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The future of flash memory promises unprecedented speed, capacity

Robert Sheldon, SearchStorage, TechTarget 02 Apr 2020

NAND flash's future involves more layers and bits per cell. At the same time, NVMe-oF, storage class memory and other new technologies will fundamentally change memory and storage.

The future of 3D NAND

Many analysts believe vendors will keep adding layers to 3D NAND flash until it's no longer feasible. Already, 192-layer 3D NAND is expected by 2021 and 256-layer devices by 2022. Gregory Wong, president and principal analyst at Forward Insights, said he expects vendors will continue to increase the number of layers, as well as bit densities, while reducing overall costs. However, "adding layers requires ever-increasing Capex, higher process complexity and longer processing times," he said.

The future of QLC and PLC NAND

NAND flash's future inevitably revolves around the number of bits per cell. Over the past year, the use of quad-level cell (QLC) NAND, with four bits per cell, has focused primarily on PCs, but that's about to change, Wong said. "This year, we expect to see QLC drives for storage in hyperscale data centers and its introduction into enterprise storage systems." This certainly seems to be the case. More vendors than ever are talking about working on or producing QLC devices.

However, Wong said, it's becoming more difficult to scale bit density and reduce costs in flash devices. "Nevertheless, NAND flash memory will be around for a long time, as there's no technology on the horizon that can compete on a bit-density and cost basis."

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