The global static random-access memory (SRAM) market will continue to decline over the next five years, although there will be pockets of growth in demand for the memory chip in industrial and medical applications.
Worldwide SRAM revenue will fall about 4% from $409 million in 2017 to $333 million in 2022, according to research firm IC Insights. In fact, the SRAM market has been declining for years after cell-phone manufacturers stopped using SRAM in phones in favor of DRAM. The last time SRAM revenue increased was 2010 when sales rose 32% to $1.6 billion. In 2017, the SRAM market declined 6% to $409 million and will fall 5% to $389 million in 2018, said IC Insights.
The good news for memory IC buyers is that while the SRAM market is declining, average selling prices will be mostly stable over that time. The average price for an SRAM was $1.62 in 2017 and will fall to $1.58 in 2020 before rising slightly to $1.63 in 2022, the researcher said.
Sonal Chandrasekharan, senior director of the RAM business unit for Cypress Semiconductor, based in San Jose, Calif., said Cypress has kept its average selling prices steady for the last two years. She noted that there are not as many SRAM suppliers as there were in the past so “there’s not a lot of competition and we are holding prices steady.”
Carl May, general manager and director of product marketing, standard products for IDT, based in San Jose, said while asynchronous SRAM prices remain mostly flat, “there is a possibility for a slight increase given the decreasing number of vendors in the space and our continued cost increases to maintain these classic products. “
Plenty of Capacity
Unlike DRAM and flash memory, there will be no supply issues for SRAM although the number of SRAM suppliers has declined over the past 10 years, according to memory chip manufacturers. Lead times for SRAMs are mostly stable as suppliers such as Cypress, ISSI, GSI Technology, IDT, Renesas and Alliance Memory say there is enough capacity to meet demand.
While the SRAM market is declining and a number of suppliers have left the market, some SRAM manufacturers are increasing their market share and some are posting sales increases. For instance, Cypress has increased its share of the global SRAM market from about 23% 10 years ago to about 50% currently and is the market leader, said Chandrasekharan.
She said while the SRAM market has been declining 4-5% per year, most of that decline is for volatile SRAMs. Cypress manufactures both volatile and nonvolatile SRAMs. While the volatile market is declining, “it is almost compensated by non-volatile RAM market which is growing at 5-6%. So that keeps us with a steady growth rate,” said Chandrasekharan.
In addition, volatile SRAMs are synchronous, but Cypress also makes asynchronous SRAMs which are widely used in industrial equipment.
“Over 60% of our revenue is the industrial space which results in us having a very steady business with asynchronous SRAM,” said Chandrasekharan. SRAMs are also used in medical equipment and in Internet of Things applications and automotive, she said.
Chandrasekharan said the “sweet spot” for SRAMs are 4Mb to 8 Mb densities. “But we see the highest growth rate in 16Mb going toward 64 Mb,” she said.
Legacy Parts Still Needed
One SRAM manufacturer that is growing sales is Alliance Memory, based in San Carlos, Calif. Alliance makes asynchronous SRAMs for industrial equipment manufacturers. “We grew our SRAM business 15% from 2016 to 2017 in a declining market,” said David Bagby, president, CEO and founder of Alliance Memory. He said sales should increase at the same rate or better in 2018
Much of Alliance’s business is for legacy SRAMs that other SRAM suppliers have stopped manufacturing, but many industrial companies such as Honeywell, Schneider, GE and others still need.
One reason Alliance will have sales growth in 2018 is that market leader Cypress recently issued end of life notices for some legacy type SRAMs, said Bagby. “This will give us a big boost” because Alliance will continue to manufacture those parts which are still in demand by some companies. “It will give us further chance to continue to grow,” he said.