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Samsung's 15 TB SSD sets new flash record

The Samsung 15.36 TB SSD packs 32 NAND flash packages in 2.5-inch form factor. The vendor claims enterprises can double the number of PM1633A drives in 2U data center rack.

When Samsung rolled out the largest solid-state drive in the industry this month, the capacity took people by surprise.

How big is it? Well, at 15.36 TB, the PM1633A SAS-connected SSD may be too big and too expensive to fit most data center use cases.

The Samsung PM1633A 15 TB SSD product line is based on the third generation of the vendor's 3D Vertical NAND (V-NAND) flash memory chips. The device packs 512 of Samsung's 256 Gb V-NAND dies in 16 layers on a 2.5-inch form factor, for a total of 32 NAND flash packages per SSD. Samsung's 256 GB V-NAND technology stacks cell arrays in 48 layers.

Samsung started shipping the drives this month to enterprise server and storage OEMs. The upgraded drive is the successor to Samsung PM1633 SSDs, which used 32-layer 128 GB V-NAND technology.

Samsung rates PM1633A drives for random read speed up to 200,000 IOPS, up to 32,000 random write IOPS, and sequential read and write performance up to 1,200 MB per second. The drives include Samsung's advanced controller units that support the 12 Gbps SAS interface.

Samsung's 15 TB SSD builds dense data center storage

Michael Smullen, product marketing manager for SSDs at Samsung, said the device lets enterprise customers build highly dense storage systems to consolidate drives and data center footprint. Customers could put twice as many Samsung 15 TB SSDs in a standard 19-inch 2U rack as 10 TB 3.5-inch hard disk drives.

The reason people need more and more capacity in flash is that primary storage is moving from hard disk drives to flash.
Michael Smullenproduct marketing manager for SSDs at Samsung

"The reason people need more and more capacity in flash is that primary storage is moving from hard disk drives to flash. We need to offer [flash] capacities that are competitive with the densities available in hard disk drives," Smullen said.

Samsung did not disclose pricing, but Smullen said it will be "very competitive" with traditional hard disk prices. He declined to disclose any Samsung OEM design wins for the PM1633A series.

According to Samsung, other PM1633A SSDs are expected to be available later this year in 480 GB, 960 GB, 1.9 TB, 3.8 TB and 7.6 TB capacities.

Is a 15 TB SSD too big to succeed?

Despite growing interest in high-capacity flash devices, analysts said initial deployments of Samsung's 15 TB SSD would be limited to certain industries.

"[The] very high density could be interesting for medical, media, oil and gas, and other customers [who have] a lot of data generation," Greg Wong, principal analyst at Forward Insights in North York, Ont., said via email.

Jim Handy, a semiconductor analyst at Objective Analysis, based in Los Gatos, Calif., said it will be interesting to see how Samsung handles resistance from customers who don't want to pay premium flash prices for high-capacity SSDs.

"Even if it's priced at only 20 cents per gigabyte, [which is] roughly today's volume price for raw NAND chips, a 15 TB SSD would set you back a cool $3,000. I suspect this drive is likely to cost three or more times that price," Handy said.

Access density is another potential drawback to the 15 TB SSD, Handy said, because it may take too long to read the entire contents of the device.

"At the product's 1,200 MB per second sequential read speed, it would take three and three quarter hours to read the whole thing," he said. "This is an example of the interface putting a big bottleneck on the bandwidth of the 512 flash chips inside the package."

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