What’s In My SSD? SLC, MLC, or TLC?

SLC, MLC, or TLC?Someone recently asked The SSD Guy if there is a way to determine whether an SSD is SLC, MLC, eMLC or TLC.

I found it a little odd to be asked this, since most vendors tell what kind of flash they use in an SSD’s specifications, especially if it’s SLC.

Not finding it there then the next thing I would look at is the price.  Raw SLC NAND flash now sells for about 6-10 times as much as its MLC counterpart, so an SSD with a price of around $1/GB is likely to be MLC and one that sells for around $10/GB is probably SLC.

TLC SSDs are really rare.  There is the Continue reading

Comparing Samsung’s Planar and V-NAND SSDs

Samsung 3D V-NAND Press PhotoSamsung recently introduced  its 3D V-NAND-based 850 SSD which, according to The Tech Report, uses the same MEX controller as the company’s 3-bit planar SSD, the 840, introduced last year.

Samsung said in its keynote speech at the 2013 Flash Memory Summit that V-NAND consumes an average of 27% less power and runs at least 20% faster than its planar counterpart in an SSD application, all while providing ten times the endurance.  It’s only natural to assume that this would allow designers to produce a V-NAND SSD that would significantly outperform its planar NAND counterpart.

The SSD Guy had an opportunity to review Continue reading

How Controllers Maximize SSD Life – Internal NAND Management

Tempus FugitGiven that you have used all those other forms of improving SSD wear that we have discussed so far, but you still don’t find that this is enough, what do you do next?  Well a few SSD controllers go one step further and manage some of the inner workings of the NAND flash chip itself.

If that sounds like a significant undertaking to you, then you clearly understand why so very few controllers take this approach.  The information used to perform this function is not generally available – it takes a special relationship with the NAND flash supplier – and you can’t develop this relationship unless the NAND supplier Continue reading

How Controllers Maximize SSD Life – Feedback on Block Wear

Tempus FugitOne way that SSD controllers maximize the life of an SSD is to use feedback on the life of flash blocks to determine how wear has impacted them.  Although this used to be very uncommon, it is now being incorporated into a number of controllers.

Here’s what this is all about: Everybody knows that endurance specifications tell how much life there is in a block, right?  For SLC it is typically 100,000 erase/write cycles, and for MLC it can be as high as 10,000 cycles (for older processes) but goes down to 5,000 or even 3,000 for newer processes.  TLC endurance can be in the hundreds of cycles.  Now the question is: “What happens after that?”

In most cases individual bits start to Continue reading

How Controllers Maximize SSD Life – Over Provisioning

Tempus FugitOver provisioning is one of the most common ways that SSD designers can help assure that an SSD has a longer life than the flash’s endurance rating would support.  If an SSD contains more flash than is presented at its interface, the controller can manage wear across a larger number of blocks while at the same time accelerating disk performance by moving slow operations like block erases out of the way of the SSD’s key functions.

Many people like to compare wear leveling to rotating a car’s tires.  In this vein, think of over provisioning as having a bunch of spare Continue reading

How Controllers Maximize SSD Life – Reduced Write Amplification

Tempus FugitWrite amplification plays a critical role in maximizing an SSD’s usable life.  The lower the write amplification, the longer the SSD will last.  SSD architects pay special attention to this aspect of controller design.

Unlike the other factors described in this series this is not a technique that extends flash life beyond the 10,000 erase/write cycles that one would normally expect to result in a failure, but it is very important to SSD longevity.

Write Amplification is sufficiently complex that I won’t try to define it in this post, but Continue reading

How Controllers Maximize SSD Life – Other Error Management

Tempus FugitThere are more advanced means than simple error correction to help remove bit errors in NAND flash and those will be the subject of this post.  The general term for this approach is “DSP” although it seems to have very little to do with the kind of DSP algorithm used to perform filtering or build modem chips.

While ECC corrects errors without knowing how they got there, DSP helps to correct any of the more predictable errors that are caused by internal error mechanisms that are inherent to the design of the chip.  A prime example of such an error would be adjacent cell disturb.

Here’s a brief explanation of Continue reading

How Controllers Maximize SSD Life – Improved ECC

Tempus FugitError correction (ECC) can have a very big impact on the longevity of an SSD, although few understand how such a standard item can make much difference to an SSD’s life.  The SSD Guy will try to explain it in relatively simple terms here.

All NAND flash requires ECC to correct random bit errors (“soft” errors.)  This is because the inside of a NAND chip is very noisy and the signal levels of bits passed through a NAND string are very weak.  One of the ways that NAND has been able to become the cheapest of all memories is by requiring error correction external to the chip.

This same error correction also helps to correct bit errors due to wear.  Wear can cause bits to become stuck in one state or the other (a “hard” error), and it can increase the frequency of soft errors.

Although it is not widely Continue reading

How Controllers Maximize SSD Life – External Data Buffering

Tempus FugitSince NAND flash is weakened by erase/write cycles then it would make sense to try to reduce those cycles to prolong the life of an SSD right?  That’s what external data buffers are designed to do.

There are many ways to use RAM (either a RAM internal to the SSD controller chip or a discrete DRAM chip on the SSD’s printed circuit card) to stage data in a way that will reduce erase/write cycles.

One is to perform a function called “Write Coalescing.”  This involves Continue reading

Samsung Introduces TLC SSD

This Graphic Illustrates the Challenge of TLC FlashSamsung on Monday introduced a new “840” SSD series which reviewers have found is based on TLC flash.

Oddly enough the press release for this product seems only to have been distributed in Korea to reviewers who attended a special introduction of the device.  The SSD Guy has not been given the specifications presented at the event, and had to ask Samsung for a copy of the press release.

The press release focuses on the product’s 100,000 read IOPS, that it comes in two versions, the “Pro” model for the enterprise and another model for client applications, and the fact that the controller uses a new design based on three ARM cores. A read IOPS figure of 100,000 is very high performance for a SATA drive!  One has to wonder if the client market will be able to distinguish between this level of performance and drives with fewer than 10,000 IOPS.

Other specifications Continue reading


Jim Handy
Objective Analysis
SSD Market Research
+1 (408) 356-2549
Jim.Handy (at)

Translate to:

Website Translation GTS Translation