Micron Is Now Sampling 16nm NAND Flash, And Drives Using the Smaller Chips Are Expected in 2014

Subject: General Tech, Storage | July 18, 2013 - 02:29 AM |
Tagged: nand, micron, flash, 16nm

Micron recently announced that is has begun sampling 16nm NAND flash to select partners. Micron expects to begin full production of the NAND chips using the smaller flash manufacturing process in the fourth quarter of this year (Q4 2013). Drives based on its new 16nm MLC NAND flash are expected to arrive as early as next year. (PC Perspective's own storage expert is currently overseas, but I managed to reach out over email to get some clarification, and his thoughts, on the Micron annuoncement.)

The announcement relates to new NAND flash that is smaller, but not necessarily faster, than the existing 20nm and 25nm flash chips used in current solid state drives. In the end, Micron is still delivering 128Gb (Gigabit) per die, but using a 16nm process. The 16nm flash is a pure shrink of 20nm which is, in turn, a shrink of 25nm flash. In fact, Micron is able to get just under 6 Terabytes of storage out of a single 300mm wafer. These wafers are then broken down into dies in individual flash chips that are used in all manner of solid state storage devices from smartphone embedded storage to desktop SSDs. This 16nm flash still delivers 128Gb --which is 16GB-- per die allowing for a 128GB SSD using as few as eight chips.

high_res_micron_16nm_nand_die_ssd.jpg

A single 16nm NAND flash die with a SSD in the background

Micron expects the 16nm MLC (multi-level cell) flash to be used in consumer SSDs, USB thumb drives, mobile devices, and cloud storage.

The 16nm process will allow Micron to get more storage out of the same sized wafer (300mm) used for current processes, which in theory should mean flash memory that is not only smaller, but (in theory) cheaper.

high_res_micron_16nm_nand_wafer.jpg

A single wafer of 16nm NAND flash (just under 6TBs)

As Allyn further notes, the downside to the new 16nm NAND flash is a reduction in the number of supported PE cycles. Micron has not released specific information on this, but the new 16nm MLC flash is expected to have fewer than 1,000 P/E cycles. For comparison, 25nm and 20nm flash has P/E cycles of 3,000 and 1,000 respectively.

In simple terms, P/E (program-erase) cycles relate to the number of times that a specific portion of flash memory can be written to before wearing out. SSD manufacturers were able to work around this with the transition from 25nm to 20nm and still deliver acceptable endurance on consumer drives, and I expect that similar techniques will be used to do the same for 16nm flash. For example, manufactuers could enable compression that is used prior to writing out the data to the physical flash or over-provisioning the actual hardware versus the reported software capacity (ie a drive sold as a 100GB model that actually has 128GB of physical flash).

I don't think it will be a big enough jump that typical consumers wil have to worry too much about this, considering the vast majority of operations will be read operations and not writes. Despite the reduction in P/E cycles, SSDs with 16nm NAND MLC flash will still likely out-last a typical mechanical hard drive.

What do you think about the Micron announcement?

The full press release can be found below:

Source: Micron

Micron puts a suit and tie on its newest PCIe SSD

Subject: General Tech | May 3, 2013 - 12:38 PM |
Tagged: micron, PCIe SSD, P420m, 25nm, mlc

Soon to be available in 350GB, 700GB and 1.4TB capacities, the Micron P420m PCIe SSD will be in a half-height and half-length form factor perfect for use in racks.  DigiTimes mentions it will use a custom ASIC controller from Micron but does not specify the model.  As will it will use 25nm MLC flash and XPERT, which is Micron's eXtended Performance and Enhanced Reliability Technology which should guarantee a decent lifespan for your storage.  Production will not start until June so it will be a while before we finally see performance results.

micron-p420.jpg

"The new Micron P420m combines consistent performance with the inherent power efficiency of an all-flash system to deliver improved economics for enterprise data centers. The drive accelerates performance of today's demanding data center applications, including online transaction processing (OLTP), data warehousing and virtualization, Micron said."

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Source: DigiTimes

Is there a Flash flood coming?

Subject: General Tech | March 25, 2013 - 12:50 PM |
Tagged: spintronics, racetrack, pram, molybdenum, micron, memristor, IBM, hp, graphene, flash

Over the past several years we have seen actual production of phase change memory from Micron, though no benchmarks yet, transistors whose resistance can be altered to be used as non-volatile storage which HP has dubbed Memristors and IBM's Spintronic Racetrack Memory; all of which claim to be the replacement for NAND.  There is no question we need a new type of flash, preferably non-volatile, as it is likely that there will be a limit on effective speed and density reached with traditional NAND.  It is also true that the path to our current flash technology is littered with the carcasses of failed technology standards, whether RAMBUS is willing to admit it or not. 

