A new player has emerged in the persistent storage market, thanks to Kioxia (formerly Toshiba) and Western Digital, and may prompt Intel and Samsung to improve their own solutions. Intel Optane technology is currently leading the way, and Samsung’s Z-NAND has not been able to shake things up so far, but Kioxia and Western Digital are working to create an alternative XL-FLASH that meets the growing storage needs of enterprise customers and data centers.
In essence, XL-FLASH is similar to Optane, which is located between NAND and RAM in the memory hierarchy diagram, combining the benefits of these two technologies to balance cost and performance. This can be used for cache and pure storage devices, but a more important feature of XL-FLASH is that it is designed to be compatible with both Intel and AMD platforms.
Optane is a bit too expensive than flash-based storage, as is Samsung’s Z-NAND, which is actually a low-latency SLC NAND storage that offers better durability, power efficiency, sequential performance and game load performance than Optane. Both are still several times more expensive than NAND-based solutions.
This is also an area that Kioxia and Western Digital considered when designing XL-FLASH. The two companies use BiCS FLASH 3D flash memory as a starting point for new technologies, which means they can achieve relatively low costs compared to Optane and DRAM. They stack storage units on 16 planes for higher density, while simplified structures result in read delays of about 5 microseconds and programming delays of about 7 microseconds.
Kioxia and Western Digital want to use XL-FLASH as their high-density QLC NAND SSD SLC first, but they are also exploring new storage technologies and DIMM solutions for the MLC version. Eventually we can purchase a consumer XL-FLASH SSD for gaming and workstation PCs.