​Intel, Micron, Toshiba promise storage that’s fast and capacious

26 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Intel, Micron Join Shift to 3-D Storage Chips.

Standard consumer SSDs will increase up to an astounding 10TB of storage, thanks to a new type of 3D NAND flash memory that Intel and Micron introduced Thursday morning. Micron Technology, Inc. (Nasdaq: MU), and Intel Corporation today revealed the availability of their 3D NAND technology, the world’s highest-density flash memory. The longtime collaborators on Thursday announced they are shipping samples of jointly designed chips that stack circuitry in layers—like floors in a skyscraper—to boost storage capacity rather than packing smaller components on to a flat square of silicon.

This enables more storage in a smaller space, bringing significant cost savings, low power usage and high performance to a range of mobile consumer devices as well as the most demanding enterprise deployments. Samsung calls its approach to 3D NAND “Charge Trap Flash,” while Toshiba has dubbed its implementation “Bit Cost Scalable.” While there are likely some differences, the two approaches are said to be broadly similar. Brian Shirley, Micron’s vice president for memory and technology solutions, said the company has concluded that it would no longer gain advantage by reducing the size of transistors in flash chips.

This is the first use of a floating gate cell in 3D NAND, which was a key design choice to enable greater performance and increase quality and reliability. Toshiba’s 48-layer design should give it even better densities than the 32-layer designs that Samsung is currently shipping, particularly since Samsung’s current chips are 86Gbit compared to 128Gbit for the upcoming Toshiba products.

Why this matters: SSDs have drastically impacted computing—but even as prices have dropped, the capacities still lag far behind those of traditional magnetic hard drives. Samsung Electronics Co. announced 3-D NAND chips in mid-2013 and recently has been selling them in storage devices called SSDs, or solid-state drives, said Jim Handy, an analyst specializing in memory technology at the research firm Objective Analysis.

Today’s announcement is that Toshiba is sampling hardware, but it won’t hit its full stride until the company’s Fab 2 comes online in the first half of 2016. Large Capacities –Three times the capacity of existing 3D technology1—up to 48GB of NAND per die—enabling three-fourths of a terabyte to fit in a single fingertip-sized package. Green – New sleep modes enable low-power use by cutting power to inactive NAND die (even when other die in the same package are active), dropping power consumption significantly in standby mode.

As a result, the companies say their first 3-D chips come in versions that store 256 gigabits or 384 gigabits—up to three times more than the existing 3-D products on the market. But the advent of 3D manufacturing could push flash prices below 20 cents per GB — well within an order of magnitude compared with hard drive costs. Testing SSD reliability is a finicky process — there are many ways that the devices can fail — but one of the downsides to lower process nodes has been decreased longevity and lower program/erase cycle counts. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies—including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash—is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions.

Samsung’s 850 Pro had the highest P/E count and total guaranteed write capacity of any consumer drive we’ve seen in years, thanks to its 40nm process node. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron’s memory solutions enable the world’s most innovative computing, consumer, enterprise storage, networking, mobile, embedded and automotive applications.

They conduct joint development work and share ownership of a manufacturing plant in Utah; Micron, which maintains another business making chips called dynamic random-access memories, also makes NAND chips at a factory in Singapore. Intel, which continues to use conventional miniaturization techniques in its better-known microprocessors, sells storage devices based on flash memory rather than selling the chips separately. As a leader in corporate responsibility and sustainability, Intel also manufactures the world’s first commercially available “conflict-free” microprocessors. One benefit of moving to 3-D is that manufacturers can use older manufacturing techniques that don’t need to be as precise as steps used to make current chips. Additional information about Intel is available at newsroom.intel.com and blogs.intel.com, and about Intel’s conflict-free efforts at conflictfree.intel.com.

SanDisk Corp., which develops and manufactures flash memory chips in a partnership with Toshiba Corp., announced plans late Wednesday to begin shipping small quantities of 3-D NAND products in late 2015 with general availability expected in 2016.

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