Intel, Micron Jointly Announce QLC NAND FLASH, 96-Layer 3D Development

Subject: Storage | May 21, 2018 - 04:31 PM |
Tagged: ssd, QLC, NVMe, nand, Intel, Floating Gate, flash, die, 1Tbit

In tandem with Micron's launch of their new enterprise QLC SSDs, there is a broader technology announcement coming out of Intel today. This release covers the fact that Intel and Micron have jointly developed shippable 64-Layer 3D QLC NAND.

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IMFT's 3D NAND announcement came back in early 2015, and Intel/Micron Flash Technologies have been pushing their floating gate technology further and further. Not only do we have the QLC announcement today, but with it came talks of progress on 96-layer development as well. Combining QLC with 96-Layer would yield a single die capacity of 1.5 Tbit (192GB), up from the 1 Tbit (128GB) capacity of the 64-Layer QLC die that is now in production.

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This new flash won't be meant for power users, but should be completely usable in a general use client SSD, provided there is a bit of SLC (or 3D XPoint???) cache on the front end. QLC does store 33% more data per the same die space, which should eventually translate to a lower $/GB once development costs have been recouped. Here's hoping for lower cost SSDs in the future!

Press blast after the break!

Micron Launches 5210 ION - First QLC NAND Enterprise SATA SSD

Subject: Storage | May 21, 2018 - 04:30 PM |
Tagged: ssd, sata, QLC, nand, micron, enterprise

For those that study how flash memory stores bits, Quad Level Cell technology is a tricky thing to pull off in production. You are taking a single NAND Flash cell and change its stored electron count in such a way that you can later discriminate between SIXTEEN different states.

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...we're talking a countable number (dozens to hundreds) of electrons making the difference between a stored 0101 or 0110 in a given cell. Pulling that off in production-capable parts is no small feat, and doing so for enterprise usage first is definitely a bold move. Enter Micron:

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The 5210 ION line is a SATA product meant for enterprise usages where the workload is primarily reading. This comes in handy for things like real-time data analytics and content delivery systems, where data is infrequently written but needs to be readable at latencies faster than what HDD's can provide.

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These are 2.5" 7mm SSDs that will be available from 1.92TB to 7.68TB (yes, 2TB is the *smallest* available capacity for these!). The idea is to enable an easy upgrade path for larger data systems that already employ SATA or SAS (SAS systems are typically cross-compatible with SATA). For backplanes that are designed for slimmer 7mm drives, this can make for some extreme densities.

These are currently being sampled to some big data companies and should see more general availability in a few months time. Press blast from Micron appears after the break.

Source: Micron
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: MyDigitalSSD

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

When one thinks of an M.2 SSD, we typically associate that with either a SATA 6GB/s or more recently with a PCIe 3.0 x4 link. The physical interface of M.2 was meant to accommodate future methods of connectivity, but it's easy to overlook the ability to revert back to something like a PCIe 3.0 x2 link. Why take a seemingly backward step on the interface of an SSD? Several reasons actually. Halving the number of lanes makes for a simpler SSD controller design, which lowers cost. Power savings are also a factor, as driving a given twisted pair lane at PCIe 3.0 speeds draws measurable current from the host and therefore adds to the heat production of the SSD controller. We recently saw that a PCIe 3.0 x2 can still turn in respectable performance despite lower bandwidth interface, but how far can we get the price down when pairing that host link with some NAND flash?

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Enter the MyDigitalSSD SBX series. Short for Super Boot eXpress, the aim of these parts is to offer a reasonably performant PCIe NVMe SSD at something closer to SATA SSD pricing.

