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96-Layer 3D NAND And QLC NAND
Quote:Western Digital on Tuesday formally announced its fourth-generation 3D NAND memory, developed as part of the Western Digital/Toshiba joint venture. The fourth-generation BiCS NAND flash chips from Western Digital feature 96 layers and will include several capacity points and will use TLC and QLC architectures. The company expects to start volume production of BiCS4 chips in 2018.
Quote:Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc. (TAEC) today announced the latest generation of its BiCS FLASH three-dimensional (3D) flash memory. The newest BiCS FLASH device features 4-bit-per-cell, quadruple-level cell (QLC) technology and is the first 3D flash memory device to do so. Toshiba's QLC technology enables larger (768 gigabit) die capacity than the company's third-generation 512Gb 3-bit-per-cell, triple-level cell (TLC), and pushes the boundaries of flash memory technology.
Samples of Toshiba's groundbreaking QLC device began shipping earlier in June to SSD and SSD controller vendors for evaluation and development purposes. Additionally, samples will be showcased at the 2017 Flash Memory Summit, taking place from August 7-10 in Santa Clara, California.
Quote:Besides intention to produce 768 Gb 3D QLC NAND flash for the aforementioned devices, the most interesting part of Toshiba’s announcement is endurance specification for the upcoming components. According to the company, its 3D QLC NAND is targeted for ~1000 program/erase cycles, which is close to TLC NAND flash. This is considerably higher than the amount of P/E cycles (100 – 150) expected for QLC by the industry over the years. At first thought, it comes across a typo - didn't they mean 100?. But the email we received was quite clear:

- What’s the number of P/E cycles supported by Toshiba’s QLC NAND?
- QLC P/E is targeted for 1K cycles.

It is unclear how Toshiba managed to increase the endurance of its 3D QLC NAND by an order of magnitude versus initially predicted. What we do know is that signal processing is more challenging with QLC than it is with TLC, as each cell needs to accurately determine sixteen different voltage profiles (up from 2 in SLC, 4 in MLC, and 8 in TLC).
WD has achieved 3D QLC NAND:
Samsung is working on a 128 TB QLC SSD, and other good stuff:
Also read the rest about Phison's E12 controller, it's promising.
Quote:We're starting to hear about 96-layer BiCS FLASH with an expected date of the end of 2018. There are also whispers of QLC coming from Toshiba at that time. The E12 will overlap with Toshiba's next generation memory. 96-layer QLC is a story for another day, but mid-year or at Flash Memory Summit looks to be a good time for companies to preview products based on the technology.
Quote:Last but not least is the most interesting leak: In the middle of the chart is the Intel SSD 660p with 4-bit per cell (QLC) flash. The SSD 660p listing shows three capacities (512GB, 1TB and 2TB). The performance is much higher than we expected to see from QLC at right out of the gate. The leak says the 660p will achieve up to 1,800 MB/s sequential read and 1,100 sequential write speeds. The random performance clocks in at 150,000 IOPS for both reads and writes.

QLC was a hot topic at CES last week, but only behind closed doors. No one wanted to go on the record, but we know IMFT (Intel Micron Flash Technology) has it ready for the most part. Companies are excited about the cost-cutting technology but need controllers to pair with it. One source told us to expect 512GB QLC SSDs for around $100.
Quote:The controller will be part of Marvell's next generation controller product family addressing consumer, cloud data center, and enterprise SSDs. In the consumer space, manufacturers can built add-in card or M.2 form factors. The new product family will have controllers that can run in an enterprise-focused dual port PCIe 3.0 x2 configuration, most likely in a U.2 form factor with two lanes each going to separate nodes (computers in the same server chassis).

We first heard about the controller while talking with various companies about QLC NAND, four bits per cell. Every controller manufacturer is feverishly working to get hardware ready for the low endurance NAND that requires increased error correction technology. Marvell’s NANDEdge ECC technology is expected to be a key enabler of future QLC SSD solutions.
An interesting note on the future of 3D NAND:
Quote:Samsung's stacks of flash have tripled in height since then—the company recently announced its forthcoming fifth-generation, 96-layer V-NAND. That flash may mark the end of line for Samsung's layer jenga. The company has hinted it will likely be seeking future gains through means other than adding more layers.
Micron's QLC NAND SSDs start shipping to servers this year:
Maybe Samsung should reconsider their decision to not push 3D NAND beyond 96 layers:
Quote:Applied Material's Sean Kang, speaking at Japan's International Memory Workshop (IMW), said that he expects future 3D NAND technologies to achieve 140 layers (up from today's leading 64-layer tech) by 2021. Increased numbers of layers will allow for increased die densities whilst keeping the same PCB real-estate and implementation area; at the same time, which is something the industry is craving for as data-sets only continue to increase in size. Before 2021 and its 140-layer NAND comes (which will require new fabrication materials), 90-layer solutions are expected to be launched this year, with a 20% decrease in layer height, down from its current 60 nm to 55 nm, which will allow for relatively stable stack heights, even as the number of layers increases significantly (by around 40% compared to 64-layer tech). Cheaper, more dense NAND tech - what isn't there to like?
Quote:One interesting point Micron made to me when we spoke was that the endurance needs of SSDs are actually decreasing, in many areas, rather than increasing. At first glance, this might seem counterintuitive. After all, the amount of data we collectively create each year has been growing for years. As it turns out, however, more advanced operating systems that return more data on how much data is actually written to drives per day in enterprise deployments has shown that the number of writes is lower, in some cases, than was previously thought.

