The Six Five On the Road at CES 2023 with Dinesh Bahal, Micron Technology, Inc.

By Patrick Moorhead - January 9, 2023

The Six Five On The Road at CES2023. Daniel Newman and Patrick Moorhead sit down with Dinesh Bahal, Micron’s CVP & GM of Commercial & Components Group. Their conversation covers:

  • The future of high-performance applications, including content creation and gaming
  • Crucial Gen5 SSD DirectStorage
  • The significance of Micron’s 232L NAND technology in enabling the Gen5 SSD ecosystem
  • Various collaborations across the ecosystem

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You can listen to the conversation here:

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Patrick Moorhead: Hi, this is Pat Moorhead. We are live in Las Vegas, Six Five on the road here in the Micron Experience Center. Dan, it is great to be back another year, another CES, and last year was like half-in, half-out, but I’m feeling like we’re all in, people are here. I mean, there was a line, it was probably 30 minutes long out here, and I think that’s a decent measurement that says CES is back. I don’t know.

Daniel Newman: Well, I was given the Jedi around the horn trick up the escalator, and I passed it on to you-

Patrick Moorhead: I know.

Daniel Newman: If you’re trying to get somewhere around Las Vegas right now, give yourself ample time.

Patrick Moorhead: Exactly.

Daniel Newman: This is not the 2022 CES with the barren, scary empty ghost town halls. CES is back. And while the macro might be worried about what the future holds for tech, if you come here, you would never know that there’s any concern.

Patrick Moorhead: No, exactly right. And one element to technology that quite frankly is in every device on the show floor and every device is being introduced is basically storage and memory.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely.

Patrick Moorhead: And as you and I have researched this market over the past years, and I was an ex-chip guy working with the memory folks, it’s always there. But I do get this feeling though, that storage and memory is moving up the food chain in terms of strategic capability. And that brings us to introduce our guest. Dinesh, how are you?

Dinesh Bahal: Good morning. How are you guys? Thank you very much for having me here.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, absolutely. Maybe a great place to start. Talk about what you do for Micron.

Dinesh Bahal: Okay, well, I’m Dinesh Bahal. I’ve been at Micron about five years, and I handle our commercial and component businesses to expand on that commercial business is some of the things that you’re seeing behind you folks, which is the crucial line of products aimed at the consumer.

We are also the go-to-market for Micron product products in the commercial channel. And lastly, a component business. So that’s what I handle at Micron.

Daniel Newman: You made it sound like it wasn’t a lot. That’s a lot. That’s a big job.

Patrick Moorhead: “I don’t do a lot, but here’s the 27 things I do.”

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. It’s great to have you here. We’ve had team from Micron on a number of our Six Five, and always great conversations, great interviews. And like you said, the symbiotic relationship between compute and memory only continues to become more critical. We’re here at the consumer show. So maybe the first question here we’ll tee up for you will be consumer-oriented, but looking at the future of storage for high-performance applications in the consumer space, what do you see?

Dinesh Bahal: So when we look at the future of storage and memory within the consumer space, the first thing that we’re seeing is applications hitting the wall. They’re hitting the wall because of the throughput that people are looking for, whether you’re an advanced gamer, whether you’re a professional doing CAD/CAM, idiot kind of applications, whether you’re some kind of content creator, the challenge that you’re facing is that the totality of the system cannot keep up with what you’re trying to do.

What we’re trying to show here is how some of the new technologies that are coming up, be it DDR5, be it gen five, PCIE storage, be it direct storage, how the totality of those coming together, is really going to solve the problem of applications hitting the wall.

Patrick Moorhead: And it’s funny, we sometimes look at this as a big surprise that you really are the four horsemen almost, which is kind of CPU, GPU, memory and storage.

Dinesh Bahal: Correct.

Patrick Moorhead: And if those are not aligned by application set, you are not going to be happy as an end user. And we talked a little bit about applications. Let’s dig into memory here. A lot of talk about DDR5. If you look at what the processor folks came out with and introduced on stage even last night and the day before, a lot of this hinges on DDR5. And I’m curious, what is important to know about the difference between gen four and gen five DDR?

Dinesh Bahal: So DDR4 versus DDR5, two big differences. One is the speed. So you’re going from a 3,200 max in DDR4 to a starting speed of 4,800 – a starting speed – of 4,800 on DDR5. And then what we’re demonstrating here is 5,200 and speeds past that, right? So that’s the first thing is the speed.

