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Western Digital Corporation says it has lost 6.5 exabytes (6.5 billion gigabytes) of flash storage due to contaminated materials at two of its manufacturing plants in Japan, operated by joint-venture partner Kioxia Holdings Corporation (formerly Toshiba). That’s a lot of flash storage gone, and analysts expect that it’s going to have knock-on effects.

Lead image: Coolcaesar/Wikimedia

What happened?

According to Western Digital, “certain material used in its manufacturing process” were contaminated in both its Yokkaichi and Kitakami flash fabrication facilities. Both facilities are operated by Kioxia as part of a joint venture to produce SSDs and flash memory for its Western Digital, SanDisk, SanDisk Pro (formerly G-technology), and HGST brands. 

Kioxia also issued a statement providing a few more details, explaining that the incident occurred in late January and that production of its 3D flash memory was affected. It said that it “does not anticipate that shipment of its conventional 2D NAND flash memory will be affected.”

Both companies have made it clear they are working hard to minimize the impact of the issue and get manufacturing back on track. 

How big of a deal is this?

According to TrendForce, a market intelligence and consultancy company based in Taipei, WDC and Kioxia combined had a market share “as high as 32.5%” in the third quarter of last year. So they are both big suppliers in the storage market. 

The 6.5 damaged exabytes represent roughly 13% of the partnership’s expected output for the first quarter of this year and 3% of the expected output for the entire year. That, eh, is quite a lot of lost data. 

As a result, TrendForce reckons that it will push the overall price of flash storage up by 5 to 10 percent later this year. Though, of course, that is dependent on WDC and Kioxia getting manufacturing back up and running. 

What does this mean for me?

At the moment details are pretty scarce on how this is all going to affect regular consumers rather than, say, laptop manufacturers looking to bulk buy SSDs. 

TrendForce had previously predicted that, despite the global chip shortage, there was going to be an oversupply of flash storage which would drive prices down. Obviously, this somewhat undoes that, but the situation doesn’t seem catastrophic. 

TrendForce also suggests that the affected WDC/Kioxia factories were “primarily focused on Client SSD and eMMC” production. This gels with what I’ve been able to glean, which is that most SD cards and other storage devices seem to use 2D NAND (and other variations of flash storage not affected by the data loss).

So, the big takeaway seems to be that component costs are going to go up a bit for device manufacturers. And SSDs might cost a bit more or be a bit harder to find later this year, but this isn’t nearly as big of a disaster as the ongoing chip shortage.

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