Next-gen NAND demoed in SandForce SSDs

Computex — Solid-state drives with next-generation NAND are on the way, and some of them will undoubtedly feature SandForce’s SF-2000 controllers. While visiting SandForce’s suite at Computex, we caught our first glimpse of SSDs equipped with the latest flash memory from Intel, Micron, and Toshiba.

SandForce, which is now a separate business unit within parent company LSI, showed us two demo systems. The first was hooked up to an SSD packed with 19-nm Toggle DDR NAND from Toshiba, while the second was running a drive laden with 20-nm ONFI NAND from Intel. We also saw a drive sporting 20-nm Micron flash. Because Micron and Intel pull their 20-nm NAND off the same production line (the two companies have a joint flash venture called IM Technologies), this third SSD wasn’t attached to its own demo machine.

According to the helpful placards next to each system, the prototype drives deliver 500MB/s in 128KB sequential reads and writes. They also push 60,000 IOps with 4KB random writes. The benchmark results we saw were pretty close to those numbers, which happen to match SandForce’s performance ratings for its latest consumer-oriented controller.

The biggest benefit of this next-generation NAND should be lower prices. The smaller the dies, the more can be squeezed onto a single wafer. With SSDs already slipping below the dollar-per-gigabyte threshold, we could be in for some real bargains later this year. According to SandForce, the 19- and 20-nm NAND will enter mass production in a "very short amount of time." Drives shouldn’t be too far behind.

While we had SandForce cornered, we asked about its future plans. New products are coming, and they’ll stick with Serial ATA until 2013. PCI Express is the future, though, and we should see SandForce controllers break away from SATA next year.

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    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    Now this leads me to question if they’re going to continue to support SATA with bridge chips and what not and focus on PCIE or if they’re going to completely change over to PCIE and leave legacy products on SATA. If the later is true that would make me quite sad.

    I could see a lot of benefit in having a native PCIE SSD and using bridge chips to go to SATA or your preferred device.

    • flip-mode
    • 8 years ago

    Bring the PCIeSSD! Bring it!

      • MadManOriginal
      • 8 years ago

      That will kill ‘top performance’ mini-ITX gaming rigs that need a discrete video card. 🙁

    • wierdo
    • 8 years ago

    Did you guys get any info about the durability of these new chips and if they have done something to keep up with this negative side effect of shrinking the process node?

    At this point the performance of modern SSDs is pretty solid, only concerns I have left are the high prices and the durability, seems there’s a constant tradeoff between those two as the chips shrink, and that’s a concern for me.

      • rrr
      • 8 years ago

      I second that. Continued shrinks of NAND and their impact on amount of write cycles and therefore practicality of newer flash drives is a question. Couple that with TLC evolution, which decreases amount of cycles further still. Only savior would be increase in raw capacity.

      • bcronce
      • 8 years ago

      Memresistors will phase out NAND soon enough.. wait.. not soon enough, I want it now! /cry

    • Chrispy_
    • 8 years ago

    How many write/erase cycles for this 19 and 20nm NAND please?

    Every time there’s a process-shrink for NAND, there’s a corresponding reduction in the logevity of the stuff.

    I don’t want 20c/GB SSD’s if the write-erase cycle means I have to limit my use of it to specific circumstances.

      • bcronce
      • 8 years ago

      We many have to have dedicated scratch drives until memresistors come out. Most of my work loads are reads, but temp files/etc are still written. If I build an on-the-side computer, I don’t want to have to worry about the HD failing.

      Modern SSDs are good for terabytes/day for ~5 years, so I don’t see it being a huge issue for most, for now.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 8 years ago

    Bring on the PCIe drives. It won’t be much longer before a USB controller in the CPU will mean the southbridge can be thrown out in most computers.

    Now, if someone would just build wi-fi into something above the class of a phone CPU…

      • StashTheVampede
      • 8 years ago

      PCIe are here, you can buy them today. What you really want pushed is NVM_Express: it’s the true next gen I/O standard for enterprise and consumer SSD. SATA is holding these back for throughput.

        • OneArmedScissor
        • 8 years ago

        You can’t put them in a laptop. They’re kind of getting the worst of both worlds right now, with the only “progress” just being SATA drives soldered to the board of “ultrabooks.” Phones and tablets have their own more efficient way of doing things, but in exchange for that, laptops don’t get the fastest drives, and sometimes not even replaceable drives.

        Also, most SSDs that come in standard PCIe card form use a SATA bridge. The handful that are native PCIe cost a fortune.

          • StashTheVampede
          • 8 years ago

          The NVM_Express spec is built to give a standardized interface for flash memory that will present itself as storage over a PCIe bus. You will be outfitting laptops with some NVMe “drive”, along with desktops and servers (management capability will be more robust on enterprise drives).

          Apple’s method of a proprietary “storage” will eventually go away to some form of standard. If you crach open a 2.5″ SSD today, its mostly housing and locations to place screws for the form factor.

          • Bensam123
          • 8 years ago

          You can buy mPCIE SSDs you can slap in your wireless slot or another available mpcie slot. Most laptops have two.

          The extra slot on the side of the laptop is also pcie and it’s entirely possible to make a drive that fits snuggly inside one without hanging over the edge. I personally don’t know why that hasn’t been done yet.

    • Prestige Worldwide
    • 8 years ago

    Hmmm. I had been eying a Corsair 240gb ssd on NCIX that is floating under $200 after MIR this week.. should I just wait a few months for 19/20nm and save myself some money?

      • MadManOriginal
      • 8 years ago

      I suspect all the current sales are to move old stock in anticipation of the new NAND nodes, and possibly new controllers. If I had to take a guess I’d say prices won’t drop right away from the current sale prices when the new NAND is in use – prices will just be the same as sale prices at the same capacity. A few advantages of getting current NAND – 1) More write cycles 2) At the same capacity, current NAND will populate more controller channels, and thus have better performance. What this means is that while you can get more capacity for a given price, you won’t get performance equal to the same capacity on an older node. ex: a 256GB drive on a new node will perform like a 128GB drive on an older node, not a 256GB drive on an older node…it’s just more capacity, not more performance too.

      tl;dr – No harm in buying now, there are advantages and there’s always something newer/better/faster down the road anyway.

        • OneArmedScissor
        • 8 years ago

        [quote<]At the same capacity, current NAND will populate more controller channels, and thus have better performance.[/quote<] That's about to become very annoying. Get ready for 128GB drives with quoted sequential write speeds well below HDDs haha.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 8 years ago

          Well, I did forget one thing, NAND effective data rate is increasing with new Toggle or ONFI flash. So for sequential operations at least what I wrote about die count may not be true if those faster flash chips are used.

        • bitcat70
        • 8 years ago

        [quote<]At the same capacity, current NAND will populate more controller channels, and thus have better performance[/quote<] Source? I'm asking because going by this logic the previous generation was even faster.

          • OneArmedScissor
          • 8 years ago

          Not for many 64GB drives.

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