Second is it’s double the bandwidth of what’s possible in DDR5 versus what was there in DDR4. So that’s a really, really big story when you go back to the content creator, when you go back to the gamer who are really looking for that microseconds, milliseconds of extreme performance improvement.

Daniel Newman: Getting away from latency, even the smallest bit. We see now what people’s expectations have become anything less than flawless is becoming not good enough, especially in these areas you’re mentioning. Content, gaming. So who would really benefit from DDR5? And talk a little bit about what some of the real world practical benefits are going to be, Dinesh.

Dinesh Bahal: If you’re a user using a typical office suite, you’re not going to see the kind of differences with DDR4, DDR5. If you’re a electronic designer, if you’re a gamer, any kind of content creator, anybody who is using those, even those huge spreadsheets, if you’re not sitting there just doing the email, that’s the kind of person that is going to get the benefit of DDR5, everything from the huge spreadsheet, to that game, to running that huge EDA model.

Patrick Moorhead: Well, when I look at just the data density of content, even, let’s just take video for instance. I mean, it used to be cool to shoot at 1080p and that’s actually most of what the content is captured at, sorry, is viewed at.

But you want to capture a much higher resolution to zoom in, to make corrections. And I don’t know about you, but I actually will go in and change my settings to 4K video playback, even on video. And then for animators model makers, the size of these objects is absolutely colossal.

And while some people think that all of this just happens in the Cloud, the fact is you have to have this capability at the endpoint to be able to more quickly… First of all, you’ve captured it at the endpoint, so it’s there. You don’t have to upload it, but to get it done, you see order of magnitude differences in that. So that’s what I’m pretty excited about.

Let’s talk about leadership here. So you represent not only Micron, but also Crucial. I’ve seen some statements that you’re the leader on DDR5, and by the way, I may have written that as well. And so my analysts-

Daniel Newman: And now it’s true.

Patrick Moorhead: Now there we go. Now we’re here. But can you talk a little bit about that leadership from a Micron and a Crucial perspective?

Dinesh Bahal: Yeah. I’m actually going to go backwards a bit here. You spoke about the need for that huge video file playing 4K, playing 8K, et cetera, et cetera. And one of the things that we’re demonstrating here is direct storage, right? And historically what’s been going on is your CPU takes that data out of that SSD, regardless of how fast that SSD is. It’s processing it, decoding it, sending it to the GPU, right?

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah.

Dinesh Bahal: And exactly what you’re talking about, IE, I’m trying to play back this 8K, but I don’t have enough power. I’m going to take it down to 4K and play it back. That’s because we don’t really have direct storage running today. So, direct storage, which came out first from Microsoft and Windows 10 and now better versions available in Windows 11, really takes away that problem.

So, direct storage enables the data that’s sitting on your SSD, sends it straight over to your GPU without having that CPU get involved. And the demonstration in the back actually shows the CPU utilization without direct storage at 100%. With direct storage on, it’s down to 1%.

Patrick Moorhead: My gosh.

Dinesh Bahal: So you’re getting this huge improvement in throughput, you’re getting this huge improvement in performance. You’re having that ability to play 8K instead of trying to downgrade it and play it back on your screen, right? So there’s a huge, huge thing that’s going on there.

And then you ask the question about leadership. So let’s talk about leadership, right? So Micron’s been a leader, from the time that we’ve been around in the US, more than 40 years dedicated to one thing, one thing alone, and that’s memory, right?

Secondly, if you look at our recent announcements around, let’s just talk about NAND, the 232-layer NAND, one of the things that we’re demonstrating here is a Gen five SSD that is a prototype that uses our 232-layer NAND. So why does 232 layer matter? So we were the first ones in the industry to announce 232-layer NAND and when we announced it, we said we would support 2.4 giga transfers per second.

In order for gen five to go to speeds past the 10,000 megabytes a second. It really needs 2,000 giga transfers a second 2200 or 2,400 giga transfers a second.

So we were the first ones in the industry to announce 232-layer, and we were the first ones in the industry to announce support for 2.4 giga transfers a second. So that’s what Micron’s leadership is all about.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, and you actually answered exactly… I wanted to talk a little bit about the convergence of SSD and the NAND technology. It sounds like you’ve got a plan for that to hit the market sometime after CES. When are we going to see DDR5 launched into the consumer market?

