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Samsung pushes out second-gen 3-D V-NAND NVMe PCIe card

Samsung takes aim at high-end data center storage with new SM1715 3-D V-NAND drive designed for greater density, speed and endurance.

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has upgraded its Nonvolatile Memory Express-compliant PCIe solid-state enterprise...

drives, doubling capacity to 3.2 TB.

Samsung's new SM1715 PCIe card uses Samsung's 3-D Vertical NAND (3-D V-NAND) flash memory technology. The 3.2 TB is twice the 1.6 TB capacity of Samsung's inaugural NVMe PCIe card, the XS1715 that came out last year, and is sold through an OEM deal in Dell PowerEdge R920 servers. There is also a 1.6 TB version of the new SM1715.

The SM1715 has a traditional form factor that slides into a standard PCIe slot and frees up circuits on the motherboard to handle dense high-performance storage. It is rated for sequential reads and writes of 3 gigabytes per second (GBps) and 2.2 GBps, respectively, with random reads of 750,000 IOPS and random writes of 130,000 IOPS.

Samsung gives it an endurance rating of 10 drive writes per day over a typical five-year warranty period.

NVMe directly connects storage to CPUs via a PCIe link to reduce latency and power consumption by eliminating the need for host bus adapters. The NVMe protocol is picking up momentum heading into 2015 by both established vendors such as Intel and new entrants like Memblaze.

SM1715 aimed at high-end enterprise servers

Samsung considers high-end enterprise servers a prime use case for the SM1715, including NoSQL database queries. Other use cases include as memory cache for testing and development, and accelerating Web-scale applications with taxing computational cycles.

Samsung historically has had a strong OEM presence in data centers, but the SM1715 underscores its continuing push to target enterprises more directly. The South Korean-based vendor in July released the 845DC EVO, its first branded SSDs aimed at enterprise storage that use triple-level cell NAND flash delivered on a standard 6 Gbps SATA disk interface.

Ryan Smith, a Samsung senior manager of SSD product marketing, said the SM1715 targets organizations that typically place data in a nonstructured database and serve it from more expensive DRAM.

"We expect to see a lot of interest in using a high-speed device like this for DRAM-type applications that could be served by NAND [SSDs] in a more cost-effective way," Smith said.

V-NAND places cell layers on top of each other to improve write performance and reliability over planar NAND, which controls cell-to-cell crosstalk through the use of floating transistor gates.

Samsung uses 32 stacked flash cell layers in its latest V-NAND, up from 24 layers in the first generation of the technology.

Gartner: Samsung 'far ahead on 3-D NAND'

Analyst firm Gartner Inc. ranks Samsung as the largest supplier of NAND flash chips and the first to introduce 3-D NAND in production. Joseph Unsworth, a research vice president at Gartner Inc., said 3-D NAND eventually will supplant planar manufacturing of NAND flash memory technologies.

"Samsung is far ahead on 3-D NAND, but that's because it's behind other vendors on conventional flash technology. Companies like Toshiba and Micron have been pushing 16-nanometer process geometry, which Samsung doesn't have. We believe Samsung will need to get to 48 layers on a two-bit-per-wafer basis to be competitive with conventional flash," Unsworth said.

A big obstacle to 3-D NAND is the cost of advanced etching and deposition equipment required to build denser chips. "Our analysis of the distribution channel makes us think they don't have the layering tools needed to build the larger skyscrapers," Unsworth said, noting that 3-D NAND adoption would hover around 1% to 4% of total NAND before a hockey-stick effect takes place around 2017.

Samsung's Smith said the SM1715 is in production with pricing available from Samsung resellers.

Next Steps

3-D NAND emerges to address limitations of NAND chips

Capacity and cost of 3-D NAND flash

The importance of 3-D NAND flash

Dig Deeper on All-flash arrays

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