Dash for Flash: Seagate in NAND cash splash

Will WD join in sudden barge into controller boudoir?


You can't even afford to blink in the flash storage business without something big happening. Now Seagate's gone and invested in DensBits, the start-up that aims to make cheap slow NAND perform as well as fast flash.

There are three kinds of flash: single-level cell or SLC, with 1 bit per cell, which is fast and long-lived; 2-bits per cell MLC, which is slower and has a middling life; and 3 bits per cell TLC, which is slowest and has the shortest life at 75-1,000 write cycles before it dies – useless for solid state drive (SSD) use. DensBits reckons its Memory Modem technology can make TLC as good as MLC and thus suitable for enterprise and consumer SSD use.

Seagate reckons this is worth looking at seriously, and has a strategic deal with DensBits for the development of low-cost SSDs for the consumer and enterprise markets. Seagate says:

"Under the agreement, DensBits’ Memory Modem controller technology will be integrated with Seagate’s various storage technologies to power a wide range of consumer and enterprise applications including 3 bits/cell (TLC) 1Xnm Flash-based consumer-grade SSD, and 2 bits/cell (MLC) 1Xnm Flash-based enterprise-grade SSD."

The term 1Xnm refers to NAND process technology between 19nm and 10nm in size. Current mainstream process technology is moving from 3Xnm to 2Xnm and the flash foundries are developing 1Xnm processes.

The dollar amount of Seagate's investment in DensBits was undisclosed. El Reg has said that both Seagate and Western Digital need to buy their way more deeply into the flash controller business. Looks like we were right, at least in so far as Seagate is concerned. Maybe Western Digital will follow suit. Who knows: perhaps WD could be calling on STEC? ®

Note. Comments to the TLC Storage Forum topic please.


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