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Toshiba flashes 100TB QLC flash drive, may go on sale within months. Really

It's talking the talk, all right – now for the walk

+Comment The Flash Memory Summit saw Toshiba deliver a presentation about quad-level cell (QLC) technology – adding substantially to the prospect of a product being delivered in the "near future".

We heard about QLC NAND last month: it uses four bits per cell to hold your data.

After Seagate tantalized us with a 60TB SSD, along comes Toshiba with a 100TB QLC SSD concept.

Flash Memory Summit attendees saw Toshiba presenters put flesh on the bones and envisage a QLC 3D SSD with a PCIe gen 3 interface and more than 100TB of capacity. It would have 3GB/sec sequential read bandwidth and 1GB/sec sequential write bandwidth.

It would do random reading and writing at 50,000 and 14,000 IOPS respectively. The active state power consumption would be 9 watts, the same as a 3.5-inch, 8TB SATA 6Gbit/s disk drive, while the idle power consumption be less than 100 mWatts, compared to the disk drive’s 8 watts.

Twelve 8TB nearline disks would offer 96TB of capacity and need 96 watts when idling, versus a single QLC 100TB SSD needing 0.1 watts. That would provide such a lower TCO for a QLC flash archive that it could justify an expensive acquisition cost.

The QLC drive would have a 3PB to 6PB workload over its lifetime, with the disk having 900TB (written). In these terms a QLC SSD looks good news, but we haven’t seen any actual pricing suggestions yet.

Analyst haus Stifel Nicolaus' MD, Aaron Rakers, added more details, saying Toshiba is actively working on a product and, in fact, has “been in early/high-level testing with hyper-scale customers”. He said Facebook, a prospective QLC SSD user, thought QLC drives would have a 150 write cycle endurance rating, and it is anticipating product arrival for WORM (write once, ready many) use. Facebook would be the exact sort of customer Toshiba has in mind, and has probably already tested Tosh QLC drives.

Reg Comment

Toshiba partners WD in its flash foundry operations and so WD could, or perhaps would, get its share of QLC chips. Enticingly it has its SanDisk Infiniflash JBOF hardware and its HGST ActiveArchive product. Join these SW and HW dots together with a QLC SSD dot and we have two channel avenues ready for a QLC flash archive box.

One is the Infiniflash partner group, such as IBM, Nexenta, Tegile and Supermicro, who could produce fast access, WORM-like data vaults. The other is HGST with a QLC SSD instantiation of its ActiveArchive system.

Both would provide a set of active flash archive products that would be closed to Intel/Micron, Samsung and SK Hynix flash, unless and until one or more of these foundry operators bought out their own QLC flash. For now it looks as if this is a field only Toshiba is ploughing and from which set to reap the revenue benefits.

El Reg thinks we may have a QLC product announcement from Toshiba by the end of 2017’s first quarter, possibly even by the end of this year if we have an aggressive understanding of what Toshiba’s presenters meant by “near future.” ®

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