B&C: Hi Paul, first of all, thank you for this interview. Can you explain to our readers what your position and roles are at Toshiba Memory, now KIOXIA?
PR: My name is Paul Rowan, Vice President of the SSD Business at KIOXIA Europe, responsible for the overall SSD business development in Europe for both the consumer and the B2B side. We are constantly talking to market leaders in various industries to drive the flash technology and the flash applications to the next level. With the NVMe technology we are having for the first time a pure flash-based interface which brings flash integration to the next level. And the continual strategic thinking about future applications and smart devices of tomorrow is one of the priorities of my daily tasks.
B&C: Why is Toshiba Memory change the company name to KIOXIA? When will these changes occur? Does the name change impact your clients?
PR: As you know, since June 2018, we are no longer part of the Toshiba Group, so we have decided to change our name to KIOXIA to clearly identify that separation and establish our new brand identity. KIOXIA is a combination of the Japanese word Kioku meaning “memory” and the Greek word axia meaning “value”. The name KIOXIA expresses the company’s mission to uplift the world with “memory”, which forms the foundation of the company’s vision and action guidelines. KIOXIA will cultivate the new era of memory, defined by rapidly increasing demands for large-capacity, high-performance storage and data processing, which positions the company to grow sustainably as a leading flash memory producer for many years to come. Toshiba Memory officially stopped acting in the course of business under its old name and started using its new name KIOXIA as of October 1, 2019. The new name will be adopted as the brand for all Toshiba Memory products. But the brand of B2C products will be unchanged at October 1st, using the Toshiba Brand until further notice. We want to highlight, the rebranding will not impact our clients. Our company remains the same legal entity and it is business as usual. However, clients will deal with additional operations generated by trademark change.
B&C: TOSHIBA Memory is within the storage industry with NAND flash since day one – tell our readers what this means. Is its successor KIOXIA still one of the kings?
PR: Toshiba (Memory) Corporation has driven the technological evolution of flash memory from its invention of NAND flash memory in 1987 through its introduction of the latest 3D flash memory, BiCS FLASH™. Without developing the NAND flash technology, the world would have been different than it is today. For example, each smartphone uses flash storage. As society creates increasing amounts of active data through new technologies such as 5G, IoT and cloud computing, more memory and storage is required than ever before, and with the introduction of NVMe – the first SSD-related interface – the SSD technology is now unleashed to new transitions. As an industry pioneer and continued global leader in flash memory and solid-state drives, we are well-positioned to enable our digital society to launch into a new era of memory.
B&C: The NAND flash market is dominated by the Korean companies: Samsung and SK Hynix. It’s like a cartel, by the customers’ point of view. Is KIOXIA big enough to be decisive in this market, or it will be just a supporting actor? Micron seems to be too weak to fight against Samsung and SK Hynix at the same time. In the future, can we expect a KIOXIA-Micron coalition?
PR: Since the invention of NAND flash technology in 1987, Toshiba (Memory) Corporation was year by year driving the progress of developing future technologies (KIOXIA History). We see KIOXIA continuing to be a leader in the flash market and are committed to developing new types of memory devices and storage systems in order to explore new business areas for the future. But we cannot comment on KIOXIA strategic decisions for the future or competitors.
B&C: KIOXIA is investing a lot of money to create a solid NAND flash ecosystem, even thanks to past OCZ acquisition. Do you think KIOXIA is strong enough to compete with the legends, like Kingston, Seagate and Western Digital in this market?
PR: We see KIOXIA currently very strong in the Flash memory and SSD market and we expect we will continue to grow our share in the near future. To create a new era of memory and realize a sustainable society, KIOXIA Corporation will further strengthen its research and technology development, leveraging the expertise that enabled us to release the world’s first NAND flash memory and 3D flash memory.
B&C: We know that KIOXIA uses and create leading edge NAND flash technologies (e.g. BiCS FLASH™ 3D technology). How much efforts do you put in to create this kind of techs? It would be great, also, to have some data about you R&D future plans!
