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What’s up with NAND?

3D NAND is on the way, but it’s not going to be here tomorrow.

Last week, Toshiba and SanDisk announced that they were jointly investing in a production facility in Japan, coming on line in 2016. This will be good news for smartphone and other mobile device users: the storage capacity of 3D NAND will be 16 times greater than what’s in there now.

While the transition to 3D NAND gets underway, SanDisk and Toshiba will be revving up the interim technology.

SanDisk’s 1Z-nm technology will be applied to both 2-bit-per-cell and 3-bit-per-cell NAND flash memory architectures with production ramp to begin in the second half of 2014. The 15nm technology scales chips along both axes, and will be used across a broad range of SanDisk offerings, from removable cards to enterprise SSDs.

Toshiba’s new process replaces its 19nm process technology, and is aimed at providing a transitional step to 3D NAND, said Scott Nelson, senior VP of Toshiba America Electronic Components’ memory business unit. Toshiba’s 15nm process works in conjunction with improved peripheral circuitry technology to create chips that achieve the same write speed as chips formed with second generation 19nm process technology, but boost the data transfer rate to 533 megabits a second — 1.3 times faster — by employing a high-speed interface. (Source: EETimes)

​Just as NAND is used in SSD’s (in place of a platter based hard drive), in the embedded world they are used on-board to hold a file system. The increased speed is great, as it improves the performance of apps that require reading large volumes of data from the file system. But NAND is inherently prone to bit-errors. The controllers correct for it, but over time and wear, the bit-errors grow.  As the geometries get smaller, the density of bit-errors gets higher, but – as the article goes on to point out – the controllers are getting better faster than the error rate is growing.

Embedded applications really benefit from enhanced longevity. Certainly, the apps Critical Link works with aren’t throwaways that get tossed when the next new thing comes along. Allowing for more write cycles before wearing a sector out, wear leveling drivers have helped a lot with longevity improvements. The consumer market can deal with more errors and shorter longevity. As often as not, cell phones are traded in when the next upgrade becomes available. Let’s face it, the cell phone providers have us addicted to our next upgrade, and the next re-up of our cellular contract that results.

So here’s a prediction for you: when the 3D NAND starts hitting the market, the lure of storage capacity that’s increased by more than an order of magnitude will have consumers clamoring for upgrades. Think of all those movies you’ll be able to store on your smartphone!