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10 TB SSDs May Be Available By 2016

While solid-state hard drives have already proven their speed, reliability and sheer efficiency, today’s consumer SSDs are still lacking in one crucial area: storage capacity. Using an architecture that utilizes flash-based technology, the drives just haven’t been able to achieve the capacities of their disk-based counterparts – until now. Thanks to a recent initiative between Intel and Micron, two of the IT industry’s biggest names, solid-state drives with capacities as high as 10 terabytes are expected to be available on the consumer market by 2016.

Enhancing Storage Capacities

The problem of the SSD’s limited storage capacity has recently been solved by Samsung, who pioneered their vertical NAND technology, referred to as V-NAND, which uses stacked memory chips to achieve a greater amount of storage space.

Using Samsung’s V-NAND technology as their inspiration, Intel and Micron have released their own 3D NAND technology, which also utilizes memory chips that are vertically stacked. With a single chip boasting roughly 50 GB, and with the ability to contain 32 chips inside a traditional, 2.5-inch SSD, it’s easy to see how the projected capacity of 10 TB – and perhaps even greater capacities – can be achieved in the near future.

One of the major differences between Samsung’s V-NAND technology and its newest competitor is the fact that the drives developed by Intel and Micron make use of a floating gate protocol as opposed to the Samsung’s change-trap functionality. While the floating gate technology is older than Samsung’s, the age may help to minimize the costs of Intel and Micron’s new solid-state drives.

In other news, developers with Toshiba have also been hard at work on their own solid-state improvements. Using 3D NAND technology, they’ve achieved a stack of 48 chips – as opposed to Intel and Micron’s 32 layers. However, Toshiba’s product is still in its early development phase. A timeline for a consumer release of Toshiba’s offering has not been made available at the time of this writing.

Projected Timeline

Intel and Micron have already brought their 3D NAND technology into production testing and sampling via their 256 GB MLC drive. They’ve announced plans to begin testing of a 384 GB TLC model in late Spring of this year. As such, they expect consumer SSDs to hit the market sometime in 2016.

Other Applications

The new 3D NAND technology benefits other devices, too. Flash drives, also referred to as thumb drives, will also be able to take advantage of the new protocol from Intel and Micron. As a result, it’s highly likely that we will see an increase in the capacities of flash drives in 2016, too.

Moreover, because 3D NAND technology is so versatile and compact, it can easily be integrated into large-scale datacenters, in smartphones and on enterprise-level servers across the globe. With the ability to hold nearly 4 terabytes of data on a chip the size of a stick of gum, the technology is small enough to fit nearly anywhere. Finally, thanks to rapidly evolving technology, the ability to combine multiple chips has been enhanced greatly.

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