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The Other Future

Inside Western Digital: How Tomorrow's Storage Gets Made
The Other Future

Before leaving the pilot line facility, we made a quick stop in this room, where we found a test engineer poring over NAND memory, examining the performance and reliability of individual chips. With the company now throwing its hat in the SSD ring, you can see that it isn’t simply putting its own sticker on someone else’s drive. Engineers on this test bed look at different blocks of the NAND, running different endurance tests, and seek to determine the limits of both SLC and MLC designs. They’re looking for failures per sector. See that red dot on the green checkerboard? That’s a failed cell. Once the cell is located, subsequent testing zooms in to hopefully find out why the cell failed and work toward a remedy.

The column you see to the left of the test platform is an environmental chamber that can swing over and encase the test subject, allowing engineers to examine different performance characteristics under different conditions. A logic analyzer helps WD techs examine different current profiles and power consumption based on operations, such as reads and writes.

“Going to SSD doesn’t get rid of all the problems in storage,” said the WD engineer. “It just replaces the old problems with a set of new ones.”

But if there’s one thing I observed on this trip, it’s that this is a company accustomed to solving problems.

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