Specifications:

  • Physical: M.2 2280 (single sided)
  • Controller: Phison E8 (PS5008-E8)
  • Capacities: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
  • PCIe 3.0 x2, M.2 2280
  • Sequential: Up to 1.6/1.3 GB/s (R/W)
  • Random: 240K+ / 180K+ IOPS (R/W)
  • Weight: 8g
  • Power: <5W

Packaging:

The MyDigitalDiscount guys keep things extremely simple with their SSD packaging, which is eaxctly how it should be. It doesn't take much to package and protect an M.2 SSD, and this does the job just fine. They also include a screwdriver and a screw just in case you run into a laptop that came without one installed.

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Read on for our full review of all capacities of the MyDigitalSSD SBX lineup!

MWC 2018: Western Digital Launches SN720 and SN520 M.2 NVMe SSDs

Subject: Storage | February 27, 2018 - 11:03 AM |
Tagged: wdc, WD, ssd, SN720, SN520, sandisk, NCMe, nand, M.2, BiCS, 2280, 2242, 2230

Western Digital launched a few new NVMe SSDs at Mobile World Congress today:

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To the left we have the WD PC SN720, a PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD boasting speeds of up to 3.4GB/s and IOPS up to 500k. Available capacities are 1TB, 512GB, and 256GB. To the right we have the WD PC SN520, a more power efficient variant running on half of the PCIe lanes, and with specs coming in at roughly half of its faster brother. Capacities are also cut in half, with the range dropping to 512GB, 256GB, and 128GB. Interestingly, all capacities are available in three M.2 form factors (2280, 2242, and 2230).

We don't have a specific part number for the controller, but WD told us they are manufactured on a 28nm process, employ 8 NAND channels, and use DDR4 RAM (not DRAMless). The controller is optimized for interfacing with WD (/Toshiba) BiCS NAND flash, meaning these SSDs should prove to be a well integrated solution.

Press blast from WD appears after the break.

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Samsung launched their 850 line of SSDs in mid-2014 (over three years ago now). The line evolved significantly over time, with the additions of PRO and EVO models, capacity expansions reaching up to 4TB, and a later silent migration to 64-layer V-NAND. Samsung certainly got their money's worth out of the 850 name, but it is now time to move onto something newer:

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Specifications:

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Of note above is a significantly higher endurance rating as compared to the 850 Series products, along with an update to a new 'MJX' controller, which accounts for a slight performance bump across the board. Not mentioned here is the addition of queued TRIM, which is more of a carryover from the enterprise / Linux systems (Windows 10 does not queue its TRIM commands).

Packaging:

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Aside from some updated specs and the new name, packaging remains very much the same.

Read on for our review of the Samsung 860 PRO and EVO SSDs (in multiple capacities!)

(Those of you interested in Samsung's press release for this launch will find it after the break)

CES 2018: Crucial Expands MX500 Lineup - 2.5" SATA up to 2TB, M.2 2280 SATA up to 1TB

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2018 - 07:38 PM |
Tagged: tlc, ssd, slc, sata, nand, MX500, DWA, crucial, CES 2018, CES, 3d nand

Crucial showed off the upcoming M.2 variant of its MX500 product, available in capacities up to 1TB. They also announced (press release after the break) that the MX500 will be available from 250GB up to 2TB capacities.

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Here is Crucial's product tour video for the MX500:

We previously tested the 1TB MX500, and Crucial passed along a 500GB model that I was able to spot check to ensure there was no performance fall-off at the smaller capacities of this line:

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Looks good so far, and nearly identical to the 1TB capacity across our entire test suite. We did also speak with Crucial reps (Jon and Jon) about the TRIM speed issues noted in our previous review. They are looking into replicating our testing and may be pushing out a firmware to help improve this metric moving forward.

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We also saw some sweet looking new RGB Ballistix memory, due out shortly. More to follow there! Crucial's MX500 CES announcement appears after the break.

Source: Crucial

Samsung SZ985 Z-NAND SSD - Upcoming Competition for Intel's P4800X?

