3D-NAND: Landing Soon in the IIoT Space

DataProtectionThere’s a major buzz these days surrounding 3D-NAND, which is heading toward the Industrial IIoT space. The buzz isn’t just because of its potential to dramatically boost SSD capacities, but also because it represents a breakthrough in storage. Imagine stacking NAND chips atop one another to push flash capacities to levels that not too long ago were unimaginable.

It’s no surprise, then, that 3D-NAND was a prominent topic at the recent Flash Memory Summit (a venerable event for which we once again were a sponsor). One flash maker there showcased a 96-layer chip – expected to ship in 2018 – with a whopping 768Gb. A single chip! Another FMS sponsor is expected to have a 1Tbit chip next year also! Contributing to these chips’ crazy-high capacities is that they’re using the quad-bit approach – that is four bits per cell. But the real story here is that the flash makers are stacking chips like pancakes – okay, maybe that’s an over-simplification, but you get the point.

Now, one of the aforementioned flash makers hinted at FMS that, due to these new approaches to manufacturing, we should expect some sort of compromise between endurance and capacity. After all, packing four bits per cell into the chips then stacking them for multi-layer solutions is a new concept that’s still in the “prove it” stage, and therefore subject to initial problems. But that’s where Virtium draws a clear, wide line. While those lower-endurance chips may be fine for consumer applications, and maybe even for enterprise storage, never will we compromise endurance for the sake of capacity. The myriad customer designs using our industrial-grade SSDs over the past 20+ years all have one thing in common: They absolutely require drive durability and data protection. Period.

We’re watching closely how four-bit/cell, 3D-NAND evolves — it may at some point bridge the endurance gap and be suitable for demanding IIoT applications. In the meantime, the flash chips Virtium does use for our industrial-embedded SSDs, coupled with the drive-manufacturing processes we employ, ensure customers the drives will withstand harsh environments and the data they contain will be well protected.