SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A technologist from Sun Microsystems Inc. scolded the NAND flash industry, saying vendors are ignoring the needs of the enterprise and moving towards the ''lithography death march.''
Michael Cornwell, lead technologist for flash memory at Sun, was also critical of solid-state storage drives (SSDs) for servers, saying the emerging technology is still too expensive. He urged the industry to adopt or emulate Sun's NAND flash module strategy for high-end servers.
During a frank and sobering keynote address at the Flash Memory Summit here, he said NAND vendors are going down the wrong path by racing each other in process technology--at the expense of customer needs. Few sub-50-nm parts are suitable for the high-end computing or enterprise market, due to reliability and endurance issues, he said. So, OEMs like Sun are looking to devise flash-based systems using trailing-edge but more reliable NAND, but the trouble is that those type of parts are in short supply, he said.
''Most NAND guys are not addressing the needs for the enterprise market,'' he told EE Times after a keynote.
For years, NAND flash vendors have sold commodity parts for MP3 players, cell phones, flash cards, USB drives and other products. The latest application is the SSD, which is aimed for the consumer and enterprise markets.
A slew of vendors are pushing SSDs for both markets. SSDs compliment hard disk drives, but some believe that SSDs will displace magnetic media. The requirements for SSDs for the consumer and enterprise are different. The enterprise market requires reliable, high-endurance SSDs for mission-critical applications.
The consumer market is less stringent, where SSDs go into netbooks, and, to some degree, notebooks.
SSD vendors ''are doing well in the consumer space,'' but the high-end computer market is a different story, he said. ''The ASPs are too high. SSDs cost more than the systems they go into.''
For example, in magnetic media, a gigabyte sells for 25 cents. In comparison, 16-GB of flash sells for $30, he said. Besides that, NAND will have performance issues, as they higher ''latencies than hard drives for the next two generations,'' Cornwell added.