Subject: Storage | November 20, 2017 - 10:56 PM |
Tagged: Z-NAND, SZ985, slc, Samsung, P4800X, nand, Intel, flash

We haven't heard much about Samsung's 'XPoint Killer' Z-NAND since Flash Memory Summit 2017, but now we have a bit more to go on:

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Yes, actual specs. In print. Not bad either, considering the Samsung SZ985 appears to offer a bus-saturating 3.2GB/s for reads and writes. The 30 DWPD figure matches Intel's P4800X, which is impressive given Samsung's part operates on flash derived from their V-NAND line (but operating in a different mode). The most important figures here are latency, so let's focus there for a bit:

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While the SZ985 runs at ~1/3rd the latency of Samsung's own NAND SSDs, it has roughly double the latency of the P4800X. For the moment that is actually not as bad as it seems as it takes a fair amount of platform optimization to see the full performance benefits of optane, and operating slightly higher on the latency spectrum helps negate the negative impacts of incorrectly optimized platforms:

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Source: Shrout Research

As you can see above, operating at slightly higher latencies, while netting lower overall performance, does lessen the sting of platform induced IRQ latency penalties.

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Now to discuss costs. While we don't have any hard figures, we do have the above slide from FMS 2017, where Samsung stressed that they are trying to get the costs of Z-NAND down while keeping latencies as low as possible.

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Image Source: ExtremeTech

Samsung backed up their performance claims with a Technology Brief (available here), which showed decent performance gains and cited use cases paralleling those we've seen used by Intel. The takeaway here is that Samsung *may* be able to compete with the Intel P4800X in a similar performance bracket - not matching the performance but perhaps beating it on cost. The big gotcha is that we have yet to see a single Samsung NVMe Enterprise SSD come through our labs for testing, or anywhere on the market for that matter, so take these sorts of announcements with a grain of salt until we see these products gain broader adoption/distribution.

Source: Samsung

Toshiba Negotiating With Bain Capital For Sale of Its NAND Manufacturing Arm

Subject: General Tech, Storage | September 14, 2017 - 10:32 AM |
Tagged: western digital, toshiba, nand, flash memory, bain capital

Toshiba remains in a financial crisis in the aftermath of massive losses in its Westinghouse US Nuclear power division and has been attempting to sell off its still very much profitable NAND flash manufacturing business to compensate and right the company to avoid being delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Unfortunately for Toshiba it has now missed three target dates for selling off the business. Not for lack of suitors, but primarily because of legal issues resulting from anti-trust concerns as well as legal battles brought by Western Digital  – who Toshiba is in a joint venture with for flash manufacturing in Japan – to attempt to prevent the sale.

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Jumping to the present, Toshiba has decided to proceed with the negotiations with an investment group led by Bain Capital despite disappointment (and more legal objections) from Western Digital who tried to block similar negotiations back in June. On Wednesday, it was revealed that Toshiba had signed a “memorandum of understanding” and is engaging in private talks to negotiate the sale with an investment group led by Bain Capital and including SK Hynix (who is allegedly only providing financing at this point and not going after a stake in the business to try to avoid further delaying the sale from increased anti-trust red tape), Apple, Dell, Seagate, and two Japanese government controlled entities known as Innovation Network Corp and Development Bank of Japan (again, Bain Capital is offering them the chance to invest post any WD concessions and legal battles in the business to improve chances of the sale going through). As the preferred (by Toshiba) buyer, the Bain Capital-lead group deal is reportedly worth nearly 2.4 trillion Yen ($22 billion USD) including $1.8 billion earmarked for infrastructure. The company expects come to an agreement in late September and is hoping that it will be able to finalize the sale by March so that it can avoid reporting negative net worth and risking being de-listed from the Tokyo Stock Exchange and being cut off from a huge swath of public investors and capital.

Due to the negotiations being private, details are not readily available yet. It is not clear whether Toshiba will be able to pull it off or what the implications will be for the market if it does. (With Toshiba being the world’s second largest flash memory supplier, whoever ends up acquiring the company is going to have a lot of influence on the market and flash technology R&D.) It certainly seems Toshiba’s battle to right itself is going to continue into next year and Western Digital is not going to make it easy. The US-based WD stated:

“We are disappointed that Toshiba would take this action. Our goal has been — and remains — to reach a mutually beneficial outcome that satisfies the needs of Toshiba and its stakeholders.”

