Micron and Sun expand lifespan of flash storage

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Micron and Sun expand lifespan of flash storage

Boise (ID) – Micron said that it has developed a single-level-cell (SLC) NAND flash technology that increases the lifespan for flash-based storage media to 1 million write cycles.

There are few concerns about the performance and power-saving capabilities of NAND flash these days; however price and reliability remain the major adoption barriers of the technology. While decreasing prices are a matter of time, details about the actual reliability are still blurry. What we were told so far is that failing flash media would not lose stored data, but simply lose their capability to write data. The actual lifespan was typically estimated at about 1 million hours meantime between failure (MTBF), which does not give a clear indication how long an individual flash drive might last (MTBF ratings are average values applied across a substantial number of drives).

Micron and Sun claim that they have developed SLC flash devices that can hit 1 million write cycles, which the two firms believe is the highest write/erase cycling capability on the market. We were not able to confirm this claim, but heard that the same values may have been achieved especially for a limited number of flash media targeted at military applications before. Micron’s announcement, however, hints to a greater availability of such devices, which are expected to become available for the enterprise market initially. 
“Micron is pleased to work with Sun on this landmark achievement, enabling the use of flash in new applications that were previously not possible because of the inherent write/erase cycle limitations of standard SLC and MLC NAND,” said Brian Shirley, vice president of Micron’s memory group. “We expect this technology to revolutionize the enterprise storage hierarchy and be adopted by a wide range of transaction-intensive applications, including solid state drives and storage systems, disk caching, as well as networking and industrial applications.”

Micron said it is sampling its new “enterprise” NAND densities up to 32 Gb. Volume production is expected in the first quarter of 2009. Micron also plans to introduce both SLC and multi-level cell (MLC) enterprise versions on its 34 nm NAND process early next year.