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6 NAND flash memory vendors balance performance, reliability

Learn what types of enterprise- and consumer-grade SSD technology six leading NAND flash storage vendors offer, as well as where these modules are best suited.

In recent years, NAND flash memory has gained rapid popularity because of its performance and the fact that NAND SSDs are cooler, quieter and use less power than HDDs. Even so, not all NAND is created equal. Some vendors provide general-purpose NAND flash storage, while others focus on specific market segments. Here, we examine products from six key manufacturers of NAND flash memory, the applications their SSD technology is best suited for and their target market.

1. Intel Corp.

Intel offers several NAND-based storage products, although it is worth noting that the company's Optane line of storage isn't based on NAND.

Intel offers four different series of SSD products designed for the data center. The company's D7 series is available in capacities ranging from 1 TB to 15.3 TB and is available in U.2, M.2, AIC, E1.L and E1.S form factors.

Storage devices in the D5 series have a 15.36 TB capacity and are available in E1.L and U.2 form factors. These devices are designed for use in warm data tiers.

The Intel SSD D3 series is a collection of SATA SSDs designed for mixed workloads. These SSDs offer capacities ranging from 240 GB to 3.84 TB. These devices are 2.5 inches in size and adhere to the M.2 form factor.

Finally, Intel's SSD D1 series is a low-cost SSD designed for read-intensive workloads. These devices are available in the M.2 or U.2 form factor and have capacities ranging from 128 GB to 1 TB.

Intel offers three different series of NAND-based SSDs for client devices. Intel SSD 7 Series disks adhere to the M.2 form factor and are designed for use cases that require high-capacity storage. The 7 Series storage devices have capacities ranging from 128 GB to 2.048 TB.

The Intel SSD 6 Series is a collection of M.2 storage devices that rely on quad-level cell 3D NAND. These devices have capacities from 512 GB to 2 TB.

2. Kioxia

Kioxia, formerly Toshiba Memory Corp., offers enterprise, client and data center SSDs. The company's enterprise SSDs are categorized as read-intensive, write-intensive and mixed use and are available in a 2.5-inch form factor or as an add-in card. Capacities vary by model and range from 400 GB to 15,360 GB.

Kioxia offers three data center SSDs: the CD, XD and HK series. The CD series is designed for cloud and scale-out use cases. These devices are only sold as 2.5-inch drives and have capacities ranging from 800 GB to 15,360 GB. The drives use bit column stacked (BiCS) Flash triple-layer cell (TLC) NAND.

Sampling of major NAND flash memory vendors

Kioxia's XD series devices are available in 2.5 and M.2 form factors and in capacities ranging from 960 GB to 3840 GB. These devices are designed for read-intensive applications and are also based on BiCS Flash TLC technology.

The HK series of SSDs are more general purpose. Kioxia describes these SATA drives as being suitable for server systems and data systems. HK Series devices are 2.5 inches and range in capacity between 120 GB and 3,840 GB. Some HK series drives are based on multi-level cell (MLC), while others use BiCS Flash TLC.

Like its data center SSD products, Kioxia's client SSDs are grouped into several different series. XG series devices are based on BiCS Flash TLC NAND and have a capacity between 256 GB and 2,048 GB. These devices adhere to the M.2 form factor and are designed for use in high-end workstations and gaming PCs.

The company's BG series drives are designed for use in thin, lightweight devices. They're based on BiCS Flash TLC NAND and use the M.2 form factor. Capacities range from 128 GB to 1,024 GB.

Kioxia's SG series SSD devices are also meant for general-purpose use. They use BiCS Flash TLS NAND and are available in 2.5-inch or M.2 form factors. Capacities range from 256 GB to 1,024 GB.

3. Micron Technology Inc.

Micron offers a variety of flash storage products that are grouped by the NAND flash technology they use, including single-level cell, MLC, TLC, quad-level cell and 3D NAND. Micron primarily sells NAND flash memory that other vendors use in their flash storage products; however, the company also offers a selection of ready-made flash devices.

Micron sells NAND memory in densities ranging from 128 MB to 2 TB. Lower-density NAND memory options are designed for use in devices such as smart TVs, while higher-density options are used in SSDs and other high-capacity storage devices. Micron offers NAND memory for both consumer and enterprise applications.

4. Samsung

Samsung offers SSDs, portable USB connected SSDs, USB flash or thumb drives, and SD cards.

Samsung's line of SSDs focuses on the enterprise market as well as the consumer market. Its drives are available in either standard 2.5-inch configurations or in the M.2 form factor. Capacities range from 250 GB to 4 TB, and all of Samsung's SSD models are based on 3D NAND, which Samsung refers to as V-NAND.

5. SK Hynix Inc.

SK Hynix is a Korean company known for manufacturing its own dynamic RAM and NAND flash storage and making its own SSD controllers.

All signs point to increased NAND flash adoption for at least the next five years.

SK Hynix offers both enterprise SSD and consumer SSD products, as well as devices that are intended for client use. The company's enterprise SSD offerings are available in standard 2.5-inch SATA3 or M.2 form factors and range in capacity from 480 GB to 3,840 GB.

Although SK Hynix's collection of enterprise flash products is relatively limited, the company offers dozens of client SSD options. Like its enterprise storage devices, the client SSDs are available in either 2.5-inch or M.2 form factors. Capacities range from 128 GB to 1,024 GB.

SK Hynix introduced its Gold P31 and Platinum P31 consumer-grade SSDs at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. These PCIe NVMe SSDs are based on 128-layer, 4D NAND. The gold version is available in capacities of 500 GB and 1 TB, and the platinum version has a 2 TB capacity.

6. Western Digital Corp.

Western Digital offers a variety of consumer-grade and enterprise-grade SSDs. The company's enterprise offerings include Ultrastar NVMe, SAS and SATA drives, as well as the WD Gold NVMe SSD. The WD Gold NVMe SSD is available in capacities ranging from 0.96 TB to 7.68 TB. These drives are based on the U.2 form factor.

The company's Ultrastar SAS SSD drives are based on 3D TLC NAND and have capacities ranging from 400 GB to 15.36 TB. Similarly, Western Digital's enterprise grade SATA SSDs offer capacities between 120 GB and 1.92 TB. The company also offers SATA SSD options for read-intensive and mixed-use workloads.

Western Digital's Ultrastar NVMe series SSDs -- Ultrastar DC SN640 and DC SN340 -- are based on 96-layer 3D NAND and are suitable for read-intensive and mixed-use workloads. The capacities of these devices range from 800 GB to 30.72 TB.

Additionally, Western Digital offers consumer grade NVMe and SATA SSDs. The company's 2.5-inch consumer SSDs have capacities ranging from 120 GB to 4 TB.

The Pro M.2 NVMe 3D SSD is the company's primary option for a consumer-grade NVMe drive. It's available in capacities ranging from 500 GB to 2 TB. Western Digital recently released an NVMe version of its WD Red DA500 NAS SATA SSD. This device is available in capacities ranging from 500 GB to 4 TB.

NAND flash memory adoption

According to market research company Mordor Intelligence, the SSD market is expected to grow to $80.34 billion by 2025. But it seems likely that the current COVID-19 crisis will negatively affect this growth. Even so, all signs point to increased NAND flash adoption for at least the next five years.

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