Meanwhile, rapid growth in SSD capacities has meant that drives, generally speaking, are now much larger than they once were. This naturally decreases the number of drive writes per day that are practically going to be performed. We even referenced this idea earlier this year, when we noted that Nimbus’ 100TB SSD is so huge, you literally can’t perform one drive write per day if you assume that the SSD maintains its maximum rated transfer speed 24 hours per day.

When you put these trends together, you’ve got a potentially large market for SSDs in industries that have historically still been using HDDs, or might only be using SSDs for caching. The Ion 5210 QLC isn’t expected to replace TLC drives, but to serve as an adjunct to them, offering better than hard drive performance; significantly higher drive capacities, thanks to the 1.33x improvement in data stored per-cell; and a better overall price tag compared with MLC or TLC drives over the long term. Micron isn’t sharing more details than that at the moment, but the company has stated that it expects to give more information later this year.
Quote:Even as researchers expect 3D NAND flash to achieve the 140-layer level by 2021, technology and manufacturers still have to take all the intermediate steps before we're actually there. In that sense, Western Digital has just announced that they're well on their way in producing 96-layer 3D NAND and distributing it to customers. For now, the memory will be used for inexpensive storage solutions, but the idea is to eventually ramp um production for other, higher-performance products.
Quote:In their recent earnings call, Micron commented that they have 96-layer 3D NAND technology on track for volume shipments in the second half of 2018. Most of today's SSDs typically use 32-layer technology, with 64-layer flash chips used in some recent releases like the Crucial MX500. 96-layer is the third generation of 3D NAND and increases storage capacity per chip even further which allows smaller and more energy efficient mobile devices to be built. Of course it will be cheaper too, compared to current-generation 64 layer NAND, which should bring SSD pricing down even more, and of course generally help pricing of consumer products which use flash memory.
Quote:Samsung has delivered another salvo in the race to ever-increasing NAND flash density and performance. The company has begun mass production of its fifth-generation V-NAND memory with "over 90" (likely 96) layers per die.
Toshiba develops 96-layer 3D QLC NAND:
Intel starts production of 3D QLC NAND:
Quote:Not to be upstaged, flash partners Toshiba and WD both announced their jointly-produced 3D QLC NAND yesterday in separate announcements. The announcements contained quite a bit more information, so we know that the new 96-layer BiCS4 flash has a density of 1.33 terabits2 per die.

SSDs come with up to 16 die per package, so that means Toshiba and WD will soon be able to pack in a whopping 2.66TB of storage into a single NAND package. The duo plans to begin sampling the BiCS4 QLC NAND in September and mass production is slated for early 2019. More importantly, WD's release clearly states that QLC SSDs will come to the consumer market under the SanDisk brand name. We expect Toshiba to follow suit with its own consumer SSDs.

SSDs have slowly chipped away at HDD market share over the last few years and WD even recently decided to shut down one of its primary HDD production plants due to reduced demand. SSD prices continue to plunge and many analyst firms predict even larger drops as the Chinese Yangtze River Storage Technology fabs begin to pump out 3D NAND. Samsung is also reportedly gearing up to increase its NAND production dramatically with a $2.6 billion increase in spending in 2019. Next year is shaping up to the year of QLC SSDs, which could be the final ingredient needed to push HDDs out of the primary storage role entirely.
Quote:The best part about the 660p is its performance numbers. The drive takes advantage of PCI-Express 3.0 x4, and offers (at least on paper), performance numbers identical to those of the pricier 700p. The drives read at speeds of up to 1800 MB/s, with up to 1100 MB/s writes. The 600p, in comparison, capped out at 560 MB/s sequential writes, while the 700p is only slightly higher, at 1200 MB/s. Random access speeds are up to 150,000 IOPS (both reads and writes). QLC pays off rich dividends to consumers by way of price/GB. The 660p 512 GB is expected to be priced at 113.90€ (0.22€/GB), the 1 TB variant at 197.75€ (0.20€/GB), and the 2 TB variant at 391.43€ (0.20€/GB). Not bad for launch prices, considering these are PCIe NVMe drives priced competitively with SATA SSDs.
Quote:Geizhals, a German online price comparison platform, revealed that the Intel 660p 512GB costs €112.90 ($131.11), while the larger 1TB and 2TB models go for €218.90 ($254.17) and €431.90 ($501.48), respectively. If we do some simple mathematics and divide the price by the capacity, it comes down to $0.25 per a gigabyte, which puts it right in the price range of a typical SATA SSD.

