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Samsung's 3D-NAND chip... 1 terabyte on a stamp size
 
Flash forward! Enterprise storage embraces Flash for the first time

Get set for the biggest technology shift in storage  as  flash  seems poised to overtake hard drives and  puts  1 TB on a stamp sized chip.
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore April 6 2015: In housing as much as in computer storage, the principle is the same: if you run out of floor space, the only way to go is up.
March has been an incredible  month  for  storage technology with multiple announcements  which signalled the biggest  breakthrough in Flash memory  since it was first invented 30 years ago  by Toshiba, an a solid state alternative to  spinning disk drives, floppy drives  and  compact magnetic disks or CDs.
Last week  saw simultaneous announcements by Toshiba and an Intel-Micron combo  that they had   gone further in creating  3-D NAND  Flash chips   with 32 to 48 layers  memory  stacked on top of each other  so that the same real estate on a  memory card could now  offer  3 times more storage  than the 2D chips of today which max out at 128 GB each.  Toshiba  predicted a 1 Terabyte ( 1000 GB)  on a stamp sized Flash chip by 2016.    Intel  previewed a solid state device no larger than a stick of chewing gum,  holding 3.5 TB  and said the solid state drive used by tablets and notebooks would soon offer 10 TB of storage.
Meanwhile Samsung  used  the same 3-D NAND flash technology last week,  to launch a 1 TB version of its popular mSATA  drive  for  ultraportable laptops. Problem is you have to pay for  cramming so many GBs into so little space. The 1 TB  drive costs the equivalent of  Rs 27,000.
But the cost-per-GB of Flash is falling -- and with 3-D it will fall faster.   Today we still prefer magnetic disk drives in PCs and data centres because  they cost  half as  much as  Flash for  same capacity. But pundits predict,  3-D stacking is the tipping point -- they can keep adding more layers  and by 2020  Flash will  cost  only a seventh of hard drives, TB for TB.  By next year phones will come with 128 - 256  GB of storage not today's piddling  32- 64 GB.
With Flash storage prices set to tumble, the technology has  taken on the last bastion of magnetic disk drives -- the data centre.
A few days ago Korea Times broke the story that  Google  one of the world's biggest  data  repositories would soon  use Samsung 3-D Flash  in its 1000s of data centres. Amazon is already a convert to Samsung's 3D Flash.  
Last month SanDisk offered its own all-Flash enterprise storage system, called InfiniFlash, which for the  first time broke the lakshman rekha  of $1 per gigabyte.  With the cost of bulk Flash  storage  expected to further  fall 10-fold in 5 years,  to around $ 10 per terabyte, all-Flash data centres  may soon be the norm.
Is there a hitch? Yes. No one quite knows how long Flash  storage will store. It has a finite number of  possible input-output operations --- millions maybe,  but  after that,  kaput!  Experts say bulk  Flash storage is good for at least 15 years, but  spinning disk drives which have already worked longer,   are not yet ready to roll over and die.
For the rest of us, uploading 250 billion photos a day to Facebook worldwide,  generating 1 lakh tweets a minute, creating 30 hours of YouTube videos a minute.. all adding  up to 4 Exabytes (that's 4 million terabytes)  of data a month,  a flashy future awaits!

 




    


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