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Samsung Expands 3D V-NAND TLC/MLC SSD Offerings

By - Source: Samsung

The move to more economical and efficient forms of data storage has been an overriding goal since the inception of the datacenter, and that trend continues as flash-based storage attempts to reach price parity with HDD storage. Bulk storage HDDs still enjoy a considerable pricing advantage over the flashy competition, but SSDs are approaching parity with the upper end of the performance HDD segment. Many of these competitively priced SSDs feature the SATA connection, but in hyperscale and hyperconverged architectures, the mission-critical SAS features aren't as important at the device level.

Samsung's 32-layer 3D TLC V-NAND SSDs are gaining quite a bit of attention lately with the announcement that Dell will be the first All-Flash Array vendor to implement TLC SSDs into its arrays. We first spotted these new SSDs, which expand upon Samsung's considerable 3D NAND market leadership, at CES 2015.

TLC SSDs trade a bit of endurance for the ability to provide much more density and lower cost. Samsung led the market with the first 2D (planar) TLC SSDs for enterprise applications in its PM853 series, but the read-centric SATA 6 Gbps PM863 ups the ante to include the first 3D TLC, which provides considerable density advantages. The SSD comes with a top capacity point of 3.84 TB in an industry-standard 2.5" form factor. The PM863 SSDs also come in 120, 240, 480, 960 GB and 1.92 TB capacities at impressively low price points ($0.57-per-GB for high capacity models).

The Samsung PM863 sports impressive performance features with 540/480 MBps of sequential read/write speed and 99,000/18,000 random read/write IOPS on tap. The most pressing concern with any variant of TLC NAND is its endurance metrics, but 3D NAND inherently offers better endurance characteristics than standard planar NAND.

Another key to increasing the endurance is simply by adding more capacity, which the SSD can use to boost both endurance and performance. The PM863's high capacity points enable up 5,600 TBW (Terabytes Written) during the three-year warranty period. This equates to a 1.3 DWPD (Drive Writes Per Day) rating for the 3.84 TB model, which is impressive in comparison to the typical 0.35 DWPD rating for other TLC products.

Samsung also announced its 6 Gbps SM863 for more intense mixed workloads. The SM863 improves upon the previous-generation Samsung enterprise SSDs, which utilized the first-generation 24-layer 3D V-NAND, to the 32-layer MLC 3D V-NAND. The SM863 comes in capacities of 120, 240, 480, 960 GB and 1.92 TB. The high-capacity 1.92 TB model offers a more robust endurance rating up to 12,320 TBW, which equates to 3.5 DWPD over the longer five-year warranty period. The SM863 offers sequential read/write speeds of 520/485 MBps and 97,000/29,000 random read/write IOPS. The endurant MLC NAND commands a higher price point of roughly $0.69 per GB, which is still very competitive with other top-flight 2D MLC offerings in its market segment.

Samsung optimized the new SSDs for datacenter workloads and to provide strict QoS (Quality of Service) tolerances. The SSDs include enterprise-class features such as power loss protection, a 2 million hour MTBF and broad compatibility with HBAs and RAID controllers.

The other NAND fabricators, such as IMFT (Intel/Micron), Flash Forward (Toshiba/SanDisk) and SK Hynix, are bringing 3D products to market, but they are still far on the horizon. Samsung is the only vendor with 3D NAND products already shipping, and the expansion to its 32-layer V-NAND into enterprise applications for both TLC and MLC flavors serves to widen the gulf between it and the rest of the market.

The latest Samsung 3D NAND SSDs are already available for enterprise applications and will be available for SMB purposes in early August 2015.

Paul Alcorn is a Contributing Editor for Tom's IT Pro, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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