Samsung Announces New Branding and Future SSD Capacity Expansion with their New 48-Layer V-NAND

Subject: Storage | September 22, 2015 - 06:10 PM |
Tagged: vnand, V-NAND, Samsumg, 4TB, 48-layer, 2TB, 1TB

During yesterday's SSD Summit, obscured by their 950 PRO launch was new branding for their 32 (and now 48) layer Vertical NAND technology:

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This new branding is more in line with what folks were calling their NAND anyway (Samsung was previously using the term '3D VNAND'. Dropping the 3D made sense, as it was implied with the 'V').

Also of interest were some announcements of upcoming higher capacities of their existing models:

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4TB 850 EVO and PRO? Yes please.

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1TB in the 850 EVO M.2 edition, and while there is no slide for this, the 950 PRO is also expected to be updated with a 1TB model within the same time frame as well.

How is all of this expansion possible? The answer is their third generation V-NAND, which is 48 layers and 256 GBit (32 GB) capacity per die. Samsung intends to roll this flash out and update all model lines currently using V-NAND technology. This decision was made by Samsung's Senior VP of Marketing, UnSoo Kim:

View Full Size before you get out the pitchforks and form up the 'don't change the flash without a new model' lynch mob, I'd like to point out a few things that make this change different than what you might have seen in the past.

  • Samsung is trying to prevent confusion by adding product lines with nearly identical specs.
  • Samsung is being very open about this change (others were secretive / deceptive).
  • Samsung has promised that they will only implement this change in a way that *increases* the performance and *decreases* the power consumption of these products.

I did leave the Q+A with some further questions about this change. The lower capacities of the 850 EVO still see slower write performance when writing straight to TLC flash (SLC cache is full). This is because there are fewer dies available to write the data, and each die can only write so fast in TLC mode. Since the 48-layer V-NAND is to have double the capacity per die, that would mean half the dies per SSD and possibly slower write speeds in the overall product.

I approached UnSoo Kim after the Q+A and asked this specific question, and his answer was both interesting and refreshing. First, he understood my question immediately and assured me that they will not roll out 256Gbit 48-layer V-NAND into their smaller capacity models - in order to prevent any performance reduction over their current 32-layer equipped parts. Second, he told me that they also intend to produce a 128Gbit variant of 48-layer V-NAND at some point in the future, and use *that* part to substitute the 128Gbit 32-layer V-NAND in those smaller capacity models, keeping the die counts (and therefore sequential write speeds) equal. That additional variant of their third generation V-NAND is the only way (in my mind) that they could update their smaller capacity parts without losing performance, and it was great to see that Samsung has thought out the execution of this rollout in such a proper manner.

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September 23, 2015 | 01:10 AM - Posted by Hakuren

Give me, give me these 4TB beauties. Finally the day that mass storage HDDs will no longer rattle inside the case is coming. And these things don't need to be blazing fast. For mass storage it's not a priority. I'm wetting my pants at thought of 8/16 4TB SSD on each of my AICs. That's better than pr0n.

Price will be prohibitive at first but I have a dream...

September 23, 2015 | 02:23 AM - Posted by gtxer (not verified)

i wonder why some people have rattling hdds and some don't. bad case design? wrong ways of placing and securing? i know they're spinning inside, but shaking a case? come on, they're not that bad there must be something else causing that. vibrating? sure, mechanically they are doing that. vibrating the case? probably the hdds and case placement.

September 23, 2015 | 11:01 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'd rather have X-point memory on the DIMM in addition to the DRAM and have the OS/paging files residing there, and an SSD with no TLC(3 state or above) memory cells. I'll take the less SSD memory that comes with single level cells, and 2 level cells, because these are faster than 3+ level memory cells. X-point memory on the DIMM along side the regular DRAM, and connected up with the DRAM with a wide back-plane memory channel on the individual DIMM package so the CPU can request multiple simultaneous data transfers between the DRAM and its cache of X-Point memory on its DIMM. This will allow for much faster OS/Page file, and other data transfers that are essential to the OS to be available in the least amount of time using the RAM memory subsystem and channels and not having to go through PCI, or any extra data protocol levels which add latency to the system and have less bandwidth.