Dinesh Bahal: DDR5 is shipping, right? We have product that we’ve been shipping for multiple months now.

We are also going to be shipping the 5,600 now, which is we were at 4,800. We’re demonstrating the 5,200, and we’re going to be shipping the 5,600.

Patrick Moorhead: That’s great. Can you give us any sneak peek on what Crucial might be doing in this space?

Dinesh Bahal: These are all in the Crucial brand of products.

Patrick Moorhead: Okay. Excellent. Excellent.

Daniel Newman: So I guess one of the things that Pat and I always like to dig into are we see the opportunity, the leadership is clear. I mean, Pat wrote it, so it’s true.

Dinesh Bahal: It has to be true.

Patrick Moorhead: It’s got to be true. And Jeremy said it was true too, and we had him on.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. But one of the things we’ve seen in this industry is the challenges that coincide with being a leader. We’ve seen when you are the leader, you’re always going to be vulnerable. There’s always going to be up-and-comers, both global here in domestic startups, new, bigger companies overseas that are going to be trying to stake the claim.

Next thing, the quote-unquote quantum supremacy of memory. Dinesh, what are the challenges that you face in terms of staying ahead, staying in the lead, in terms of both SSD and memory technology?

Dinesh Bahal: So when you think about leadership, it comes across from multiple dimensions, right? First you think about Micron’s history. We’re a company that’s been dedicated to memory and memory alone. Micron’s IP portfolio, more than 40,000 patents in our name. Our people, they’re all dedicated to solving the technology issues around memory. And then the set of people who take that memory and are able to package it up into solutions and make those solutions work across the ecosystem.

I spoke about our Gen five SSD so that’s not just our memory, it’s our memory paired with a phison controller, working with an AMD chip, working with an Intel chip.

So it’s all about that ecosystem of solutions and leadership to us means not just having the best memory, it means having the best solution that users can plug into their systems and have it work right outside the box.

Patrick Moorhead: I think it’s a miracle that it just works out of the box. Having used to work at a chip-maker for 11 years and the work that goes into… It’s amazing how it all converges at the same time. And that’s like the old adage of building the railroad while you’re riding on it. It just magically comes together. And sure there’s standards, bodies, but you know, and I have both been around the block enough to know that this is an incredibly complex system, and the interrelation between CPU, GPU and memory is actually increasing.

So, what I’ve seen is that microns foot forward in the industry is growing as it should in terms of mapping out a lot of these standards and maybe suggesting new ways, some novel ways to do things to give you the highest performance with the highest levels of efficiency.

Dinesh Bahal: Right, and it’s not just about the highest performance from the point of view of memory, it’s the highest, it’s about the highest performance in the user’s system. Whether that’s a pc, whether that’s a mobile device, whether it’s a computer sitting at the other end of a Cloud, right? It’s all about making sure that the systemic solutions right work to the best possible way.

Daniel Newman: And it’s so important that you say that as we wrap up here, because sometimes memory kind of gets commoditized. And so a lot of these innovations that you’re talking about, what’s the differentiation factors of that symbiotic relationship? Sure, you can have more cores, more thread, but if the memory and storage that’s working side by side with those CPUs and GPUs isn’t aligned, those experiences, it becomes an experience thing, which I know you love.

Patrick Moorhead: Well, and this is the funny little industry secret where it seems like whoever can outspend each other on marketing is the one that gets it out there. But there’s a lot of… I mean, I can’t tell you the money use cases that if you would’ve just invest in more and better memory, your application throughput, your responsive rate, I mean it’s orders of magnitude better.

So we appreciate what you do, what you’re bringing here and here at CES 2023, it’s about content creation, it’s about gaming, it’s about content viewing, some pretty fun stuff, right?

Dan and I cover data center related to Micron as well. And this definitely has a different feel, doesn’t it, Dan?

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. For all those AAA gamers out there, this is going to be exciting to them. So, Dinesh, thanks so much for joining us here on the Six Five at CES 2023 in Las Vegas.

Dinesh Bahal: Okay, thanks, Dan. Thanks, Patrick. It was great talking to you guys.

Patrick Moorhead: Thanks.

Daniel Newman: Okay. So hey, everyone out there for all of our coverage here at CES 2023, go ahead and click that subscribe button and check out the other videos that we have for this episode of the Six Five on the road for Patrick and myself. Super excited to have you. Appreciate you, we’ll see you all soon. Bye-bye now.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.