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Micron is a large Memory manufacturer being part of the three largest manufacturers for memory in the world. They are known for the Crucial Solid State Drives (SSD’s) and their Crucial RAM, most notably the Crucial Ballistix RAM. Having said that, I cannot explain to you the excitement and joy I had when being told I had the opportunity to interview Paul Reynolds, the Channel Sales Manager for the UK and South Africa from Micron.

In this article I interview Paul, talking about Micron, Crucial Memory, Ballistix RAM and their involvement in the esports scene in South Africa. Let’s get to it.

Can you please give us a bit of a background in Micron?
Paul: Micron is one of the three major manufacturers in the world when it comes to Memory. This then puts us in a very unique position, because we start with the designing process of the memory. Micron has over 34000 [staff] worldwide with 7000 of those being the designing technicians – the guys sitting in the dark rooms designing how each component works. When Intel wants to design a new processor, Micron is involved from day 1.

Where does Crucial memory and RAM fit in?
Paul: Micron sells to the tier one manufacturers – HP, Dell, ASUS who don’t manufacture the actual memory components. Then Micron has the Crucial brand that is sold into the community. This is your memory and solid state hard drives.

Are you moving into the PCI-E NVME SSD?
Paul: We do the SATA M.2. We did not, however, do the PCI-E NVME SSD drives because the market was not yet ready for us to manufacture those brands. We are now launching, on the 16 of October 2018 our P1 – I would have loved to have had it launched here at rAge 2018 – our PCI-E NVME SSD, this is our entry into this race. This will be the world’s first Quad Level Cell PCI-E NVME SSD. This gives the drive great performance and also decreases the cost.

interview-with-paul-from-micron-pic2Most manufacturers build memory with two ideas in mind, the value range, and the performance range. Our new design of the SSD is built with value for money in mind without sacrificing performance because of that Quad Level Cell, therefore we are able to compete with the performance. Our new P1 will only be available in 500GB, 1TB and 2TB sizes because it uses our new NAND technology. Since we can store larger amounts of memory in a smaller space, it does not make sense, and is not very cost effective to build anything smaller than the 500GB.

What does our South African market look like?
Paul: In South Africa, just over 30% of the SSD’s sold in South Africa is below 250GB. This is because of the cost of the drives. They use it as a bootup drive rather than a storage drive. But we have noticed that every quarter this total has decreased exponentially as the price for the SSD’s start to decrease.

South Africa is getting very close in the SSD range when the 120GB will disappear because the price for the 250GB is coming down so much. Also, the cost to assemble the 120GB and the 250GB is very much the same. So it would be more profitable to manufacture a 250GB rather than the 120GB.

Micron will continue for the foreseeable future to manufacture the 120gb, but eventually, we will follow other companies to stop building the 120GB all together. We could expect a lot of changes in the next 12 months or so.

Is there a reason for the massive increase in RAM price since 2015/2016?
Paul: This purely comes to the supply and demand. The memory market is quite unique. To build an extension on the manufacturing line can cost anywhere between $6 and $10 Billion. SK, Samsung and ourselves have recently announced an expansion to the FAB lines. The problem is that the market demand itself, especially on the server and cloud devices, has increased dramatically. They need to process more and more data which requires more memory. When we bring on new capacity to meet new demand – interview-with-paul-from-micron-pic3which can’t be done slowly, it’s either on or off – when this happens though, this floods the market with product, which can bottom out the prices. This actually happened a few years ago when we were losing Billions of Dollars just to sell the product. Now we see that there is a shortage of product and that is why the prices have gone up recently. This increase in price, because of the supply and demand, puts financial provision in place for the next dip and also pays for possible expansion in the future.

Ballistix RAM has been something really unknown and has become very popular recently. Did it become popular during the period when you were losing those billions of dollars?
Paul: It was kind of during that time. But Historically we used to own a brand called Lexar, for the phone memory. Also, the gentleman who looked after this region (Africa market) really promoted the Lexar brand, and only did a little bit in promoting the range of Ballistix and Crucial. When Micron sold the Lexar range, there was a shuffle in the company, and I was brought into this region with a bit more experience in the Ballistix and Crucial brand.

Since South Africa’s economy has not been doing so well lately, has there been a decrease in sales for RAM in South Africa?
Paul: With regards to Ballistix, because we had such a low sale base in South Africa we did not notice this so much. We do have a small decline in sales in our Crucial memory, when it comes to the gaming memory, we are definitely increasing month on month. This is thanks to the increase of interest in esports in South Africa. So our crucial memory for the work space is slowing down a bit at the moment. We do hope that the Ballistix memory increase will carry on for a long time.

We have noticed that when the economy is not doing so well, maybe people can’t afford to go on holiday that year, and they have to found an outlet, so they turn to gaming and entertainment at home. This does seem to happen everywhere. This will be different in every country though. I used to look after the Nordics where it’s very cold and people don’t go out often, so staying home and gaming was just the way to go.

What is your aim in South Africa for Crucial Ballistix with regards to esports?
Paul: We’ve been running the Ballistix Masters to get in touch with the esports community. This is to get people to see our range. We have noticed that people don’t buy components because it’s something that they’ve seen in a magazine. The people want to know what their peers or friends are using. So we’ve needed to engage with these people to grow our user base.

interview-with-paul-from-micron-pic5Our Ballistix masters last year just grew so big that we could not control it, it was almost out of control. We’ve had so many teams sign up that we needed to organize two events a week just to get through the number of teams that signed up.

We do have big plans for 2019 – I cannot say what they are exactly – but these plans will make sure that we can engage with the casual gamer to give them an opportunity to compete as well.

Is that focusing on the amateur casual gamer?
Paul: It started that way, but now it’s grown to the point where we have established MGO’s, and startup teams competing, so we are looking at a way to include all teams in the market.

How does your sponsoring work?
Paul: We try to support teams with products where we can. There are so many teams globally, and we cannot give products away to all the teams competing, unfortunately. On a global level, we do engage with the global teams. In certain regions, we tend to align with a popular team.

So now what we looking at is incentivizing teams, smaller teams, in other ways. In South Africa we can be a bit more flexible and relaxed as to how we approach teams and different games.

Paul, thank you so much for your time, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your time here at rAge 2018 and have a safe trip back home.

I would like to send a massive thank you to Syntech for this MASSIVE privilege of interviewing Paul with regards to the Micron range. The interview was over 30 minutes long and I had to condense it quite a lot. So I will release the voice note (although not such great quality) so that you can listen to the entire interview for yourself. I hope you enjoyed this read, and I hope this clarifies why there has been such an increase in RAM price recently and how Crucial Ballistix is helping South African Gamers regarding esports competitions etc. As always, I look forward to hearing from you, so don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
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