Storage vendors and their customers may soon be entering an era of economical 3D NAND. As the term suggests, 3D NAND enables chipmakers to stack memory cells into vertical layers, allowing them to pack more capacity into smaller chips.
Samsung's take on it is called V-NAND, and soon the company's fourth-generation version of the flash capacity-enhancing technology is hitting the market in larger quantities. Today, the South Korean electronics giant announce that the company had begun volume production of its 64-layer, 256Gb V-NAND chips.
Appearing in limited qualities in Samsung SSDs since January, its new 64-layer V-NAND chip are set to show up in flash storage solutions for servers and other enterprise systems, along with PCs and mobile devices. By the end of the year, Samsung expects 64-layer V-NAND to account for more than half of its NAND flash production, the company said.
And not a moment too soon.
One of the factors keeping enterprise flash storage prices from dropping below 30 cents per GB is the "enormous difficulty of producing economical 3D NAND," Jim Handy, general manager of research firm Objective Analysis recently told Enterprise Storage Forum's Drew Robb. "Flash prices will remain flat, or slightly up, until 3D NAND is mastered. Objective Analysis projects that this will occur in the middle of 2018, but nobody really knows."
By publicly announcing its intent to mass-produce its higher-performance, more energy-efficient 64-layer V-NAND chips, Samsung is signaling that it is confident in its ability to supply with market with faster flash storage.
"Samsung enabled these improvements by tackling a diversity of challenges that appear in the advanced V-NAND manufacturing process," reported the chipmaker in a June 15 announcement. "Chief among them were realizing multi-billion channel holes that penetrate several dozen layers of cell-arrays, and minimizing the loss of electrons from about 85.3 billion cells."
Samsung claims its 64-layer, 3-bit 256Gb V-NAND chips can transfer data at speeds of up to 1Gbps (gigabit per second) and is 1.5 times faster than its predecessor, the company's own 48-layer 3-bit 256Gb V-NAND flash. The company also boasts of industry-leading page program times (tPROG), a measure of the time it takes to write data to a designated flash cell, of 500 microseconds.
"Following a long commitment to innovative technology, we will continuously push the limits of generations of industry-first V-NAND production, in moving the industry closer to the advent of the terabit V-NAND era," said Kye Hyun Kyung, executive vice president of the Flash Product and Technology group within Samsung Electronics' Memory unit.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.