At Flash Memory Summit, Samsung announced their fourth generation of 3D NAND and several of the more obvious SSD upgrades it enables. Taking a page from Intel and Micron's strategy book, they also announced a new memory type and corresponding SSD product while saying essentially nothing about what the new memory actually is.

The fourth generation 3D NAND bumps the layer count up to 64, compared to the 48-layer design used by the third generation V-NAND that was announced last fall and has been slowly rolling out to their SSD products over the course of this year. So far Samsung has talked about a 512Gb TLC part, and at least initially the MLC parts will probably be made from the same die and thus have two thirds the capacity. (Samsung's second generation 3D NAND was initially available as 128Gb TLC or 86Gb MLC, with 128Gb MLC parts introduced later.) The new NAND also supports an increased interface speed of 800Mbps, which is key to reducing the performance penalty that comes from consolidating more flash onto fewer independent chips.

With a per-die capacity of 512Gb (64GB), Samsung can now put 1TB of TLC flash in a single package. This means most product lines will be seeing an increase in capacity at the high end of the range. Their BGA SSD products will be offering 1TB capacity even in the 11.5mm by 13mm form factor. The 16TB PM1633a SAS SSD will be eclipsed by the new 32TB PM1643. Likely to be further out, the PM1725 PCIe add-in card SSD will be succeeded by the PM1735 with a PCIe 4 x8 host interface.

Complementing the NAND update will be a new non-standard oversized M.2 form factor 32mm wide and 114mm long, compared to the typical enterprise M.2 size of 22mm by 110mm. A little extra room can go a long way, and Samsung will be using it to produce 8TB drives. These will be enterprise SSDs and Samsung showed a diagram of these enabling 256TB of flash in a 1U server. Samsung will also be producing 4TB drives in standard M.2 sizing.

In what is likely a bid to steal some thunder from 3D XPoint memory before it can ship, Samsung announced Z-NAND memory technology and a Z-SSD product based around Z-NAND and a new SSD controller. They said nothing about the operating principles of Z-NAND, but they did talk about their plans for the Z-SSD products.

Samsung Z-SSD is being marketed as addressing the performance gap between DRAM and SSDs. Samsung's slides during their keynote showed some performance comparisons against the PM963 NVMe TLC SSD and against an unnamed "PRAM based" solution. The logical point of comparison would be against 3D XPoint NVMe drives, but Samsung can't have real performance and power numbers on those when they're still under development by Intel and Micron. Thus the PRAM based solution Samsung refers to is probably one of their own earlier R&D efforts that didn't make it to market. The Z-SSD ties or comes out ahead on every benchmark Samsung showed, but NVMe NAND flash SSDs were missing from the power consumption comparison.

The slides stated that there will be a 1TB Z-SSD this year and 2TB and 4TB Z-SSDs next year, while the press release issued later states that more generally that the Z-SSD is expected to be released next year. The press release also states that Z-NAND "shares the fundamental structure of V-NAND and has a unique circuit design and controller that can maximize performance". Given that, the launch timeframe and capacities that are only a little lower than NAND flash SSDs, it seems that Z-NAND isn't drastically different from existing memory technologies and it may even be little more than SLC flash in disguise, trying for a comeback.

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  • Xanavi - Friday, August 12, 2016 - link

    Driver you obviously have a problem with Intel and it's quite sickening. Buy AMD, take a breather. Intel is going to sell so many of these that the cash will stack to heaven and make you so envious you'll puke your guts all over the sidewalk. LOL
  • edzieba - Thursday, August 11, 2016 - link

    "a new non-standard oversized M.2 form factor 32mm wide and 114mm long, compared to the typical enterprise M.2 size of 22mm by 110mm."

    It is rather odd, 30mm widths are part of the m.2 standard, so a 30110 drive would be only barely smaller than their nonstandard '32114' drive, and completely compatible with many current m.2 slots. Even weirder, the pictured mockup shows the m.2 connector stretch to 32mm wide, breaking compatibility with m.2 (which maintains connector width regardless of PCB width). Why they would even call such a completely noncompatible drive 'm.2' doesn't make much sense over just calling it a PCIe 4x card.
  • johnp_ - Thursday, August 11, 2016 - link

    My understanding is that it's some kind of "Enterprise M.2" that supports hot-plug/-swap and front panel access. I assume that the current M.2 connectors physically can't handle that and therefore need a slight redesign.

    The form factor is called M.2 32114 and allows 1U servers with 30+ front panel slots (too lazy to count)

    Relevant slide (missing here):
  • johnp_ - Thursday, August 11, 2016 - link

    Well I'm an idiot. Overlooked the big "x 32ea" m(
  • johnp_ - Thursday, August 11, 2016 - link

    This presentation states on page 10:

    Connector contacts have extremely small pitch, making hot-plug “impossible”. Ground pins are not extended, as on larger form factors.
  • SunLord - Thursday, August 11, 2016 - link

    It's a non-standard size type but it conforms to the M.2 standard for the connector and really all it would need is for other manufacturers to add support for the mount screw at 114mm and leave more spacing on the sides to support it. Really they should of gonna longer then 114mm something like a 30122 to given length is less likely to be an issue compared to width
  • edzieba - Thursday, August 11, 2016 - link

    "It's a non-standard size type but it conforms to the M.2 standard for the connector and"
    Not according to the posted illustration in the presentation.
  • extide - Friday, August 12, 2016 - link

    Normal M.2 connectors are 22mm wide, there is no way a 30mm wide M.2 stick would fit in those connectors. Sure, 30mm may be part of the existing standard, but would still need a different connector.
  • extide - Thursday, August 11, 2016 - link

    Wow, Samsung is SO DAMN NERVOUS about 3D Xpoint! That's crazy they whipped up some competing solution from stuff laying around, I wonder if it is just some spiffed up NAND or some truly new technology like 3D XPoint. Hrmmm
  • haukionkannel - Friday, August 12, 2016 - link

    Current estimations Are that They have increased lines (normally 4) to increase parallerism and use MLC memory in SLC mode. So They practically use whole only half of the capasity of nand to increase the endurance and speed. (Same method that is normally used in small capasity as an cache)

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