Micron boosts NAND flash endurance six-fold

Flash memory maker says SLC NAND flash can perform 300,000 write cycles

Micron Corp. today introduced what it claims to be the industry's highest endurance, highest capacity multi-level cell (MLC) and single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash memory.

The technology, which is used for building solid-state drive products, is aimed at enterprise-class companies that want to boost performance of I/O-hungry applications, while maintaining the longevity they get with hard disk drives.

To achieve higher performance for transactional databases and other I/O-intensive applications, enterprises often short stroke their hard disk drives, which limits the number of tracks accessed by the read/write to those on the outer edge of a drive platter. The technique increases performance, but in turn, it cuts drive capacity by as much as 90% and dramatically increases hardware costs.

Solid-state drive technology offers greater performance and capacity over serial-attached SCSI or Fibre Channel drives, but so far it has been mainly limited to longer-lasting and higher performing SLC flash, which is far more expensive than MLC.

Micron said that by using its 34-nanometer lithography technology to increase density, it has also been able to increase write performance -- or the number of writes/erase cycles that can be sustained over the flash memory's life -- six-fold on its MLC product and three-fold on the SLC flash memory.

The six-fold performance increase translates into 30,000 write cycles on Micron's new MLC Enterprise NAND -- and 300,000 write cycles on its SLC NAND flash. Normally, MLC NAND can sustain an average of 5,000 write/erase cycles, with a maximum of 10,000 write/erase cycles. SLC flash natively can sustain up to 100,000 write cycles.

Micron's 32Gbit MLC and 16Gbit SLC enterprise flash chip technology can be configured into multi-die, single packages enabling densities of up to 32GB for MLC and 16GB for SLC.

"This isn't a solid state disk (SSD) drive announcement," said a Micron spokeswoman. "Right now we're working with equipment manufacturers and SSD manufacturers to design products around this. You could also put these chips directly on a computer's motherboard."

Micron expects to begin volume production of the new 32bit NAND flash technology in early 2010.

"The use of advanced NAND flash is required to achieve broad SSD adoption in enterprise applications," said Steffen Hellmold, vice president of business development at SSD controller manufacturer SandForce Inc. "We are very excited to work with Micron and enable cost effective, reliable, high-performance SSD solutions that support stringent enterprise lifecycle requirements."

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