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Density Demands Push Memory Solutions to New Heights

April 29, 2024 by Aaron Carman

From embedded systems to high-performance storage, the latest memory advancements are stacking skyward to maximize density and speed.

Several memory industry leaders, including Samsung, Kioxia, and Micron, have recently released new advancements in storage technology. In the age of generative AI, data storage is just as important as rapid processing. As a result, companies have renewed a focus on memory density and performance.

 

New memory architectures

As demand for storage soars in new applications, designers are using new architectures like those above and 3D integration to reduce costs and improve performance. Image used courtesy of Kioxia
 

While each vendor’s recent storage advancements are unique in their own way, they share some commonalities indicative of major trends in our industry, such as vertical NAND and other density-focused technologies.

 

Samsung Rolls Out 9th-Gen V-NAND

Kicking off this roundup, Samsung recently announced the mass production of its 9th-generation vertical NAND (V-NAND) solution. Vertical memory solutions have become increasingly popular as developers reach the fundamental limits of packing more bit density in shrinking package sizes. 

Samsung's new 9th-gen V-NAND offers up to 1 TB of total storage with a triple-level cell architecture. In this architecture, three bits of information can be stored in a single cell, improving storage density and slightly degrading speed compared to single- and multi-level cell architectures.

 

Samsung V-NAND solution

Samsung used channel hole etching technology in its new V-NAND solution, which allows holes to span a wider number of layers. Image used courtesy of Sansung
 

Samsung reports that the 9th-gen V-NAND offers a 50% improvement in bit density compared to previous generations and up to 3.2 Gbps data input/output speeds. The chips use Samsung’s channel hole etching process technology, increasing density and the number of layers. Coupled with 10% lower power consumption, Samsung’s newest V-NAND targets the high-performance SSD market.

 

Kioxia Eyes High-Density Embedded Storage

Switching to embedded applications, Kioxia has recently announced it has begun sampling its latest Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 4.0 embedded Flash memory devices. Available in capacities from 256 GB to 1 TB, the UFS 4.0 devices offer many benefits to embedded and mobile designers.

Compared to the legacy UFS 3.1 devices, UFS 4.0 improves read/write speeds by up to 50% and reduces overall size, allowing designers to integrate storage in smaller devices. In addition, the devices have a theoretical transfer speed of 46.4 Gbps and provide superior performance when data speeds are crucial.


The latest Kioxia storage device

The latest Kioxia storage device reduces size and improves density, allowing embedded applications to take advantage of more storage. Image used courtesy of Kioxia
 

The Kioxia devices use a TLC architecture along with its BiCS FLASH memory technology, allowing for size reduction and density improvements. The sampling for the 256 and 512 GB chips will begin this month, with the 1 TB chip sampling beginning in June 2024.

 

Micron Stacks High-Layer NAND Storage

Finally, Micron has also announced the mass production of its 232-layer QLC NAND devices. As we’ve seen, 3D integration of memory enables higher bit densities. Micron's introduction of a high layer count is a big step forward for high-density, high-performance memory.

 

Micron NAND

Using its newest NAND chips, Micron has begun sampling a reference SSD with the highest layer counts in the underlying silicon. Image used courtesy of Micron
 

Compared to previous devices, the Micron 2500 SSD (based on the 232-layer chip) offers 50% improvements in data speeds, 24% better read performance, and 28% reduced size, enabling improved integration in end devices. These metrics, combined with the quad-level cell (QLC) architecture, provide a good balance between performance and storage density for the consumer SSD market.

Micron has targeted value SSDs as a major application of its technology, represented by its Micron 2500 NVMe, which Micron is currently sampling to OEM PC manufacturers. The 2500 SSDs are available in capacities up to 2 TB.

 


 

With data demands peaking, what design challenges have you encountered with storage? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.