Flash Memory Summit 2018 Highlights – Trendfocus

NAND and SSD players showcase new products and technologies.
This is a Press Release edited by on 2018.08.10

This Periodic Installment was published by Trendfocus, Inc. on August 9, 2018

Flash Memory Summit 2018 Highlights
NAND and SSD players showcase new products and technologies
at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Silicon Valley

FMS 2018 attracted a host of attendees and has become the place for solid-state device producers, customers, and analysts to meet over the span of the three-day conference.

Notable this year was the absence of Samsung from the exhibition floor as it plans to steer its announcements and discussions to its own event to be held later this year at its San Jose campus.

Chinese flash memory maker, Yangtze Memory Technology Corporation (YMTC), held a widely anticipated keynote where it presented its approach to flash memory scaling it is calling Xstacking. A key difference between YMTC and other NAND vendors is the fabrication of its I/O array on a separate die which is subsequently bonded to the NAND die. The company claims that it can reach higher die densities at a faster pace than more conventional structures and it hopes this advantage can enable YMTC to scale over the coming years to close the gap on its competitors. Although YMTC has a lot to prove from a technology and manufacturing standpoint, every other NAND player is concerned about having a strong Chinese-backed competitor emerging at high volumes in a few years.

Quad-level cell (QLC) NAND was a big theme this year, with four-bits-per-cell flash promising significant reductions in cost and the obviously improved density over current TLC technologies. That said: QLC's much slower performance, lower endurance, and poorer data retention characteristics leave storage device vendors questioning how best to offer solutions to realize the conceptual potential of QLC, and to potentially disrupt the HDD market. Based on various conversations with SSD and NAND vendors, QLC will first appear in consumer devices and higher capacity, lower cost client PC SSDs. In the enterprise space, system vendors will have to either create new tiers of flash based on management of data between TLC and QLC, or dedicate QLC flash storage to particularly read-centric workloads.

Intel heavily promoted Optane storage (a brand name for storage devices based on its 3D Xpoint phase change media it co-developed with Micron) as a high-speed cache in combination with QLC SSDs, as a higher performance solution for enterprise storage compared to only utilizing TLC SSDs. Software running in the host server would have to know when to offload cold data from Optane, moving it to the QLC SSDs. Obviously, Intel wants a return on its investment in Optane and continues to push solutions out to a market that has yet to establish a clear path for next-generation non-volatile storage technologies.

Here is a summary of some of the key product announcements from this year's Flash Memory Summit:

Seagate unveiled its new Nytro series of enterprise SSD offerings. Touting low latency and minimal power consumption, the Nytro line includes SAS, SATA, PCie, and NVMe solutions with capacities up to 15TB.

Transcend showcased its 450K SSD line, available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB capacity points. Though not brand new like Seagate and Intel's SSD products, the company enthusiastically reminded attendees of the line's affordability and endurance levels equivalent to what many MLC-based SSDs offer.

Western Digital focused on its next-generation data center architecture that promises unprecedented scalability, efficiency and performance in public, private and hybrid cloud environments. The company's GM and SVP, Phil Bullinger, delivered a keynote address on Tuesday afternoon highlighting how WD's next-generation technologies can provide benefits to its customers today.

Intel announced its 660p SSD series early in the week, combining a PCIe interface with the company's QLC 3D NAND technology. Attractive pricing and twice the capacity of TLC products in the same footprint should make the 660p products a hit in the client SSD space. 512GB, 1TB and 2TB versions are available with the MSRP of the 512GB version starting at just $109.99.

Toshiba was eager to discuss its upcoming RM5 series of enterprise SSD offerings, slated to be released in October. The company views these 12Gbs SAS3 products as an opportunity to bridge the gap between SATA drives which are falling out of favor and PCIe SSDs that have not yet completely taken the place of SATA.

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