First Flash Memory Summit Clarifies State of the Business

News Analysis: About 500 flash enthusiasts give up three days of summer to discuss the state of the product and market, which is burgeoning beyond many people's wildest dreams.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—The first Flash Memory Summit now is just that—a memory.

A gathering of about 500 flash engineers, enthusiasts and entrepreneurs met at the Wyndham Hotel for three days here Aug. 8 to 10 to see colleagues, argue about the value of hard drives versus flash, learn about new uses for NAND flash, and predict where the market is heading.

A question that occurred to some people was this: Why, in the 17-year history of flash memory, hasnt such a conference been held before this?

Flash memory—a solid-state, rewritable silicon memory chip that holds its content without needing power—had been a successful but unspectacular business up until about four years ago; now it is big business.

"Why? I dont know why this hasnt been done before," Jay Kramer, a storage consultant in Laguna Beach, Calif., and organizer of the event, told eWEEK.

"The various flash form factors [USB, MMflash, SDflash and others] have their own little organizations, but no one has ever put one like this together."

The overall flash memory market definitely needs to be addressed. The NAND flash market in 2005 was $10.8 billion, up a whopping 63 percent from 2004.

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Analysts estimate the market to grow to $16.8 billion in 2006 and $26.2 billion in 2009 (as estimated by industry analytics firm iSuppli in El Segundo, Calif.).

NAND flash bit shipments grew at a 179.6 percent compound annual rate in the six-year span from 2000 to 2005, or at least three times the 51.2 percent CAGR for DRAM processors, Denali Softwares Lane Mason has reported.

Not to be confused with other flashes of brilliance

Flash memory is not to be confused with Macromedia (now Adobe Systems) Flash, which refers to both the Adobe Flash Player and a multimedia authoring software used to create content for the Adobe Engagement Platform (for Web applications, games and movies).

There are two kinds of flash memory: NAND and NOR. NAND (stands for the mathematical term "no and") is used in memory cards, such as CompactFlash cards, and also is used in USB Flash drives, MP3 players, iPods, and provides the image storage for digital cameras.

NAND, created by Toshiba in 1989, is best suited to flash devices requiring high capacity and storage—offering storage space of up to 512MB and faster erase, write and read capabilities than the older, lower-end NOR architecture.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he has...