Flash Memory Summit Presenters Pitch Solutions to Hiking Memory Demands

August 18, 2023 by Jake Hertz

Here are three announcements from the 2023 Flash Memory Summit that reflect some of the biggest trends in memory and storage technology.

The Flash Memory Summit (FMS) 2023 is the largest annual conference for the NAND Flash industry. At this year's event, which concluded last week, many companies showcased groundbreaking advancements, with industry leaders unveiling next-generation solutions that promise to reshape the memory landscape for circuit designers. 


Lightelligence Photowave

Lightelligence’s Photowave won this year’s Best of Show. Image used courtesy of Lightelligence

Here's a brief look at the trending topics and three major announcements that stood out during the summit. 


SK Hynix Unveils First 321-Layer NAND

At the conference, SK Hynix showcased the world's first 321-layer 4D NAND, marking a big milestone for NAND technology. 

This launch represents the industry’s first NAND solution that exceeds 300 layers. In total, the 312, 1 TB solution offers a 59% improvement over the previous 238-layer, 512 GB version. According to SK Hynix, the 321-layer NAND implements a breakthrough in packaging technology that enables the stacking of more cells and larger storage capacity on a single chip.


The 312-layer 4D NAND chip

The 312-layer 4D NAND chip. Image used courtesy of SK Hynix

For circuit designers, the improved density translates to enhanced efficiency and performance to meet the growing demand for high-performance memory products in AI applications. The company plans to start mass production in the first half of 2025.


Micron Launches Memory Expansion Module

Micron Technology used the conference to announce the availability of a new memory expansion module portfolio

The new portfolio, including Micron CZ120 modules, provides more memory capacity in applications such as AI training and high-performance computing (HPC). By improving computing and memory resources for enterprise and cloud applications, organizations can reduce their capital and operating expenses for data center applications.


The CZ120 memory expansion module

The CZ120 memory expansion module. Image used courtesy of Micron

To meet these needs, the new modules come in 128 GB and 256 GB capacities. They use the PCIe Gen5 x8 interface and can run up to 36 GB/s memory read/write bandwidth. Additionally, they fully support the CXL 2.0 Type 3 standard. 

According to Micron, the CZ120 modules enable servers to support up to 96% more database queries per day and 24% greater memory read/write bandwidth per CPU. Micron believes this development is a significant step toward meeting the ever-growing demands of data centers and memory-intensive workloads.


Lightelligence Introduces New Optical Interconnect

In addition to these announcements from major memory players SK Hynix and Micron, the FMS acknowledged smaller companies like Lightelligence, which used the event to announce Photowave, the first optical communications hardware designed for PCIe and CXL connectivity.

As an optical network (oNET), Photowave harnesses the energy efficiency and low latency of photonics and brings those benefits to the data center. By enabling direct optical connection between resources, Photowave allows data centers to scale resources within or across server racks. For example, Lightelligence cites the use case of extending reach in the data center to create memory pooling at pod scales.

Photowave directly connects a CPU/GPU to memory

Photowave directly connects a CPU/GPU to memory. Image used courtesy of Lightelligence

The Photowave product line includes various form factors, such as a standard PCIe card, OCP 3.0 SFF card, and an active optical cable. It enables CXL 2.0/PCIe Gen 5 connectivity over optics with support for multiple bifurcation modes of operation. This facilitates scalable CXL fabrics in composable data centers, providing circuit designers with innovative solutions for next-generation AI/ML workloads.

Photowave's active optical cable variant achieves a latency of <1 ns +TOF, power consumption of 15 W, and speeds of 32 Gbps x16. The FMS committee granted Lightelligence the Best of Show award for Photowave's ingenuity.


Big and Small Memory Innovators Represent at FMS

The Flash Memory Summit 2023 highlighted various subsections driving the memory landscape, including new CXL, DRAM, UCIe, and SSD controller technology, among many others. The speaker list included an extensive line-up from the movers and shakers in memory, like Micron, SK Hynix, Samsung, Microchip, IBM, Intel, Marvell, Nvidia, Kioxia, and Infineon. The summit also gave the microphone to smaller companies like Neo Semiconductor with its DRAM-like "3D X-DRAM", Silicon Motion with its "world-first" automotive PCIe SSD controllers with SR-IOV, and Blueshift Memory with its awarded Cambridge architecture.