Intel, Micron build 32 gigabit NAND flash memory chip

Samples of 34-nanometer flash technology will ship in June, with production set by year's end

Intel and Micron Technology are set to unveil a jointly developed 34-nanometer, 32-gigabit NAND flash memory chip that should enable the production of cheaper solid-state drives with larger storage capacity.

Measuring less than the size of a thumbnail, the new flash chips will be manufactured on 300-millimeter wafers and will provide approximately 1.6TB of NAND per device. Intel officials claim the chip is the smallest NAND process device currently available and will pave the way for cost-effective, high-density solid-state storage for small devices.

Samples of the technology will be delivered to manufacturers in June, with mass production to occur in the second half of 2008.

The multilevel cell chip was created and manufactured by IM Flash Technologies, a joint venture of Micron and Intel. In February, the partnering vendors introduced their high-speed NAND technology, which they said offers data-transfer speeds that are five times faster than conventional NAND technology. The NAND chip is slated to ship this summer.

Intel and Micron said the joint operation plans to roll out lower-density multilevel cell products, including single-level cell devices, by the end of 2008.

According to Intel, a single 32-gigabit chip featuring its new NAND flash architecture is capable of storing over 2,000 high-resolution digital photos or 1,000 MP3 songs on a personal music device.

Pete Hanzen, director of marketing for the NAND Products Group at Intel, said the company plans to use the new chip in future products, but declined to be specific. In March, Intel confirmed plans to roll out 1.8-in. and 2.5-in. solid-state drives for laptop and notebook PCs featuring storage capacities between 80GB and 160GB sometime in mid-2008.

In product form, the new 34-nanometer NAND technology would "instantly" double the current 256GB storage capacity of solid-state drives, said officials. Just this week, Samsung Electronics unveiled a 256GB solid-state disk drive that will be shipped with laptop computers later this year.

Analysts have predicted that corporate adoption of solid-state technology will start to gain steam over the coming months as prices for the diskless technology declines. Despite obvious power-consumption benefits and faster speeds over traditional spinning hard disk drives, some doubts have been raised over performance failures and reliability issues of flash drives.

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Brian Fonseca

Computerworld
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