A California court has reportedly ordered Toshiba to give Western Digital two weeks’ notice of any deal with the consortium and its two previous arbitration requests through ICC are still pending resolution. Barrons reports that Toshiba may convince WDC to allow the sale if it gives its joint venture partner enough concessions such as an assured long term NAND supply contract and agreed participation in joint Fab projects that would protect SanDisk's contractual rights. Other interested parties for the sale include Foxconn and Western Digital itself. Perhaps SoftBank or the $100 Billion Vision Fund will come in and scoop it up as well.

[Opinions follow heh] I am interested to see how it all will eventually shake out. It remains less than ideal to see Toshiba must sell it off and have the market possibly lose a big flash memory player as the market share power gets more consolidated if it does get picked up by an existing memory manufacturer (see: hard drives, flash memory seems to be going through the same consolidation of companies from lots of little players into fewer bigger ones). I am not certain on the deal specifics as far as ownership and control of TMC and any cash only vs equity splits but with Japanese investors as part of all three bidding / competing consortiums it seems at least part of the business (if only money from it if not voting power) will remain rooted in Japan even if not under the Toshiba brand.

Also read:

 

Source: Tech Report

It's good to be making NAND right now, not so good to be buying

Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2017 - 01:26 PM |
Tagged: nand, bad news

The trend we have seen over 2017 is predicted to continue, with the price of NAND steadily increasing thanks to the limited supply.  Over the first two quarters we have seen prices rise between 3-10% and this trend is expected to continue.  The two driving factors are the coming launch of a new generation of smartphones from most manufacturers, all of which are purchasing NAND in large volumes as well as Enterprise class SSDs which are starting to see more adoption.  At the same time, all manufacturers are seeing an impressive increase in their profitability, even those which are having production issues.  You can see the breakdown in the article posted by Trendforce.

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"We expect supply to be under strain for the rest of 2017. Relief will come later in 2018, when the manufacturing of 64- and 72-layer 3D-NAND Flash reaches maturity."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: TrendForce

Western Digital BiCS3 Flash Goes QLC - 96GB per die!

Subject: Storage | August 2, 2017 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: BiCS3, western digital, wdc, WD, tlc, slc, QLC, nand, mlc, flash, 96GB, 768Gb, 3d

A month ago, WD and Toshiba each put out releases related to their BiCS 3D Flash memory. WD announced 96 layers (BiCS4) as their next capacity node, while Toshiba announced them reliably storing four bits per cell (QLC).

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WD recently did their own press release related to QLC, partially mirroring Toshiba's announcement, but this one had some additional details on capacity per die, as well as stating their associated technology name used for these shifts. TLC was referred to as "X3", and "X4" is the name for their QLC tech as applied to BiCS. The WD release stated that X4 tech, applied to BiCS3, yields 768Gbit (96GB) per die vs. 512Gbit (64GB) per die for X3 (TLC). Bear in mind that while the release (and the math) states this is a 50% increase, moving from TLC to QLC with the same number of cells does only yields a 33% increase, meaning X4 BiCS3 dies need to have additional cells (and footprint) to add that extra 17%.

The release ends by hinting at X4 being applied to BiCS4 in the future, which is definitely exciting. Merging the two recently announced technologies would yield a theoretical 96-layer BiCS4 die, using X4 QLC technology, yielding 1152 Gbit (144GB) per die. A 16 die stack of which would come to 2,304 GB (1.5x the previously stated 1.5TB figure). The 2304 figure might appear incorrect but consider that we are multiplying two 'odd' capacities together (768 Gbit (1.5x512Gbit for TLC) and 96 layers (1.5x64 for X3).

Press blast appears after the break.