svedoliver - Fotolia

How much will 3D XPoint technology affect flash storage?

Learn how Intel 3D XPoint fits in a flash storage technology space that has already seen single-level cell, multi-level cell, eMLC, triple-level cell and 3D NAND.

In the short term, the next big thing will be the continued growth of V-NAND. Like other 3D NAND technologies, V-NAND works by vertically stacking NAND cells on a die. When it comes to longer-term advancements, 3D XPoint technology will probably be most disruptive to the flash storage industry.

The major problem with flash storage that leads to drives having relatively low capacities is that there is a limit to the degree to which a cell can be shrunk. This means there is also a limit to the number of cells that can be fit onto a die, without increasing the die's physical size. V-NAND and competing 3D NAND technologies get around this problem by stacking cells vertically, thereby increasing capacity exponentially. Samsung has managed to use V-NAND technology to create a 16 TB flash drive.

3D XPoint-based storage will operate on a completely different principle than the flash storage being used today.

Intel is developing 3D XPoint technology, and what makes it so notable is that 3D XPoint-based storage will operate on a completely different principle than the flash storage being used today.

NAND-based flash storage works by trapping electrons in transistors, and using the presence or absence of these electrons to represent a binary zero or one. 3D XPoint technology doesn't use transistors. Instead, the technology is based on a microscopic lattice of wires. Each point of intersection between two wires can store a piece of data.

The thing that makes 3D XPoint technology so exciting is that because it does not use transistors, the devices are not subject to the same limitations as transistor-based storage. It has been predicted that the absence of transistors will allow for greater storage capacities. Intel has also said the storage is approximately 1,000 times faster than some of the DRAM storage in use today.

Next Steps

3D XPoint not only flash technology development

New flash storage technologies disrupting DIMM

What future flash technology fits in tomorrow's data center?

Dig Deeper on Solid-state storage