Intel / Micron Announce 3D NAND Production with Industry's Highest Density: >10TB on a 2.5" SSD

Subject: Storage | March 26, 2015 - 02:12 PM |
Tagged: storage, ssd, planar, nand, micron, M.2, Intel, imft, floating-gate, 3d nand

Intel and Micron are jointly announcing new 3D NAND technology that will radically increase solid-storage capacity going forward. The companies have indicated that moving to this technology will allow for the type of rapid increases in capacity that are consistent with Moore’s Law.

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The way Intel and Micron are approaching 3D NAND is very different from existing 3D technologies from Samsung and now Toshiba. The implementation of floating-gate technology and “unique design choices” has produced startling densities of 256 Gb MLC, and a whopping 384 Gb with TLC. The choice to base this new 3D NAND on floating-gate technology allows development with a well-known entity, and benefits from the knowledge base that Intel and Micron have working with this technology on planar NAND over their long partnership.

What does this mean for consumers? This new 3D NAND enables greater than 10TB capacity on a standard 2.5” SSD, and 3.5TB on M.2 form-factor drives. These capacities are possible with the industry’s highest density 3D NAND, as the >3.5TB M.2 capacity can be achieved with just 5 packages of 16 stacked dies with 384 Gb TLC.

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A 3D NAND cross section from Allyn's Samsung 850 Pro review

While such high density might suggest reliance on ever-shrinking process technology (and the inherent loss of durability thus associated) Intel is likely using a larger process for this NAND. Though they would not comment on this, Intel could be using something roughly equivalent to 50nm flash with this new 3D NAND. In the past die shrinks have been used to increase capacity per die (and yields) such as IMFT's move to 20nm back in 2011, but with the ability to achieve greater capacity vertically using 3D cell technology a smaller process is not necessary to achieve greater density. Additionally, working with a larger process would allow for better endurance as, for example, 50nm MLC was on the order of 10,000 program/erase cycles. Samsung similarly moved to a larger process with with their initial 3D NAND, moving from their existing 20nm technology back to 30nm with 3D production.

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This announcement is also interesting considering Toshiba has just entered this space as well having announced 48-layer 128 Gb density 3D NAND, and like Samsung, they are moving away from floating-gate and using their own charge-trap implementation they are calling BiCS (Bit Cost Scaling). However with this Intel/Micron announcement the emphasis is on the ability to offer a 3x increase in capacity using the venerable floating-gate technology from planar NAND, which gives Intel / Micron an attractive position in the market - depending on price/performance of course. And while these very large capacity drives seem destined to be expensive at first, the cost structure is likely to be similar to current NAND. All of this remains to be seen, but this is indeed promising news for the future of flash storage as it will now scale up to (and beyond) spinning media capacity - unless 3D tech is implemented in hard drive production, that is.

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So when will Intel and Micron’s new technology enter the consumer market? It could be later this year as Intel and Micron have already begun sampling the new NAND to manufacturers. Manufacturing has started in Singapore, plus ground has also been broken at the IMFT fab in Utah to support production here in the United States.

Source: Intel

NVDIMM: Nonvolatile... Not NVIDIA

Subject: General Tech, Memory, Systems | February 10, 2013 - 03:44 AM |
Tagged: NVDIMM, micron, IMFT NAND, imft

So a RAM chip, a NAND module, and an “ultracapacitor” walk into stick...

This week Micron released a press blast for technology called, “NVDIMM”. The goal is to create memory modules which perform as quickly as DRAM but can persist without power. At this point you could probably guess the acronym: Nonvolatile Dual In-line Memory Module. It has been around for a few years now, but it is in the news now so let's chat about it.

I often like to play the game, “Was this named by an engineer or a marketer?” You can typically tell who was responsible for naming something by gauging how literally it breaks down into a simple meaning versus not having any apparent meaning at all. A good example of an engineer name is UHF, which breaks down into ultra-high frequency because it's higher than VHF, very-high frequency. A good example of a marketing name would be something like “Centrino”, which sounds like the biggest little penny-slot machine in the world. I would quite comfortable guessing that NVDIMM was named by an engineer.

