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Oddly, Toshiba And WD Announce BiCS 4 And QLC Separately

What's 120 billion Yen between friends? That's the amount Toshiba wants from Western Digital for meddling with the sale of its flash manufacturing business. Toshiba opened a separate legal action on its home turf of Japan, claiming Western Digital Corp violated the Unfair Competition Prevention Act, among others. Meanwhile, WDC has a motion moving through the court system in California asking for an injunction to keep Toshiba from selling a portion of the joint venture business that manufactures flash for the two companies. 

Feelings must be hurt, and that could be why Toshiba announced 4-bit per cell BiCS FLASH recently and why Western Digital issued a separate announcement for 96-layer BiCS FLASH (Gen 4). Normally, both companies announce the same product at the same time and just change the logo along with a quote or two.

4-bit Per Cell OLC Flash

Let's start with quadruple-level cell (QLC) BiCS FLASH first. A number of news outlets posted about the coming QLC SSDs as if this is the next alternative to TLC for your desktop. That's not the case. QLC NAND increases the charge level to sixteen, double that of 3-bit per cell (TLC) NAND. The technology will require the most advanced monitoring and error correction control algorithms built for NAND flash. Even then, QLC will have only between 100 and 150 program erase cycles (est.). In contrast, 3D TLC from Toshiba has between 1,500 and 3,000 PE cycles before ECC technology like LDPC extends the endurance.

QLC will have a limited role that most users will never actually see. The technology will ship in low-power SSDs that focus on write once, read many (WORM) tasks. Facebook and other data center customers have asked for the technology to replace spinning media. At Flash Memory Summit last August, Toshiba laid out the plans for QLC with 2.5" form factor SSDs delivering 100TB of data capacity each.

QLC will eventually make its way to the desktop, but the time frame is still far enough out that we hesitate to make any projections. For example, we kept hearing about TLC for five years before the technology crept in. Once available, it took a few years to become the standard for consumer SSDs--a transition that's currently underway.

Toshiba said the new QLC began shipping to SSD controller designers in early June. Each die holds 768Gbits (96GB) in a 64-layer stack.

96-Layer BiCS FLASH

The Toshiba XG5 SSD is the first to arrive with new 64-layer 3D TLC from Toshiba. The Western Digital announcement stated that the company has built a 96-layer 256Gbit prototype. BiCS3, the version shipping in the XG5, comes in two capacity sizes (256Gbit and 512Gbit). BiCS4 is a technological achievement, but only if the physical die size is smaller than shipping 64-layer.

"Our successful development of the industry's first 96-layer 3D NAND technology demonstrates Western Digital's continued leadership in NAND flash and solid execution to our technology roadmap," said Dr. Siva Sivaram, executive vice president of memory technology at Western Digital. "BiCS4 will be available in 3-bits-per-cell and 4-bits-per-cell architectures, and it contains technology and manufacturing innovations to provide the highest 3D NAND storage capacity, performance and reliability at an attractive cost for our customers. Western Digital's 3D NAND portfolio is designed to address the full range of end markets spanning consumer, mobile, computing and data center."

Western Digital went on to say that BiCS4 will sample to customers in the second half of 2017, and volume manufacturing should begin in 2018.

Both Toshiba and Western Digital plan to present more data about the new achievements at Flash Memory Summit in August.

  • PC-Cobbler
    Toshiba and SanDisk had a great working relationship, partnering to develop world-class NAND flash. Then WDC buys SanDisk and the relationship degrades into one worthy of Jerry Springer. WDC is giving a master class on how not to run a partnership.

    And I predict that, sooner than later, companies will build QLC SSDs with the drastically reduced life only hinted at, consumers will buy them in droves because of the cheaper prices, and then the ersatz Walmart shoppers will file lawsuits because their products do not last very long.
    Reply
  • drwho1
    All I saw was "2.5"SSD 100TB capacity" ... common! Make it happen! ... at earthly prices that humans can actually afford.
    Reply
  • derekullo
    QLC would make great backup storage.

    "Toshiba laid out the plans for QLC with 2.5" form factor SSDs delivering 100TB of data capacity each"

    Even with 100 P/E cycles thats still 100 x 100TB or 10 Petabytes of data.

    I'm unsure how much that will cost but if Facebook wants it, its probably gonna be expensive.

    But I'm not greedy, I'd take a 10 terabyte QLC for $400, 1 Petabyte Write Endurance FTW.
    Reply
  • dudmont
    someone, very wisely, said a long time ago, "buyer beware". course some of this is fairly complicated to learn, but if you don't educate yourself, you should lose all grounds to sue. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the cookie cutter oems demand the purchaser sign some agreement before sales, absolving the oem of liability for poor write life cycles.
    Reply
  • RomeoReject
    Any idea on when SSDs are supposed to reach price parity with HDDs? In some ways, one would assume they'd be slightly easier to produce: They're smaller, no motors to run, and assembly looks simpler than stacking and spacing platters.
    Reply
  • DerekA_C
    These corporations and tech inventors have stuff beyond this they have many different proven prototypes and the heads get to pick which is going to be released and how to maximize profit it is just that simple. Remember the oil shortage, but in reality they found more oil fields at the time and didn't want to lose profit same thing when bush jr took office. These same said companies all design and have designed military stuff since the 50's when ssd was first invented by IBM. I did not know this until yesterday. Also military and Nasa have used pretty much exclusive ssd since 1995 due to the anti shock and withstands much more harsh environments like heat, moisture, sand, dusk those sorts.
    Reply
  • derekullo
    Samsung / Hp / IBM wasn't going to market a hypothetical $8000 500 kilobyte ssd to a consumer knowing it was out of the price range of everyone but a super small niche of people with a near unlimited budget.

    In 1995 you didn't have pci-e, you didn't even have SATA to connect the drive, you had EIDE or maybe NASA had an Ultra Ata prototype with a blazing fast 33 megabyte a second transfers.

    So don't think today's ssd's existed in 1995.

    Nasa didn't store cat videos nor reruns of Seinfeld on their drives either, only mission critical programs and information to help the astronauts not die in space and other experiments to figure out how not to die in space in the future.
    All of this needed to withstand the 3+ G's of acceleration during take off and reentry.

    A lot of ideas are ahead of their time and are unable to be produced due to a lack of other materials and other advancements in science.

    The helicopter being one of the best examples:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helicopter#Early_design
    Reply
  • Dr Croubie
    "...SSDs that focus on write once, read many (WORM) tasks. Facebook and other data center customers have asked for the technology..."

    As if we needed any more proof that Facebook will never delete anything that it ever knew about you...
    Reply
  • photonboy
    REMOEREJECT,
    Price parity will start at the lower capacities. HDD's do have a minimum cost due to the mechanical components but it also seems like they're dropping the lower capacity drives completely and just going with SSD's.

    HDD's find ways to improve cost (i.e. hydrogen and using lasers), whereas SSD cost is actually inflated right now due to low supply of flash memory in general (affects many types of memory).

    So there will be no exact date, just SSD's being used more for the lower-end and HDD's being used more for the high end.
    Reply
  • RomeoReject
    19895347 said:
    REMOEREJECT,
    Price parity will start at the lower capacities. HDD's do have a minimum cost due to the mechanical components but it also seems like they're dropping the lower capacity drives completely and just going with SSD's.

    HDD's find ways to improve cost (i.e. hydrogen and using lasers), whereas SSD cost is actually inflated right now due to low supply of flash memory in general (affects many types of memory).

    So there will be no exact date, just SSD's being used more for the lower-end and HDD's being used more for the high end.
    Appreciate the reply, thanks for the information!
    Reply