In recent years demand for flash memory has gone through the roof, as our lives have been taken over by tech, both at work and at home. In addition to growing demand for memory, our demands on memory have grown.
As technology has advanced, the amount of data needing to be stored on a device has grown. The first flash-based SSD (Solid State Drive) was shipped by SanDisk (then SunDisk) over 25 years ago, although it was actually Toshiba who invented NAND flash back in 1987. Whilst technology has evolved massively since then, SSD evolution was constrained for many years, largely because of the dominance of hard disk drives, the cost per GB of solid state drives and peoples lack of understanding in the technology.
Nowhere to grow with 2D NAND
Historically NAND flash was planar, two-dimensional, meaning all cells capable of storing data are situated side by side.
With 2D NAND, capacity is determined by how many cells can physically fit onto a card, plus how many bits of data can be stored in those cells.
To accommodate more data in the 2D NAND era, there were two options:
- Make the storage cells smaller – this has been the strategy of card manufacturers for many years, but when it comes to performance ‘size does matter’. Shrink a storage cell too far and performance and reliability are compromised. Reducing cells in order to fit more onto a NAND flash card, can result in cells emitting electrical charges leading to cell-to-cell programme interference and ultimately data corruption
- Adding more bits of data per cell, i.e. MLC and TLC flash
In the early 2000’s, some companies released different form factors that had a bigger footprint and this to some extent would have enabled bigger capacity cards at the time. They didn’t survive, instead the market was quick to adopt SD and then microSD which are without doubt the defacto form factors for removable memory cards today. Their physical parameters are not up for discussion, the mechanical specifications are determined by the SD Association which means tweaking the size of the card just isn’t feasible.
With 2D NAND maxed out, the invention of 3D NAND by Samsung in 2012, was revolutionary and has been embraced by the industry. All major manufacturers now have their own version of 3D NAND technology and in some cases, the name of the technology is different, i.e. BiCS is the name of Toshiba’s 3D NAND technology.
The only way is up with 3D NAND
With 3D technology cells can be stacked, meaning more storage capacity per card without having to shrink cells. In fact, the layering of cells actually means that larger cells can be used, resulting in greater reliability and the opportunity to increase capacity.
The benefits of 3D NAND, over its’ 2D predecessor, don’t end there:
- Faster performance – 3D NAND can perform up to 10 times faster in terms of both IOPS (Input/Output Operations per Second) and throughput.
- Longer lifespan – the longevity of 3D NAND is estimated to be twice that of 2D.
- Lower power consumption – lower voltage is needed to read any given cell on a 3D NAND flash cards.
What does this mean to customers?
Cardwave’s founder and Chief Executive, Paul Norbury, is passionate about helping customers, new and old, understand the technology and find the right flash memory solution for their application.
Talking about what 3D NAND means for OEMs who currently employ 2D NAND technology, Paul explains,
“Many customers may be confused by this step change in technology and there may be concerns about the impact of transitioning existing products to a 3D architecture. When 3D was first announced by Samsung at the Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara (2012), we (me, Cardwave, I was there!) were all excited to embrace a new technology, but equally hesitant to start promoting it so soon as a viable solution for OEMs.
Now the technology is maturing, it is fair to say that 3D is largely superior to 2D products and we believe the technology is the best solution for many applications. Pricing is beginning to soften, yields are up and we are being told by our manufacturing partners that they’re getting good performance results from their products.
We are certainly not writing off 2D, it is still very popular, but supply and availability is likely to be reduced in 2019 as manufacturers prioritise 3D. This is likely to push up pricing for 2D products which will make for some difficult conversations with our customers. This is why Cardwave is reaching out to all our OEM customers and evaluating a transition to 3D, thereby giving them the opportunity to be at the forefront of this silent evolution.
If you are an OEM customer, or if you are looking for a company that understands this technology, then please engage with us. Cardwave is connected with the leading manufacturers and has a reputation for outstanding customer service, so let us know what your problem is as we would be grateful for the opportunity to help you solve it.”
Cardwave Services is a globally recognised expert in flash memory technology. We don’t simply supply flash, we understand flash, and make it our business, to understand your business. We are a trusted partner to many high-profile companies, providing value-add services that help them to use flash memory products in their business. Cardwave supports customers in all industries and sectors, and operates all over the world.