TSMC claims it's a one-stop shop for 2.5D stacks, and Globalfoundries is at some stage of bringing up its own service. Having one neck to choke for a complex technology like 2.5D chips is great, but the foundries are charging a 10x premium. Yikes!
Graphics chip vendors such as AMD and Nvidia would love to put a nice big 3D memory stack on a silicon interposer next to their honking GPUs. The resulting products would have significantly higher performance and lower power, but not enough to justify the 10x manufacturing premium the foundries are charging.
So the industry is at a chicken-and-egg stand still for high volume 2.5D products.
Micron hopes its Hybrid Memory Cube could be the break out product. But it's not clear its high-end customers are the right vehicle. Fujitsu said it will show a prototype board at next week's supercomputer conference using (it is believed) as many as eight of the HMC stacks.
So the technology is real and has users, but not high-volume ones -- yet. SK Hynix will show its own version of a memory stack that like Micron's has four to eight DRAM die delivering something on the order of 160 Mbytes/second, so there is competition.
Potential customers say neither 3D memory company is ready to supply high volumes yet. Perhaps they will next year. They are also expected to roll versions that support the Jedec HBM interface for graphics processors. The question, again, comes down to price.
At the panel session, Abe Yee, a packaging expert at Nvidia, had some suggestions for the likes of Globalfoundries, Micron, SK Hynix, and TSMC.
"We've invested $2 billion in [the chip stacking] market already and haven't got it back, but we continue to invest -- and our suppliers need to think the same way," Yee said.
"I don't think Moore's Law is going to last another 20 years, and even if it does we will still need to get memory closer to processors," Yee added. "So this market is going to happen if you like it or not, and suppliers have to think about how they will invest in it," he said.
Of course it's always easier to tell the other guy to invest the next billion. Meanwhile, the other billion dollar question is, what will Samsung do?"