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Intel, Micron plan to double SSD NAND flash density

Posted at 06 April 2011 13:00 CET by wconeybeer

Just on the heels of the announcement of Intel’s new 320 Series solid state drives, the company’s joint venture with Micron is getting ready to unveil their plans to shrink and double the density of flash chips for SSDs over the next couple of months.

IM Flash Technologies (IMFT) is expected to announce 20 nm NAND flash chip production in the next couple of weeks, helping to fill an enterprise storage performance need driven by the increasing popularity of cloud-based services.

If 20 nm NAND flash sounds like old news to you, it’s likely because the technology has already been implemented by Samsung in their SD cards. The cost and manufacturing difficulties associated with producing NAND flash chips that tiny, however, has kept companies from attempting to use it in SSDs until now.

“There are inherent problems in shrinking the size of circuitry used in semiconductors, most notably an increase in data error rates from electrons bleeding through ever-thinner silicon walls,” writes Lucas Mearian in a report for Computer World. “That requires the development of more sophisticated error correction code (ECC) and signal processing algorithms, as well as overprovisioning NAND flash chips to guard against data loss.”

Micron marketing director Kevin Kilbuck notes that as NAND flash chips continue to shrink (25 nm is 3000 times smaller than the width of a human hair), fewer companies will have the capabilities to produce products based upon the technology.

“When we were at 50nm, pretty much anyone could slap together an SSD,” Kilbruck said. “At 20nm, it’s almost the opposite effect.”

The best-selling SSDs aimed toward consumers will likely continue to be based upon 34 nm NAND flash for some time, but this innovation from IMFT is another step toward lower-cost and higher-capacity SSD offerings in the future.

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