SK Hynix Vaults into HBM4 Arena: Can They Outrun Samsung & Micron?

Despite a sluggish memory market this year, with many manufacturers suffering substantial losses, SK Hynix has astutely capitalized on the server market’s shift to DDR5 memory and the burgeoning opportunities in artificial intelligence (AI). With targeted product lines and market strategies, SK Hynix has managed to capture a significant market share. As a high-bandwidth memory partner of NVIDIA, SK Hynix has continued to dominate the HBM market, even achieving a ‘winner-takes-all’ scenario.

Recently, while outlining its 2024 storage product lineup, SK Hynix confirmed the commencement of development work on the next-generation HBM4 next year, which is intended to power data centers and AI products. Samsung and Micron had already announced their development of HBM4 in the fourth quarter of this year, planning to release it in 2025 and 2026, respectively.

The evolution of HBM products has progressed through various generations: HBM (first generation), HBM2 (second generation), HBM2E (third generation), HBM3 (fourth generation), and HBM3E (fifth generation), with HBM3E being an extended version of HBM3, and HBM4 poised to be the sixth generation. SK Hynix stated that HBM3E is scheduled for mass production in 2024, and the initiation of HBM4 development marks an important step in the continual evolution of HBM products.

Previous reports have indicated significant changes in the next-generation HBM4 design, including a shift to a 2048-bit interface for the memory stack. Since 2015, each HBM stack has utilized a 1024-bit interface, so doubling the bit width represents the most significant change since the introduction of HBM memory technology. If HBM4 maintains the current pin speed, bandwidth could potentially escalate from the current 1.15TB/s of HBM3E to 2.3TB/s, marking a substantial increase.

Rumors suggest that HBM4 will also vary in the number of layers per stack, with an initial 12-layer vertical stack followed by a 16-layer vertical stack in 2027. Additionally, HBM is expected to evolve towards more customization, not only being positioned alongside the SoC main chip but also transitioning to stack above the SoC main chip.