WD keeps fast flash Optane substitute in the wings

Western Digital is developing lower latency flash drives that are faster and more expensive than ordinary 3D NAND but slower and cheaper than DRAM.

The technology addresses the same market niche as Intel’s Optane 3D XPoint and Samsung’s Z-SSD i.e. applications that need more speed but not at DRAM prices.

At the Storage Field Day 18 event on February 28, 2019 Western Digital discussed a new low-latency flash (LLF) technology positioned between 3D NAND SSDs and DRAM in terms of access latency.

Video grab showing WD VP Luca Fasoli standing by a model of WD’s 96-layer 3D NAND die.

WD presenter Luca Fasoli, VP for memory product solutions, said: “We can actually create customised devices that are very fast…They are in the microsecond range of access time.” He showed a chart positioning such a technology.

The new technology would be a tenth of DRAM cost but 3x more than 3D NAND, if we read the chart right. This LLF technology would also have cost reductions in the future on the NAND curve and not the less steep DRAM curve.

Low latency flash (LLF) will be faster than 3D NAND but slower than DRAM, Fasoli showed another chart to depict this.

There could be a range of LLF products and Fasoli said WD would introduce LLF product when it thinks the time is right. Whether it will introduce drive or NVDIMM format products remains to be seen.

Fasoli’s presentation is available here.