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This is AgigA Tech's module, who provides the capacitors for Micron and their NVDIMMs.

The actual makeup of NVDIMMs is quite sensible: DIMMs are fast but die when the power goes out. You could prevent the power from going out but it takes quite a lot of battery life to keep a computer online for extended periods of time. NAND Flash is quite slow, relative to DIMMs, in normal operation but can persist without power for very long periods of time. Also, modern-day capacitors are efficient and durable enough to keep DIMMs powered for long enough to be copied to flash memory.

As such, if the power goes out: memory is dumped to flash on the same chip. When power is restored, DIMMs get reloaded and continue on their merry way.

According to the Micron press release, the first NVDIMM was demonstrated last November at SC12. That module contained twice as much NAND as it did DIMM memory: 8GB of Flash for 4GB of RAM. Micron did not specify why they required having that much extra Flash memory although my gut instinct is to compensate for write wearing problems. A two-fold increase to offset NAND that had just one too many write operations seems like quite a lot compared to consumer drives. That said, SSDs do not have to weather half of their whole capacity being written to each time the computer shuts down.

Who knows, double-provisioning might even be too little in practice.

Source: Micron

Intel / Micron Flash Technology Venture Expands, Micron Assumes Two Plants

Subject: Storage | February 28, 2012 - 05:40 PM |
Tagged: micron, Intel, imft, flash, fab

Earlier today we caught some news of Intel and Micron extending their joint agreement to develop and create flash memory under the IMFT name. Along with this extension came some rearrangements to the current plan. Intel will be selling off their stake in two of the smaller fabs, located in Singapore and Manassas, VA. The sale is for $600 million, half of which will stay with Micron as a credit that Intel can use to later purchase NAND flash produced from those factories.

The 'tip of the spear' IMFT fab located in Lehi, Utah, will remain jointly owned and operated. This makes good business sense as the Lehi fab is the first to shift to smaller process nodes. IMFT announced 25nm flash memory production at this very fab in early 2010.

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PC Perspective toured IMFT Utah during the 25nm launch announcement.

Some may see this as Intel taking a step away from flash memory, but I see it as quite the contrary. Micron has always tended towards being a bulk producer of memory products, while Intel are the promary innovators in the arena. This move allows Intel to focus on the bleeding edge plant while Micron handles the particulars of cranking out those technologies developed at the Lehi Plant. It is likely that the highest grade flash comes from the Lehi plant, and Intel's half of the output is more than enough to supply their SSD production lines.

Click to view full article for the press release.

Source: Micron

CES Storage Roundup Part 3 - Intel Cherryville and IMFT 20nm flash die spotted!

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 16, 2012 - 05:33 PM |
Tagged: ssd, micron, Intel, imft, flash, cherryville, CES, 20nm

CES is sort of like a Where's Waldo book. There are thousands of places to look, with new technology spread around all over the place. Some of that unreleased tech shows up right in front of you and you don't even realize what you were looking at until later on. It's how we caught a look at prototype Light Peak (now Thunderbolt) two years ago, and this year we saw some more goodies not previously seen in the wild. I tend to be a bit of a shutterbug, and I take seemingly random pics of things as the PCPer gang runs around the various vendor booths and hotel suites. While going through the pics from my phone, I ran across this shot of what I thought was an Intel 320 Series SSD:

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Definitely not a 320, that's an Intel 520 Series (Cherryville) SSD. While Intel had their 520 Series locked up tight at their Storage Visions booth, this one was powering another motherboard makers product elsewhere in Vegas. Unfortunately this system was only to demo the motherboard itself, without a connected display, so it would not have been possible to run our own benches.

At storage visions, we also saw this display at the Micron booth. It's interesting to see how 16GB of flash memory has shrunk over the past few years. We've certainly come a long way from the good old X25-M:

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Some of you may know that I'm a sucker for a good die shot, so I snuck back out to Micron's suite later on to get my own macro shot of the 20nm IMFT flash die:

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Micron is, like many other vendors, working on their own SSD solution specifically for SSD caching applications. It's currently unreleased, so more to follow on this.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!