Not a fan of NAND
Another problem is that NAND flash prices continue to rise. And the surge in prices for NAND-flash memory has diminished the market for SSD technology for notebook PCs in 2009, according to iSuppli Corp. In other words, higher priced NAND makes SSDs prohibitively expensive.
This in turn is creating tension in the supply chain. On one hand, NAND vendors are aggressively looking to sell their parts to the SSD vendors. But on the other hand, the SSD vendors want lower NAND prices for their systems.
NAND vendors are balking for good reason. Amid the memory downturn, vendors want to keep their margins up in an effort to slow a trend of losses. SSDs ''are a little expensive,'' said Alan Niebel, CEO of WebFeet Research. ''The problem is that NAND vendors have to maintain their prices.''
According to Cornwell, there is another problem: Besides cost, NAND vendors are chasing Moore's Law at the expense of the needs of the enterprise market. Intel, Micron, Samsung and Toshiba are racing each other for process-technology leadership in NAND. The leading-edge devices are at the 3x-nm node right now.
''Very few sub-50-nm designs are capable of supporting enterprise applications'' due to reliability and endurance issues of those parts, he said. ''No one is shipping (sub-50-nm parts) for the enterprise.''
Many of those parts are going for consumer SSDs. There is an exception to the rule. One NAND vendor is building a specialized sub-50-nm flash part for Sun that is said to be more reliable than commodity devices.
For the enterprise, OEMs are clamoring for more reliable 63- and 59-nm NAND parts--both of which are in short supply, he said. NAND vendors, of course, would rather fill their fabs with higher-margin, leading-edge parts than trailing-edge devices, it was noted.
In any case, Sun is pushing flash. In fact, it is going two routes with flash. In March, Sun announced the next step in its end-to-end enterprise flash strategy with the availability of SSD flash technology in its x64, chip multi-threaded rack and blade systems.
At the time, Sun also developed a new Open Flash Module. The previously-announced OFM is the size of a memory card. The smallest capacity for the drives would be 24 GB. Sun's new module is an enterprise-quality, open-standard flash design. Built to an industry-standard JEDEC form factor, the module is being made available to developers. The module delivers unprecedented I/O performance, saves on power, space, and cooling, and will enable new levels of server optimization and datacenter efficiencies.
The module uses low-defect NAND from Samsung and a controller from Marvell. Sun is pushing the module to other OEMs at no charge, according to the firm.