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X-NAND promises QLC memory that runs at SLC speeds

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X-NAND promises QLC memory that runs at SLC speeds

Something I look forward to: When we look at how SSDs have evolved over the last decade, it’s hard not to appreciate how fast and affordable they have become. However, that process is still ongoing and with a new technology called “X-NAND”, solid state storage could be faster than ever.

About a decade ago, you could find a 32GB SSD for around $ 500 and a 64GB drive for $ 1,100, but today you can find fast 1TB or even larger drives for less than $ 150. This evolution has led to Years of R&D efforts, flash storage manufacturers have packed more bits of data into each memory cell and installed as many of these cells as possible on a NAND chip.

The first consumer SSDs were single-level cell units (SLC), which means they could store 1 bit of data per cell, but today’s typical consumer units integrate triple-level cells (TLC) and cells from four levels (QLC), which means they can store 3 bits and 4 bits per cell, respectively. There are even 5-bit NAND PLCs in the works, but that won’t be here for a while. 2025 as soon.

Most of our readers may already know that SLC NAND offers faster write speeds and greater endurance, but it can be quite expensive, while TLC and QLC NAND are a more cost-effective way to build high-capacity drives. On the other hand, TLC and QLC NAND are comparatively slower, so manufacturers have had to employ various tricks (DRAM and SLC caches) to achieve good read and write performance, as well as acceptable resistance levels for typical use. on a personal. education or business environment.

There is a company that claims to have a solution to this problem in the form of X-NAND. The technology was first announced at last year’s Flash Memory Summit, but went unnoticed until this month, when two patents for it were officially published. passed.

X-NAND is different Getting closer to NAND memory design and the work of Neo Semiconductor, a company founded in 2012 by Andy Hsu and Ray Tsay. Simply put, the goal of X-NAND is to deliver the performance benefits of SLC NAND and the storage density of Multi-Level Cell (MLC) NAND in a single package.

Compared to conventional multilevel cell designs, X-NAND reduces the flash array buffer size by 94 percent, allowing manufacturers to increase the plane count from 2 to 4 to anywhere between 16 and 64. planes per matrix. This allows for more parallelization of reads and writes on a given NAND and in turn could lead to higher performance even for SLC NAND.

Compared to QLC, X-NAND would allow, in theory at least, 27 times faster sequential reads, 15 times faster sequential writes, and 3 times the random read / write speed of previous technology. At the same time, the new technology results in a smaller NAND array with lower power requirements, which would maintain the same manufacturing costs as with QLC. Resistance is a more complicated story, although the company says TLC and QLC could see improvement.

It is worth noting that these are performance estimates, so we are only considering possible improvements to conventional NAND designs. Still, with TLC and QLC SSDs set to become the most adopted flash storage technologies in the enterprise, desktop, and mobile markets, it’s good to see companies come up with solutions for the biggest TLC and QLC challenges, which are performance and write endurance.

Neo Semiconductor is currently looking to forge partnerships with NAND manufacturers such as Samsung, Intel, Micron, Kioxia, Western Digital, and SK Hynix to implement their IP in their designs, which includes 22 patents at the time of writing. If you are interested in delving into X-NAND, you can find one here.

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