South Korea is the largest producer of memory chips. Samsung and SK Hynix combined has a 70% market share in the DRAM market and around 50% in NAND flash.
However, they don’t dominate all technologies related to memory chips. For instance, for controllers used in NAND, the pair rely heavily on companies in Taiwan and China.
But now this may change from South Korea’s The-AIO. The fabless chip company’s NAND controller passed a quality test by one of the two memory chipmakers last year.
The controller it designed is expected to debut in April this year, The-AIO CEO Kwon Jin-hyoung told TheElec in an interview.
Chipmakers designed their own controllers for NAND aimed at server applications.
For the edge, they also either developed the controllers themselves or imported them from Taiwan, Kwon noted.
The-AIO developed a controller for NAND aimed at edge applications __ that is device applications, the CEO said.
Controllers on NAND receive the command from the CPU. Controllers are also used to detect errors and correct them while also reducing interruptions between cells in the NAND. Their performance determines the performance of the NAND.
The-AIO was founded in 2011 by Kwon and co-president Baek Sang-yul and CTO Han Seung-hyun. All three previously worked at Samsung’s memory business.
In the past, CPU had the controller feature on its own but as technology advanced in recent years, the controller performance on the NAND itself became more important, the CEO said.
Kwon said he and his colleagues founded the company at a time when there were no fabless companies locally that worked on such technology.
The company is based in South Korea, which also made them an attractive partner to Samsung and SK Hynix as this lessens security leak concerns.
Taiwanese NAND controller giant SMI Technology was sold to MaxLinear in the US for 4.8 trillion won in May last year. Taiwan’s Phison also records trillions of wons in revenue annually. China’s Yeestor, while behind in technology to these two companies, also enjoys dominance in the Chinese market.
To compete, The-AIO is focusing on only four products and these are made with TSMC’s 28nm node, the CEO said.
The newer products will likely be made with the 12nm node; The-AIO is focusing on controllers for SD cards and eMMCs.
They later aim to launch controllers for SSD cards and UFSs as well.
The-AIO secured 50 billion won in funding this year and is expected to record 10 billion won in annual revenue this year, Kwon added.