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When will 3-D NAND products hit the market?

Vendors are increasing production of 3-D NAND-based chips. Learn how chip developments can cut costs.

My guess is that 3-D NAND-based storage arrays will be widely available in late 2015 or early 2016. In fact, Samsung already has a product on the market while other memory manufacturers such as Intel are ramping up production of 3-D NAND chips. Intel has announced that it plans to ship 3-D NAND flash chips later this year.

If you aren't familiar with 3-D NAND, it is an important technology for increasing the capacity and lowering the cost per gigabyte (GB) of flash storage drives. The cost of a flash drive is directly related to the size of the flash chip's die. Chip capacity does not matter, as it is the physical size of the chip that dictates the price. Increasing the density of the memory cells on a NAND chip boosts its capacity and brings down the cost per GB because the manufacturing costs remain roughly the same as long as the chip's physical size does not change.

In recent years, chip manufacturers have expressed concern over difficulties in increasing the capacity of a NAND chip. Because they were running out of space on the die, manufacturers decided to stack transistors vertically. The soon-to-be-released Intel chips, for example, will consist of 32 layers and have roughly twice the capacity of existing NAND chips.

Using this technique, Intel claims it will be able to create 1 TB NAND chips. The company expects to produce flash cards with a 10 TB capacity within the next two years. These estimates go a long way toward helping us to predict when a 3-D NAND array might become available.

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