The Resurgence of NAND Flash in the Age of “Instan-ity”

As underscored at this year’s Flash Memory Summit, NAND Flash has been undergoing a renaissance of innovation. This is already having a profound impact on the industry in light of growing consumer demand to have instant access to everything dear to them – particularly large video and graphics files, and growing demand for more big data analysis.
Samsung contributed to the groundswell of interest with several FMS presentations covering critical advancements including the latest in 3D NAND Flash, and the rising popularity of triple level cell (3-bit) NAND, and NVMe SSD technology. Other areas of NAND importance in the coming months will be the introduction of intelligent storage and the increasing popularity of Universal Flash Storage.
Leading the Samsung charge before 1200 attendees was a much-anticipated keynote from yours truly and our U.S. Memory Solution Lab SVP Bob Brennan. We discussed why and how the latest memory technology advances are actually shaping a new era in flash innovation, while unveiling a new generation of 3D NAND (48-layer) and the world’s largest drive (15.4TB), as well as the world’s fastest drive (1,000,000 IOPS).
In the keynote, we explained that the world of consumer electronics is hastening the shift to higher densities, larger storage resources, much faster access speeds. The world is rapidly migrating to an age of “instan-ity” with an insatiable desire in the market for instant connectivity, instant data access and instant relevance of information. These capabilities will allow consumers, manufacturers and businesses everywhere to maximize their access not only to social media but to the rapidly emerging Internet of Things.
3D TLC (3-bit) NAND
Beyond our keynote, SSD team member Tien Shiah explained how the industry is on a mission to reduce costs, while pointing out that the market entry of 3D TLC NAND is becoming a key driver here. Tien emphasized that the increase in the number of stored bits per memory cell is extremely important from a cost-efficiency standpoint, but acknowledged that going to TLC NAND with planar manufacturing technology will generally result in some performance and endurance penalties. However, he pointed out that the use of 3D manufacturing for TLC NAND, such as Samsung’s V-NAND allows manufacturers to recoup those performance losses.
Two other SSD experts, Michael Smullen and Anders Graham, made the case for migrating from SATA solid state storage, and even more noticeably from hard drives, to NVMe SSDs. SATA, which was designed for hard disk drives, is now a bottleneck to SSD performance. SSDs based on the faster NVMe standard are already beginning to see the move toward broader deployment, both in the data center and personal computing devices, as NVMe SSDs offer twice the performance of SATA SSDs, at comparable costs.
SSI principal engineer Bill Martin spoke about the importance of standardizing storage intelligence, explaining that industry collaboration is important to maximize the benefits of SI for OEMs. Samsung has been leading the industry in efforts to standardize new features for SSDs by providing mechanisms for systems to: determine when garbage collection will be done, specify which data should be stored together, provide object storage, and to offload storage compute using in-storage computing. In a similar vein, Yang Seok Ki, a director from our Memory Solution Lab spoke about why in-storage computing is today’s best solution for accelerating I/O-intensive applications.
Finally, the many benefits available of UFS were examined by David Ghodsizadeh of our mobile storage team, and our Stephen Lum speaking on behalf of the UFSA. As data transfer via USB, WiFi, and cellular networks increases, the current embedded storage champion, eMMC, has become a performance bottleneck. Coming to the rescue, UFS now combines SSD-like performance with eMMC power efficiency for many mobile devices.
Certainly NAND flash has always been an undisputed efficiency driver in the mobile and storage marketplaces, but that truism was never truer than today with the latest “game-changing” innovations making their presence felt throughout the industry.