Flash beats HDD areal density

flasherCoughlin Associates has said that NAND flash memory has surpassed hard disk drive (HDD) technology in areal density for the first time. Believe it or not.

The market researchers told the assorted throngs at the 2016 IEEE International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco that areal densities in its laboratories of up to 2.77Tbpsi for its 3D NAND. That compares with the densest HDDs of about 1.3Tbpsi.

Tom Coughlin, Coughlin Associates’ president, said that hard drive products from the third quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2015 had an increased areal density of about 60 per cent, So HDDs have not stopped evolving.

“On the other hand, flash memory is getting denser with technology announcements of 2.77Tbspi, higher than any announced HDD areal density. This is a new development. So flash is developing and certainly getting competitive in terms of areal storage density, but the chips are still more expensive to make than disks and the raw costs of storage will likely remain less for HDDs for some time to come.”

The highest areal density for today’s HDD products is about 1.3Tbpsi, according to Coughlin. Most HDD products, however, are well below that. For example, Seagate’s desktop hard drives have a maximum areal density of 850Gbpsi; those drives use shingled magnetic recording (SMR), which overlaps the magnetic tracks for greater density.

Samsung has already announced what would be industry-leading 15TB 2.5-in solid-state drives (SSDs) are already on the horizon.

However the price is not likely to reach parity with hard drives any time soon. The factories to build flash are still a lot more expensive to build than the hard drive factories, Coughlin said.

But Micron and Intel are opening new plants or are revamping older NAND facilities to increase their 3D production, which is driving prices down.