Intel hasn't announced the availability of the Intel 660p. Online speculation suggests the SSDs should launch in the second half of this year. PC-Canada expects to have them in stock by August 25. This year's installment of The Flash Memory Summit will take place on August 7. We'll be at the show, and it's possible that Intel could take the opportunity to officially present its 660p SSD lineup at the event (if so, we'll let you know).
Samsung is mass-producing QLC SSDs in 1 TB, 2 TB, and 4 TB capacities:
Quote:Intel released the original 600p back in 2016 for nearly twice the price-per-GB as the 660p is today, but the drive was barely faster than the much cheaper SATA-based competition. The 660p changes that.

Intel's 660p is just $0.20-per-GB. That value is hard to ignore when the drive is the same price, if not cheaper, than the SATA-based competition. The 600p has half to one-third of the endurance of some competing drives, so its low price point does come at the cost of endurance. In reality, most consumers don’t need that much endurance if their average use case involves mostly office applications, web browsing, and content streaming. For heavier workloads, like frequent large file transfers or productivity applications, it is best to select an SSD with more endurance, like the NVMe Adata XPG SX8200 or the SATA Crucial MX500.

The 660p's included SSD Toolbox and five-year warranty are icing on the cake. The inclusion of 256-bit AES hardware encryption with Pyrite 1.0 and 2.0 support enables fast performance and tough security for the mobile market, and the thin single-sided M.2 2280 profile assures broad compatibility with laptops.

The 660p is a refined and welcome update to Intel's SSD 6 series. The 660p proves that Intel’s QLC NAND is ready for the mainstream and easily earns our top value recommendation for the low-endurance/budget segment. If you haven’t upgraded to an SSD yet and your workloads tend to be mundane, Intel’s SSD 660p is a good fit.
Quote:All in all, we now have three high-end NVMe SSDs that rival each other: the Samsung 970 Evo, the WD Black 2018 and the Toshiba XG6. Each model has its own strengths and weaknesses, but overall they perform similarly. Coming from a situation where Samsung had exclusive rights in the high-end segment, that is obviously a very pleasant situation for the consumer. Also pleasing to consumers is that Toshiba has the potential to price the XG6 well below the competition, thanks to the implementation of its 96-layer BiCS 4 flash memory.

However, for the time being we do not know the price of the Toshiba XG6, and it seems that you will probably have to wait a few months before you can buy this SSD or any spin-off under Toshiba's consumer brand OCZ. Just before our publication, Toshiba even informed us that mass production would probably not start until early 2019. However, due to the fact that Toshiba is the first to utilize the new 96-layer NAND, they promote themselves to a full player in the high-end segment. Therefore, we give the Toshiba XG6 a Hardware.Info Innovation Award.
If this were real, the 660p wouldn't have launched at such a low price. This is blatant price fixing.
Quote:IMFlash Technologies (IMFT), the Intel-Micron joint venture that manufactures NAND flash and 3D Xpoint memory for use in Intel and Micron end-user products, and Micron Technology-branded NAND flash supply to other SSD manufacturers, is facing a big hurdle with its QLC NAND flash manufacturing ramp-up, which if not checked, could influence SSD prices globally. The company is apparently seeing dangerously low yields of less than 50 percent for its 3D QLC NAND flash memory. This effectively makes its QLC NAND pricier (in terms of $/GB) than current-generation 3D TLC NAND.

The first victim of low yields of 3D QLC NAND flash is Intel's SSD 660p series, a mainstream NVMe SSD that brought 1 TB of storage under the $200-mark. Sources within IMFT tell Tweaktown that the company is seeing 48% yields in its 64-layer QLC NAND flash wafers (i.e. 52% of the wafer is unfit for further production). In contrast, 64-layer 3D TLC yields are above 90% (margin/incomplete dies are excluded from these figures). What's worse, the source predicts that the conditions may never get better with this generation.

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