DRAM Growth Decelerates As Mobile Shift Continues, Analysts Say


The growth of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) content in PCs is decelerating due to rising demand for Ultrabooks and cloud computing, according to a report from industry analyst IHS iSuppli.

The slower-than-usual growth in the PC market has prompted analysts to revise their original yearly forecast of DRAM’s usage within notebook devices. While the firm initially projected DRAM content in notebooks to amount to 4.2 GB per machine, they have tweaked their estimation to a more modest 4.0 GB.

This revised, lower forecast for DRAM content in notebooks would signify a year-over growth of 25 percent for 2011 – down 6 points from the original projection of a 31 percent increase.

This scaled-back year-over growth of 25 percent represents a pretty significant drop from the 40 percent range in which average annual DRAM growth has historically seen, analysts reported.

"Clearly, the era of PC DRAM growth of around 40 percent is a thing of the past," said Mike Howard, principal analyst for DRAM and memory at IHS in a statement. "DRAM companies know this, and suppliers now are turning their attention toward increased production of mobile DRAM for devices like smartphones and tablets, where the next wave of growth is projected to take place."

The rise of Ultrabooks and cloud computing is being cited as the major culprit behind decreased DRAM growth in the PC market.

"The single biggest reason for DRAM’s reduced growth outlook in notebooks during the next four years is the ultrabook," Howard noted in the report. "Ultrabooks currently use a maximum of 4GB of DRAM, and we believe the emphasis on form factor with minimal size and weight will lead to Ultrabooks using less DRAM on average than traditional notebooks. As Ultrabook sales surge during the next four years, this will slow the growth of average DRAM usage in notebooks."

Ultrabooks will represent 43 percent of wordwide notebook PC shipments in 2015 – up from 2 percent in 2011 and 13 percent in 2012 – IHS iSuppli predicts.

Along with Ultrabooks, cloud computing may be slowing DRAM growth. With more and more users leveraging virtualization and cloud services, the need for on-premise devices is dwindling.

Marc Fertik, director at system builder ACE Computers, agrees that an overall market shift from desktop PCs – where large amounts of memory are traditionally stored – to mobile devices could be a driving force behind DRAM’s stunted growth this year.

While desktop demand maintains fairly healthy levels within public sector organizations such as schools, the mobility push within the enterprise and consumer markets is definitely there, Fertik noted.

"The memory market is evolving to be more in support of the mobility segment, which is a much higher unit volume and much less memory per unit," Fertik told CRN. "We’re seeing a shit to a very small amount of traditional memory, and more use of SSD and SS variations of drives to support mobile devices."

As trends such as mobility and cloud computing thrive, IHS iSuppli’s outlook for DRAM looks increasingly grim.

A slump in DRAM growth is expected to continue over the next four years, with the disparity between initial and re-adjusted growth projections becoming more and more drastic.

In 2012, for instance, the firm predicts DRAM usage will fall below previous projections by 0.6 GB, with average usage amounting to 5.1 GB, compared to the previous forecast of 5.7 GB.