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Intel & Micron launch super-fast NAND flash

Mass production due in the summer

Intel and Micron Technology have launched high-speed NAND flash memory technology that they said offers data transfer speeds that are five times faster than conventional NAND technology. IM Flash Technologies, a joint venture of Micron and Intel, developed the new technology.

Simply called high-speed NAND, the 8GB single-level cell memory technology is currently being tested by OEMs and controller manufacturers, said Micron. The company expects to begin mass production of high-speed NAND technology by this summer, said Bill Lauer, senior director of marketing for Boise, Idaho-based Micron's memory group.

The technology should enable accelerated download rates and quicker information access across enterprise hardware systems, applications, video and mobile devices, said Lauer.

He added that Micron plans to incorporate the fast-moving memory into its RealSSD family of solid-state drive products that was unveiled in November. He suggested that the high-speed NAND technology could boost speeds for nascent hybrid hard drives, which combine spinning disk and flash memory, by up to four times faster than traditional spinning hard drives.

Intel officials could not be immediately reached for comment regarding its product and development plans for high-speed NAND.

According to Micron, the new SLC high-speed NAND can race up to 200MBps for reading data and 100MBps for writing data using the Open NAND Flash Interface working group's 2.0 standard and a four-plane architecture running greater clock speeds. For comparison, Lauer noted that traditional SLC-based NAND is restricted to achieving speeds of just 40MBps to read data and up to 20MBps to write data.

"[NAND manufacturers are] focused on pushing [storage] density. Density's great, but from a usage perspective, we thought speed was the area that could really benefit from the most [architecture] improvement," remarked Lauer.

Micron plans to use its high-speed NAND to augment speeds of interface standards such as PCI Express and USB 3.0, which is still in development. The company also said it will construct a multilevel cell version of its technology in the next year.

Joe Unsworth, an analyst at Gartner, said Intel and Micron's high-speed NAND should help boost adoption of flash memory technology among users looking for stronger performance.

He said that because of cost issues, the new high-speed technology probably won't "catch fire" and quickly be used in USB drives and flash memory cards. Unsworth contended that prices for flash-based solid-state storage must drop before it can present a strong challenge to hard disks.

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