Kioxia's New XL-NAND SSDs to Compete with Intel's Optane

Kioxia FL6 SSD
(Image credit: Kioxia)

Kioxia is announcing a new lineup FL6 series of SSDs featuring Kioxia's new high-speed Storage Class Memory (SCM). This new memory system is based on Kioxi's BiCS 3D flash technology with 1 bit per cell SLC XL-Flash, which Kioxia believes will provide cheaper and faster SSDs than Intel's Optane with 3D XPoint can provide.

The new FL6 SSDs are the first storage devices to use Kioxia's new XL-Flash and BiCS flash technology. The company has been working on this tech for nearly two years to make SSDs that offer the performance of more exotic memories, like Intel's Optane, but at a drastically cheaper price point. Unfortunately, Kioxia hasn't shared detailed performance specs, but here's what we know from a prior announcement:

  • Fast page read and program times. Kioxia says XL-FLASH provides read latency of less than 5 microseconds, approximately 10 times faster than existing TLC
  • 128 gigabit (Gb) die (available in a 2-die, 4-die, 8-die packages)
  • 4KB page size for more efficient operating system reads and writes
  • 16-plane architecture for more efficient parallelism

Kioxia's new SCM SSDs are targeted towards enterprise and datacenter uses, with the goal of having more performance and lower latency than regular TLC-based flash storage. This is so FL6 series SSDs can essentially operate as Optane equivalents in some cases, thus filling the gap between DRAM and regular SSDs. 

The FL6 series supports PCIe Gen 4.0 and NVMe 1.4, along with native dual-port to provide the ultimate in reliability in mission-critical environments. The FL6 SSDs are rated for 60 drive writes per day (DWPD) of endurance with capacities ranging from 800GB all the way up to 3200GB (3.2TB). 

Kioxia's XL-Flash has shorter bitlines and wordlines, which are internal connections to the flash cells, which improves performance. The flash also has more planes (independent regions of the flash that can simultaneously respond to data requests) to improve parallelism and performance. XL-Flash uses existing BiCS flash in SLC mode, meaning it only stores one bit per cell to increase performance. Kioxia claims this provides program times of a mere 7 microseconds, which is much faster than QLC's 30-microsecond program time. The increased performance comes at the expense of storage density, but flash has reached such incredible densities that Kioxia can still hit up to 3.2TB per drive. 

Kioxia's new FL6 SSDs use tried-and-true NAND technology, so they should be much more affordable than Intel's competing Optane SSDs for the data center. However, Kioxia hasn't shared pricing for the new drives, though we do know they are sampling to partners and customers now. 

Aaron Klotz
Freelance News Writer

Aaron Klotz is a freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US, covering news topics related to computer hardware such as CPUs, and graphics cards.

  • thestryker
    I'd buy into it having faster write speed, and maybe read, but IOPs and random performance I don't buy at all. It also has, while great for NAND, much lower endurance than Optane does. I think it'll mostly come down to price point vs use case in enterprise, and I doubt any company that is already using Optane would switch, but there's likely an untapped market that hasn't but is pondering.

    Now if we see some NAND drives based on this tech that hit a consumer availability in the $0.30-0.35/GB USD range I could see this being very popular in the enthusiast space.