly total NAND Flash revenue rose by 10.8% QoQ to US$16.4 billion in 2Q21.
After DRAM prices made a rebound into an upward trajectory in 1Q21, buyers expanded their DRAM procurement activities in 2Q21 as they anticipated a further price hike and insufficient supply going forward, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Not only was demand robust from clients in the notebook segment, which benefitted from ongoing WFH and distance learning applications, but CSPs also sought to gradually replenish their DRAM inventories. Furthermore, demand for products that are relatively niche, including graphics DRAM and consumer DRAM, remained strong. Hence, DRAM suppliers experienced better-than-expected QoQ increases in their DRAM shipment for 2Q21. At the same time, DRAM quotes grew by a greater magnitude compared to the first quarter as well. With both shipment and quotes undergoing growths in tandem, DRAM suppliers registered remarkable growths in their revenues in 2Q21. Total DRAM revenue for 2Q21 reached US$24.1 billion, a 26% QoQ increase.
While the server industry transitions to the latest generation of processors based on the x86 platform, the Intel Ice Lake and AMD Milan CPUs entered mass production earlier this year and were shipped to certain customers, such as North American CSPs and telecommunication companies, at a low volume in 1Q21, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. These processors are expected to begin seeing widespread adoption in the server market in 3Q21. TrendForce believes that Ice Lake represents a step-up in computing performance from the previous generation due to its higher scalability and support for more memory channels. On the other hand, the new normal that emerged in the post-pandemic era is expected to drive clients in the server sector to partially migrate to the Ice Lake platform, whose share in the server market is expected to surpass 30% in 4Q21.
Suppliers and clients in the server DRAM market are still having difficulty in reaching agreements on prices for 3Q21 contracts even though the quarter is well underway, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Hence, server DRAM contract prices are much more varied than before. Regarding the price trend in July, contract quotes for the mainstream 32GB RDIMMs rose by 5-7% MoM. However, the price hikes have led to a reduction in demand, and there are indications that server DRAM sales bits will register some decline for 3Q21. The release of server CPUs based on the new platforms is driving the procurement of higher-density 64GB RDIMMs, but this has not resulted in a significant corresponding increase in content per unit. The general trend for buyers is to replace two 32GB modules with one 64GB module, rather than a one-to-one replacement as DRAM suppliers previously expected. Contract prices of 64GB RDIMMs rose by 5-7% MoM for July, though prices were below this range for some transactions.
Now that most negotiations over contract prices of PC DRAM for 3Q21 have concluded, DRAM suppliers’ low inventories and the arrival of the peak season for DRAM procurement have resulted in a 3-8% QoQ increase in PC DRAM contract prices for 3Q21, although this is a relatively muted growth compared to the 25% increase experienced in 2Q21, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. However, demand for PC DRAM in the spot market began to show signs of bearish movement in early July ahead of time, as DRAM suppliers continued to lower prices in order to adjust their DRAM inventories. Regarding the contract market, PC OEMs currently carry relatively high levels of DRAM inventory because they substantially stocked up on PC DRAM beforehand in anticipation of an upcoming shortage. Not only has PC OEMs’ high DRAM inventory put downward pressure on possible price hikes for PC DRAM, but the gradual lifting of COVID-related restrictions in Europe and the US will also likely lower the overall demand for notebook computers, thereby pulling down the overall demand for PC DRAM. TrendForce therefore forecasts a 0-5% QoQ decline in PC DRAM contract prices for 4Q21.