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Intel and Micron unveil denser Flash components

Intel and Micron unveiled a new 25 nanometer lithography process for NAND wafers which are used to build Flash devices on Friday, saying the process will yield denser, cheaper Flash devices for consumers and commercial use.

The announcement comes less than a year after Intel and Micron first joined up to form a joint venture called IM Flash Technologies, which started by collaborating on 34 nanometer (nm) Flash components. IM Flash Technologies also has a partnership with Hitachi GST.

Tom Rampone, vice president of the Technology and Manufacturing Group and general manager of the NAND Solutions Group at Intel, said in a press conference on Friday that the vendors are qualifying 25 nm NAND wafers and sampling them to OEM customers at Intel’s fabrication plants. Rampone showed this product at Friday’s conference (see YouTube video)–a 167 square millimeter block he said is twice as dense as Flash devices created with the 34 nm lithography process.

The first products to be built using this technology will be an 8 GB multi-level cell (MLC) consumer Flash device, Rampone said, and most of the discussion Friday revolved around its consumer applications — an ability to hold 2000 songs in that small footprint, for example.

But Intel and Micron’s press release also makes reference to the product’s uses in solid-state drives (SSDs), and the 25 nanometer process holds at least some hope for enterprise users interested in Flash but put off currently by its high prices and relatively low densities. Moreover, traditionally MLC drives have been first to market and seen as consumer-grade, but recently SSD vendors like STEC and system builders like WhipTail have come along claiming to offer enterprise-level reliability and endurance with MLC Flash.

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