Did you blink? You may have missed the introduction of two important flash technologies into our industry. Here's a quick primer on them:
1. 3D NAND
Perhaps you've noticed that both new and existing storage vendors have stepped on the gas in releasing all-flash arrays since mid-2017. it seems as if everyone is hawking an all-flash array these days - even vendors that previously sung the praises of a hybrid technology.
This is due to the introduction of 3D NAND into the storage supply chain. Historically, flash chips were built with a planar design; that is, they were flat. Much like microprocessors and other computing technology, they dropped in price and increased in capacity on manufacturers' repeated innovate-and-shrink cycles.
With 3D NAND, manufacturers were able to build not just flat, but up. (Think of it as the difference between expanding the floor plan for a ranch house, versus being able to add stories on the house.) This innovation made flash economically accessible for manufacturers and thus customers with a lower cost-per-bit than planar design offered.
2. 3D XPoint
Just to confuse IT professionals, the industry also launched a technology called 3D Xpoint recently. It's unrelated to 3D NAND.
We've written about 3D Xpoint a few times on this blog, but as a quick refresher, it's an Intel technology available today as an enterprise SSD called Optane. It's designed to be faster than NAND and less expensive than DRAM, and our own internal tests confirm its performance as being between NAND and DRAM, closer to DRAM.
The specs for 3D XPoint are 500,000 IOPS for read and write, even at low queue depths, and under 500us latency, even at heavy load. These characteristics make it an ideal native candidate for a broader set of applications than traditional NAND.