Now there is more details available on yet another possible contender based on molybdenum disulfide which sports a charge-trapping layer to make it non-volatile.  The Register was told that by layering MoS2 between layers of graphene they get a NAND cell smaller than traditional cells but unfortunately there was no report of the speed of these cells.  We may soon be living in interesting times, with process shrunk traditional flash and these four technologies competing for market share.  You can bet that they will not be compatible and that each will likely spawn their own breeds of controllers and make purchasing SSDs and other flash storage devices much more complicated, at least until one standard can claim victory over the others.

elreg_mos2_graphene_nvm_cell.jpg

"A Swiss government research lab has reinvented flash memory using graphene and molybdenite in a way that should be faster, scale smaller, use less energy and yet more flexible than boring old NAND.

Molybdenite is MoS2, molybdenum disulfide, which is similar to graphite and also has a lubricating effect. Atomically it is a layer of molybdenum atoms between top and bottom layers of sulfide atoms. It is a semiconductor and can be used to create transistor."

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Source: The Register

DRAM makers emulate the HDD business by devouring the competition

Subject: General Tech | March 20, 2013 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: DRAM, micron, ssd, Samsung, Hynix

It is perhaps not obvious to many because of the huge number of DRAM resellers but there are only three major manufacturers of DRAM left at this point.  Apart from Micron, who claim top spot in this article on The Register, Samsung and Hynix are the only other big players left supplying DRAM.  Considering the instability of memory and SSD pricing it seems odd that it is a component with only three possible sources, the instability could be coming from the fact that many of the mergers are still rather recent or in the case of Elpida, not quite complete yet.  One very interesting comment from Kipp Bedard, Micron's investor relations VP, might also explain the volatilty of flash, "there simply isn't enough NAND fab capacity to store even 20 per cent of the data people are generating."   If demand outstrips supply by that order of magnitude you can dictate almost any price you wish.

micron-logo.png

"When I first started at Micron, there were about 40 to 50 DRAM companies in the space," said Bedard. "And we spent most of the '80s with the Japanese deciding they wanted to own the DRAM space which they went from 10 per cent market share to about 90 per cent, [and] took all of the US companies out except for two, us and Texas Instruments."

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Source: The Register

Micron SAS SSDs, solid state for the enterprise grows up

Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2013 - 01:11 PM |
Tagged: ssd, enterprise ssd, SAS, micron, micron p410m

Micron has announced a new SSD, the P410 SSD which will use a Serial Attached SCSI interface, perfect for dropping into existing enterprise servers.  SATA is perfectly fine for SOHO users and enthusiasts but for large businesses with a need for extreme reliability, SAS has been the interface of choice.  Adoption of SSDs has been slowed in large businesses in part because it would require changing the existing architecture to SATA in order to incorporate SSDs into their systems.  With the new Micron drive that is no longer necessary, at 7mm it will support high density servers and with the 25nm MLC NAND it is expected to survive for five years of duty with 10 full drive fills every day.  Read more at DigiTimes.

DT_5439_r.jpg

"Micron Technology has announced another addition to its growing lineup of solid state drives (SSDs) targeted at data center appliances and enterprise storage platforms. The new Micron P410m SSD is a high-endurance, high reliability 6Gb/s Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) drive built to provide the performance necessary for mission-critical tier one storage applications that require uninterrupted, 24/7 data access."

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Source: DigiTimes

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.

NVDIMM.jpg

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

CES 2013: Micron demos DDR4 DIMMs, announces 20nm Crucial M500 SSDs at $0.60/GB

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2013 - 11:12 AM |
Tagged: micron, crucial, ces 2013, CES

At the Micron/Crucial, we were shown an expansion to their DDR3 memory line, to include lower profile parts:

DSC02818_resize.JPG

These reduced height modules should make for easier installation into HTPC and other small form factor PCs and even 1U Servers.

Next we saw DDR4 running at its native 2133 MHz speed. Here is what the DDR4 DIMM looks like:

DSC02820_resize.JPG

Note the slight bulge at the center of the pin area. This is to make installation easier, as there is a considerable increase in pin count, which would have made installation more difficult if not for that design feature. Note the increased contact density in this pic:

DSC02823_resize.JPG

Last (and most certainly not least), Micron announced their next SSD Series, the M500. This line uses a newer Marvell controller with Micron engineered firmware, driving 20nm IMFT flash:

DSC02835_resize.JPG

All models will employ the enterprise feature of a capacitor bank used to store some reserve power. This helps to minimize any possible data loss should power be interrupted while data is being written:

DSC02837_resize.JPG

Micron told me they are planning a 1TB model, running *MLC* flash (not TLC), and they are shooting for a price point of $600. That's $0.60/GB! If this scales down at the lower capacity points, we should be in for some pretty nice price dips in Solid State Storage for 2013!

