Flash Memory Summing is next week and we've been busy. This week we've taken a call with every NAND flash and controller manufacturer and have the skinny on just about everything to expect. Look for video interviews and booth tours, as well as a special all-flash SAN review (my first, I'm kind of excited) starting Tuesday. Before we leave for San Jose, we have something special to cover first - a world exclusive look at Phison's new S10 SSD controller.
The Phison S10 is a premium quad-core SATA controller designed for use with MLC and TLC (3-bit MLC) NAND flash. For years, we've tested products with MLC flash from a number of fabs, but Samsung is the only company with TLC shipping in volume. That's about to change. In Q4, Toshiba TLC will blaze to market like a horse with its tail on fire. Early projections show TLC will dominate the mainstream SSD market by late 2015, displacing a number of consumer MLC drives.
The market wants SSDs, but it doesn't want to pay a high price for them. TLC NAND flash will lower the cost of consumer SSDs, maybe by as much as 50% by 2016. At that point, we're talking about 25 cents per gigabyte, potentially a 512GB SSD for less than $130.
On the surface, it sounds all warm and cuddly, but 3-bit per cell flash also introduces tough challenges for controller makers. With PE cycles ranging from 1,000 to 1,500, controller makers need strong ECC methods to get 3,000+ write cycles from SSD grade TLC flash. That means controllers need to be high performance with multi cores just to play with TLC.
The side effect is controller makers that would normally build products for the mainstream SSDs will now make mainstream controller for TLC and have a performance part ready for use with MLC. Enter the new Phison S10 that we have on hand today.