Samsung, Toshiba seek big increase in NAND flash speeds

The toggle-mode DDR 2.0 standard will speed up the flow of data in flash cards, SSDs, and more

Samsung Electronics and Toshiba on Wednesday said they plan to push for a new specification meant to speed up the flow of data in NAND flash memory, used to store data in products from iPads and iPhones to SSDs (solid state drives) used in PCs and data centers.

The world's two largest makers of NAND flash memory chips committed themselves to develop DDR (Double Data Rate) NAND flash memory with a 400-megabit-per-second interface, which is speedier than the 133Mbps on an earlier specification for the technology and ten times faster than the 40Mbps interface found on traditional NAND flash chips.

The technology, called toggle-mode DDR, is also a rival to the ONFI (Open NAND Flash Interface) backed by Intel, Micron Technology and SanDisk. The two technologies are aimed at high performance products such as SSDs, which NAND flash backers someday hope will replace hard disc drives (HDDs).

ONFI can deliver speeds of 166Mbps and 200Mbps, according to information from the ONFI website.

"Both implementations are targeting similar performance levels," said Gregory Wong, CEO of industry researcher Forward Insights. "ONFI has a head start because it was established earlier, but toggle-mode DDR is a little more compatible with the standard asynchronous interface."

He said the adoption rate of the two technologies will be influenced by supply, and since Samsung and Toshiba supply almost 70 percent of the NAND flash memory market, they can leverage their leadership to increase adoption of toggle-mode DDR.

Jim Handy, an analyst at Objective Analysis, said speedier interfaces for NAND chips are important because of their growing use for data processing, and not just music, photos, videos and USB drives. The Samsung, Toshiba announcement shows the two companies are tackling compatibility issues in toggle-mode DDR, he added.

In a news release, the companies said they expect the ongoing adoption of smartphones, tablet PCs and SSDs to drive demand for a broader range of high-performance NAND chips, and that the continual upgrades in speed will lead to the creation of new products based an NAND flash memory.

Samsung last month introduced one of the first SSDs that uses toggle-mode DDR NAND flash memory, a 512GB device with a maximum read speed of 250 Megabytes per second (MBps) and 220MBps sequential write speed.

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