PR: To ensure KIOXIA continuous to be a leader in technology innovation, we have an innovative R&D center in Yokkaichi facility, which is working on future exciting and innovative technologies. Our engineers are engaged in the development of device, process, and circuit technologies for next-generation nonvolatile memory. We also consider to introduce next-generation lithography technology. While exploring new principles of operation and device structures, it is developing new types of memory that are attracting lots of attention as next-generation storage class memory (SCM), so as to cultivate new markets. To realize such memory and storage products, we conduct cutting-edge research and technology development, leveraging a wide range of verification techniques not only devices, circuits, processes, and system technologies, but also manufacturing technologies incorporating AI. To further accelerate the development speed and address the needs of increasingly diverse research themes, KIOXIA Corporation not only promotes collaboration between in-house divisions and laboratories but also undertakes R&D projects in collaboration with universities, technical communities, and research institutes both in Japan and abroad. We also apply the results of these activities to a broad range of products and R&D themes while capturing ideas from wide communities.
B&C: Toshiba Memory (now KIOXIA), has signed a definitive agreement to acquire SSD business of Lite-ON (30th of August 2019). What is the purpose of the Lite-ON deal and what will be acquired? What is LITE-ON’s strength? Was OCZ not enough?
PR: The purpose of this acquisition is to underline the technology leadership of KIOXIA and strengthen our SSD business, increase market share and obtain competent engineers and technical know-how for the future. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2020 and is subject to customary closing adjustments and regulatory approval. Well with the OCZ SSD team, we integrated not only the retail SSD brand but also a lot of R&D expertise for developing B2B software for flash devises, which was an important step for keeping technology leadership in the flash division. LITE-ON’s SSD business is a natural, strategic and cultural fit with KIOXIA and could expand our focus on the SSD business. There are no changes to KIOXIA’s working model, product support or roadmap due to this announcement. We cannot comment on questions about LITE-ON’s business plans at the moment, any questions should be directed to a LITE-ON contact. We will keep customers updated on any further developments.
B&C: At IFA 2019 Toshiba Memory Europe GmbH (now KIOXIA Europe GmbH) introduced the new NVMe SSDs RD500 and RC500. Are NVMe products the new mainstream? We can see Intel 2TB SSDs NVMe under 200 Euro, here in Italy!
PR: Although we still see 80% SATA market share, we are driving the transition to the next level called PCIe/NVMe interface. The SATA was developed based on mechanical hard drives and the interface is still common in many entry and even mainstream level PCs and notebooks. At the same time the upgrade wave from HDD to SSD is still ongoing also due to longer life cycles of end customer systems and the affordable price per GB. But those end users who are now looking for a future-proof notebook or PC are focused on NVMe technology. While PCIe Gen4 is still limited supported on the motherboard side and therefore on the consumer side, we see with PCIe Gen3x4 enough performance to drive consumer applications to the next level and support even high-end gamers with an improved computing experience.
Our new SSDs are high-performance solutions for today’s mainstream gamers, DIY system builders and upgrade solution seekers. A next-generation PCIe interface enables the Toshiba RD500 and RC500 Series to provide a more responsive PC experience with shorter storage latency than that of SATA SSDs.
Ideal for PC gaming enthusiasts, the RD500 Series offers very good performance thanks to a newly designed 8-channel controller that brings out the full potential of BiCS FLASH™. The RD500 Series achieves sequential read and write speed up to 3,400MB/s and 3,200MB/s respectively and delivers random read and write performance up to 685,000 IOPS and 625,000 IOPS. The RD500 Series is available in capacities up to 2 terabytes (TB).
Built from the ground up to deliver faster-than-SATA performance, the RC500 Series uses a 4-channel controller that is ideal for users requiring faster solutions for mainstream PCs. Available in capacities up to 1TB in a single-sided module, the RC500 Series realizes great random performance.
All consumer products benefit from our company’s long-term experience on the B2B level, providing state of the art reliability. Of course, both introduced product families feature the company’s own state-of-the-art 96-layer triple-level cell BiCS FLASH™ 3D flash memory. And traditionally we are always providing what the mainstream market is looking for to transform the storage industry also in the future.
B&C: Thank you Paul, it has been a pleasure talking with you.