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Phison E12 Early Numbers And A Path To 96-Layer NAND

We wrote about Phison's next generation SSD controllers around Flash Memory Summit, and today we get to see some early performance from the flagship NVMe model.

Phison expects to meet an aggressive launch schedule with the E12 controller. We just learned the company will deliver working silicon to partners in the first quarter of 2018. Currently Phison is optimizing firmware for Toshiba 64-layer BiCS FLASH, but this is a multi-generational part that will also support future flash. We're starting to hear about 96-layer BiCS FLASH with an expected date of the end of 2018. There are also whispers of QLC coming from Toshiba at that time. The E12 will overlap with Toshiba's next generation memory. 96-layer QLC is a story for another day, but mid-year or at Flash Memory Summit looks to be a good time for companies to preview products based on the technology.

Last night we received our first look at the upcoming Phison E7 controller paired with 64-layer BiCS FLASH. Phison's performance numbers have already surpassed the target numbers we saw at Flash Memory Summit. The new controller is capable of ripping through four-corner workloads with ease. After further optimizations we may even see 3,500 MB/s sequential read and 3,200 MB/s sequential write speeds. The random read performance is also knocking on 60 MB/s at queue depth 1. The 4KB QD1 random read performance comes out to around 15,000 IOPS. That is very close to the Samsung PM981 we tested just weeks back.

All of that performance is virtually worthless if you don't have a large enough capacity. Phison has hinted that we could see this controller operating with up to 8TB of 3D NAND flash.

Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews consumer storage.