Hard drives as a backup medium are not going away and most Hard drives will be hybrid and have their own cache of Nand to speed up data transfers and not tie up the system by making things too I/O bound. Hard drives will be moving to the NAS, and external backup drive, but they will still be around for a good while after X-point takes over from NAND.

September 23, 2015 | 06:09 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

We may see hybrid memory modules or just x-point modules connected via DDR4 bus; I believe it has some support for NVM in the spec. Hybrid modules would need a lot of added software and hardware support though. Intel may be planning in connecting x-point via HMC style interconnect also. HMC uses a serialized, point-to-point interconnect, so it could be used to connect various memory types since the the bottom logic die can hide the actual memory implementation.

September 24, 2015 | 02:04 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Intel has only spoke of / demoed X-Point via NVMe / PCIe for the moment.

September 24, 2015 | 11:20 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"The Optane-branded SSDs will be the first 3D XPoint products to appear from Intel, according to Leszinske, and thus far all the company will say is that they will be coming sometime in 2016. Intel also divulged at IDF that a future and unnamed Xeon server processor will have the capability of using Optane memory DIMMs."(1)

(1)"Intel Reveals Plans For Optane 3D XPoint Memory"

September 28, 2015 | 04:34 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

(for consumer)

September 23, 2015 | 02:56 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

4 TB is great, but it is not going to be anywhere near the cost of a 4 TB hard drive. If Intel can get some x-point devices to market, even small devices, I may not be interested in flash based devices at all. I would just have a small x-point device for OS and frequently used stuff and hard drives for mass storage. I use a 120 GB Intel DC S3500 for my OS drive now without issues. They are going to need to increase the capacity and decrease the price a lot if x-point turns out to be as advertised.

I don't know how far they can push the number of layers though. It would be interesting to know some of the factors involved, but most of that's info is probably a secret. As they push the number of layers, the number of defective parts will increase. Also, the cost of processing the wafer increases with each layer. This makes it such that they cannot economically increase the layers beyond a given point until they increase the yields. It is already amazing to me that they can produce a 48-layer device economically right now.

September 24, 2015 | 02:06 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Just FYI, an S3500 is really not meant to be a consumer use SSD. Intel's enterprise firmwares are programmed to assert (brick) themselves on the slightest detected odd issue. They do this as IT departments don't want to spend time troubleshooting intermittent issues, so it's better for a DC SSD to just fail hard when anything looks off (because the IT guys would just swap it and rebuild / move on).

September 23, 2015 | 05:00 AM - Posted by Hawking (not verified)

Storage media always evolving and fast. In fact, many people alive today witnessed the rise and vanish of at least one media format. In a couple of years, HDDs will become outmoded. They are still around but only for specific uses, not a "common" pc build.

IMHO it all depends on any breakthrough in mechanical technology. Even HDD techs today like SMR, HAMR and Helium being refined, mixed or evolved, SSD will eventually catches up in size and price... slowly but surely. HDD future is dim but not dark, there're still foreseeable in a decade forward. All this, perhaps a bit like analog against digital in terms of mechanical against electrical. To go forward we're choosing which has a brighter future.

September 27, 2015 | 09:46 PM - Posted by Danny (not verified)

Is Samsung 950 Pro compatible with X99, Z97, Z170, and X79 chipset?

September 28, 2015 | 02:49 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

Not sure what you mean?  If it has an M.2 port then you should be able to use it.

September 28, 2015 | 04:35 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

The system will need to support NVMe boot at the BIOS level, but yeah, those platforms should work. Just check UEFI / NVMe boot compatibility for the board before you pull the trigger.

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