 

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Micron is showing off how solid it's controllers and flash chips are

Subject: General Tech | August 10, 2012 - 02:50 PM |
Tagged: micron, ssd, PCIe SSD

Micron has really jumped into the SSD business, which makes sense given that they have been creating flash-based storage for quite a while now.  They do not feel that simply producing flash memory is enough however and have branched into storage controllers to not only make their SSDs faster but also to bring new functionality to them.  The Register recently witnessed a company presentation that discussed their plans for the near future as well as enlightening customers about existing products they may not be familiar with such as their PCIe SSD cards.  On the client side (read consumer) they will soon be releasing C400 series SSDs  using 29nm to 20nm process moving onto a sub-20nm process soon after that.  On the Enterprise side you will see the P400m SATA and P410m SAS arrive, both likely using a 25nm process.  Check out the full release and see what else Micron has in store for the competition.

intel-micron-20nm-04-14-2011.jpg

"The semiconductor-maker has flash foundries and delivers both solid state drives (SSDs) and PCIe-connected flash cards – the single level cell P320h for example, which is used by EMC in its VFCache product. A hot-swap version of the P320h has been adopted by Dell for server use."

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Source: The Register

The possibilty of rising DRAM prices got you down? Try PRAM instead!

Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2012 - 02:39 PM |
Tagged: phase, phase change memory, micron, 45nm

Phase Change Memory is not new, Allyn listened to Intel talk about a breakthrough in this technology almost three years ago, but it is not common on the market.  It offers two major benefits over the current RAM on the market, the first being its lack of volatility as the crystals it forms will remain even after power is cut off, the second is more dear to computer enthusiasts as it should be faster than DRAM.  It may seem odd that a technology which requires the formation of crystals would be faster than the electronic flipping of bits but Micron claims that the trickle of voltage supplied creates seed crystals which speed the formation process during write cycles. The good news is that we should see real world testing soon as The Inquirer has heard that Micron has a good supply of PRAM to sell which means benchmarks are not far behind.

Silver_Cross_Balmoral_Pram.jpg

"MEMORY MAKER Micron has announced high volume availability of its 45nm phase change memory (PCM) chips.

Micron has been pushing the development of PCM chips with Intel for a number of years and is finally at a stage where it can offer chips to its customers. The firm announced that its 45nm PCM chips are available in a 1Gb PCM plus a 512Mb LPDDR2 package for mobile devices."

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Source: The Inquirer

Micron goes on a spending spree, picks up Elpida and a big majority of Rexchip shares

Subject: General Tech | July 3, 2012 - 02:07 PM |
Tagged: purchase, billions, micron, Elpida, rexchip, powerchip, DRAM, flash

Micron has been very busy lately, spending $2.5 billion USD to purchase Elpida and another $334 million USD to purchase another 24% of DRAM maker Rexchip from Powerchip.  The latter of those purchases gives Micron a total of 89% of the existing shares of Rexchip which may not give them outright ownership of Rexchip but gives them such a huge majority that they can determine the outcome of any vote which is presented to shareholders.  Rexchip brings a single 300mm Fab working on 30nm process to the table, which gives Micron a bit more manufacturing capability to utilize for what is likely to be a busy season for them.

The Elpida purchase is much bigger for both the industry and Micron, especially as they decided to buy the company outright instead of purchasing a subsidiary or only the IP of Elpida.  Instead the company will remain intact for the near future though there will likely be changes to the executive structure as they are integrated with Micron.  Not only does this purchase give them access to all property, intellectual or physical, that Elpida currently possesses it give Micron an in at Apple as it was Elpida that supplied much of the chips used by Apple.  That would put Micron in the enviable position of supplying both PC and Apple products.  DigiTimes breaks down the deal here.

micron_logo.jpg

"Micron Technology and Elpida Memory's trustees have signed a definitive sponsor agreement for Micron to acquire Elpida, according to the US memory chipmaker. The agreement has been entered into in connection with Elpida's corporate reorganization proceedings conducted under the jurisdiction of the Tokyo District Court.

Micron revealed that under the agreement, JPY200 billion (US$2.5 billion) total consideration and less certain reorganization proceeding expenses will be used to satisfy the reorganization claims of Elpida's secured and unsecured creditors. Micron will acquire 100% of the equity of Elpida for JPY60 billion to be paid in cash at closing."

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Source: DigiTimes