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Data centres to see higher uptake of TLC memory

Posted: 16 Jan 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Forward Insights? triple-level cell? memory? NAND? SSD?

In just a couple of years from when it first entered the client market, triple-level cell (TLC) is predicted to take a stronger hold on data centres. Looking at the long-term however, growth in conventional NAND will drop as 3D becomes the memory of choice.

To date, TLC has been primarily used in USB drives, flash memory cards, low-cost smartphones, client solid state drives (SSDs), said Gregory Wong, principal analyst with Forward Insights, but it's starting to see use in the iPhone 6 and he anticipates it make further incursions into high-end smartphones and enterprise data centre SSDs in 2015 and 2016.

A similar forecast is shared by Gartner, which saw some adoption by select customers in the data centre this year, according to Joe Unsworth, research VP for semiconductors, Gartner. The research firm expects 3-bits-per-cell and 3D to be the focal point of NAND technology evolution over the next year, noting that Samsung commercialized 3D NAND in 2014, but adoption will still be slow until late 2016, when all vendors will have commercialised it. Until then it will continue to be a multi-level cell (MLC) and TLC world, he said.

NAND technology evolution

Source: Gartner December 2004 Preliminary: "NAND Flash Supply and Demand World Wide"

MLC will continue to be used in smartphones, tablet and SSDs through 2016, said Wong, and likely some Android-based smartwatches as they gain popularity next year, while single-level cell (SLC) continues to be used in consumer applications such as set-top boxes, digital cameras, printers and mobile devices. However, its volume has declined as mobile devices and cameras have moved to MLC. The main growth for SLC will come from industrial and automotive applications, said Wong.

One of the reasons TLC is seeing growth and finding viability in data centre applications is smarter controllers that address concerns such as endurance. Overall, Gartner sees flash management firmware and advanced controllers to be differentiators in the NAND market.

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