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Micron Cracks the 200-Layer NAND Barrier, 200TB SSDs Could Follow (Eventually)

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Micron has become the first NAND flash company to introduce a TLC design with over 200 layers. Last year it made headlines with its 176-layer NAND, now it’s surpassed that with 232-layers. This allows Micron to achieve 2TB of capacity per NAND package. This increase in density will boost more than capacity though. Micron says it’ll allow up to 50 percent faster data transfers than on its 176-layer design. It will also offer 100 percent more write bandwidth, and 75 percent more bandwidth for reads. This is also not “coming soon,” but is in volume production right now.

Micron says the development of 232-layer NAND is a watershed moment for the company. In addition to offering the most layers, it’s also the first six-plane NAND in production. That equates to the most planes-per-die. Each individual plane offers independent read capability to the controller. Micron says the move to 232 layers affords an increase in density of 35 to 100 percent compared to competing TLC designs. It’s also the highest density ever seen in a NAND die, at 14.6 Gb/mm2. For context, Tom’s Hardware notes Samsung’s 200-layer TLC has a density of 8.5 Gb mm2.

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Increased density let Micron shrink the package to 11.5mm x 13.5mm. This is 28 percent more compact than previous Micron NAND designs. Naturally, a smaller package allows for a “diverse set of deployments” including mobile, edge, etc. Micron is also pioneering the use of NV-LPDDR4 memory. This low-power solution reduces the amount of power required by the drive by approximately 30 percent. The company says it’s currently shipping the 232 layer NAND from its Singapore fab. It’s shipping it in component form and through its Crucial SSDs product line.

The architectures features 1Tb per die, and 16 dies per package equate to 2TB capacity. The package is created by fusing two 116-layer dies together. Tech Radar notes this development could pave the way for vast jumps in capacity in the not-too-distant future. As an example, the highest capacity SSD available now is 100TB. It achieves that capacity with just a single 64-layer MLC design though, so you can imagine the possibilities. Also, that 100TB drive costs $40,000 so you should scratch it off your upgrade list.

Previously, in 2020 Micron’s CEO previously predicted 200TB and 400TB would arrive by 2021 and 2023 if density gains marched onwards. Sadly, that progress was disrupted by the pandemic. With the announcement of 232-layer NAND though, it seems like the company could be back on track with its roadmap.

This is a pretty exciting announcement, not just for Micron but for the solid-state industry as a whole. Unfortunately for consumers it’ll be a few years before the benefits trickle down to us and our gaming rigs. This type of bleeding edge, high-capacity technology will be used in data centers and applications where budgets, and capacity needs, remain high. In about five to 10 years it might result in an affordable 100TB SSD, but we wouldn’t hold our breath. It’ll certainly light a fire under Samsung’s behind to leapfrog Micron in layer count, if it can.

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