Samsung pulls sheets off 256TB SSD

Samsung made a splash at Flash Memory Summit (FMS) 2023 by highlighting advancements such as a 256TB SSD concept, a petabyte SSD architecture with Flexible Data Placement, SSD bandwidth management to address the “noisy neighbor” challenge, and the introduction of their new PCIe gen 5 SSD.

The annual event in Santa Clara serves as the prime venue for NAND, SSD hardware, software, and CXL suppliers to unveil their cutting-edge technologies. Consistent with its showing in 2022, Samsung once again dominated this year with a significant exhibition stand accompanied by multiple presentations.

The PM9D3a SSD, equipped with an 8-channel controller, is slated for release over the upcoming four quarters. It will offer capacities ranging from 3.84TB to 30.72TB, with various form factors, including 2.5 inches. Samsung informed attendees that the PM9D3a has a sequential read bandwidth up to 2.3 times superior to the existing PM9A3 with its PCIe gen 4 interface. This results in roughly double the random write IOPS.

The PM9A3 has a sequential read bandwidth reaching 6.95GBps. This suggests a groundbreaking 16GBps for the PM9D3a – a PCIe gen 5 SSD sequential read bandwidth previously unseen. For perspective, Fadu’s Echo achieves 14.6GBps, while Kioxia’s CM7-R reaches 14GBps.

While the PM9A3 achieves 200,000 random write IOPS (and 1.1 million random read IOPS), the PM9D3a is projected to deliver up to 400,000 random write IOPS, we’re told. Kioxia’s CM7-V and CD8P drives, both PCIe gen 5, achieve up to 600,000 and 400,000 IOPS, respectively. This puts Samsung’s 400,000 IOPS figure into a competitive context.

Samsung highlighted that the drive possesses telemetry capabilities, transmitting data back to the company throughout its lifecycle, aiding in troubleshooting, though this feature was introduced at the previous year’s FMS.

Samsung had previously touched upon its petabyte-scale architecture (PBSSD) at an OCP APAC tech day in Seoul. At FMS 2022, a 128TB QLC SSD was displayed, hinting at the progression towards the petabyte scale.

The architecture features Flexible Data Placement (FDP), which enables server hosts to manage data placement within the flash blocks of the drive. Data with specific attributes can be grouped together, enhancing the drive’s longevity by minimizing the write frequency, thus reducing write amplification. Samsung demonstrated this feature in collaboration with Meta using open source software.

Another feature of the PBSSD allows drives to regulate performance for each accessing virtual machine by setting traffic limits – dubbed Traffic Isolation. This ensures no single VM monopolizes the drive’s performance capabilities, ensuring balanced responsiveness.

As its latest marker on the road to a 1PB SSD, Samsung unveiled its 256TB drive concept using QLC (4bits/cell) NAND technology. Solidigm has been a prominent advocate for this format, evident from their recent 61.44TB D5-P5336 SSD. Samsung’s message is clear: they are in the race for the long haul. Impressively, their 256TB drive reportedly consumes seven times less power compared to the energy used by eight 32TB SSDs to achieve a combined 256TB.