While today's Intel event was mostly focused on the announcement of their Optane DIMMs, they have also provided updates on their plans for using their new QLC NAND flash memory. Intel and Micron jointly announced their 64-layer 4 bit per cell (QLC) 3D NAND flash memory earlier this month, but at that time only Micron announced a specific product: the 5210 ION enterprise SATA SSD. Intel still hasn't officially launched any QLC-based SSDs, but they have now confirmed two different QLC SSDs in development.

For the client market, Intel will introduce a QLC-based SSD in the second half of this year. While still officially unnamed, we expect this to be the Intel SSD 660p that has shown up on several leaked roadmaps and a few unofficial online retailer product listings. Those leaks point to a low-end M.2 SSD with a PCIe x2 interface and capacities up to 2TB.

On the enterprise side, Intel has put up to 20TB of QLC NAND into a 2.5-inch drive. During today's discussions about Optane at Intel HQ, one of Intel's partners accidentally disclosed that they were working with 20 TB sized QLC drives in a 2.5-inch form factor - this is most likely a 15mm thick U.2 NVMe SSD. That would be positioned below the Intel SSD DC P4510 TLC-based SSD family that currently offers up to 8TB in a 2.5" 15mm U.2 form factor. Intel is currently sampling enterprise QLC drives to select cloud service providers and OEMs, and production availability is planned for the second half of this year. It is not confirmed whether the 20TB capacity will be available for that initial launch, but it seems likely. Even higher capacities may be available in Intel's Ruler form factor.

At the event, Intel was presenting with a laptop using a QLC, so there are engineering samples around. We were unable to determine if this was a 2.5-inch drive or an M.2 drive.

Intel is currently manufacturing all of their 3D NAND at Fab 68 in Dalian, China. A major expansion to this fab is coming online soon that will increase its capacity by 75%. The joint Intel/Micron Fab 2 in Utah is no longer producing 3D NAND and has been converted entirely to producing 3D XPoint memory. With Intel and Micron's NAND flash partnership coming to an end as Micron prepares to switch to a charge-trap memory cell design after the 96-layer generation, the IM Flash Technologies joint venture could use a renaming to reflect its 3D XPoint future.

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  • DanNeely - Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - link

    True. It's not a single point, but comparing capacities where one side is well below the minimum economical threshold doesn't say anything about long term trends in the rest of the market.

    120GB SSDs being price competitive with minimum commercial price HDDs is significant only in that it's the first capacity large enough to be reasonable as a sole drive for large numbers of laptop users (32 is problematic from a Windows update perspective, and 64 doesn't leave much room to use more than a browser before ending up in the same danger zone).

    It's impact over the last 2-3 years has been to take a big bite out of the volume of HDD manufacturing. It's impact on the industries financial health as a whole is a lot more muted because the profit margins in those drives have always been minuscule.
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, June 2, 2018 - link

    Cheapest 120 GB SSD is at 27€:
    Cheapest HDD starting from 80 GB is a 160 GB one for 17€:
    Or 320 GB at 18€, 500 GB at 20€ or 1 TB at 30€.

    The SSD is definitely not cheaper yet. What's true, though, is that both are pretty cheap and a small portion of the total system price.
  • xTRICKYxx - Sunday, July 8, 2018 - link

    USA has far cheaper prices. :(
  • HStewart - Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - link

    There is no logically reason for using hard disk now - unless you want to used existing storage - or need extreme amount store that SSD would be too expensive.

    I am not sure you can get hard drive as large as 20T
  • boozed - Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - link

    To be fair, you can't get an SSD as large as 20TB either; this is an announcement of an enterprise product without a confirmed launch date. It'll also be a while before this kind of thing hits the consumer level. You can get a 12TB HDD today, if you like.

    Two 4TB HDDs in a RAID-1 cost about 15% as much as a 4TB SSD. I don't know if I'd call 4TB "extreme"...
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, May 31, 2018 - link

    There is a 15TB 2.5" 15mm SSD from Samsung and there are build-to-order manufacturers of SSDs that will supply you with tens of TB of SSD space on one SSD, though that is usually a PCIe arrangetment. :) I think for the time being I will still add a 5TB HDD or two to my file server before I'll make the switch to SSDs (in maybe 5 or 10 years I'd guess?). :D
  • Samus - Thursday, May 31, 2018 - link

    By the time this comes to market at a reasonable price we will have relatively inexpensive 40TB hard drives transferring sustained 1GB/sec.
  • Spunjji - Thursday, May 31, 2018 - link

    I'll take that bet!
  • trparky - Thursday, May 31, 2018 - link

    It's not sustained performance that makes SSDs better over traditional hard drives, it's the random I/O that makes SSD superior. The ability to go to any NAND chip and grab random bits of data is what makes SSD so much better and is what makes boot your system so much faster.
  • Dragonstongue - Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - link

    I personally would <3 to see 500-1TB SSD priced max (include ship and tax) in Canada for $150-$200 instead of the current ~$235-$380 range (plus ship and tax usually)

    I like the sata format as it is plenty fast enough for my needs, compared to spinning rust, am sure NVME is "good" in its own way, but, not all MOBO can use these as "plug and play" and of course potential throttle from heat issues etc, standard sata SSD may not be jet fighter speed, but hell it is still race car level (at a reasonable price currently compared to NVME m.2/u.2 or whatever)

    give me a 1tb $200 (ship and tax) with say 560+540+ read/write 300+ TBW (endurance) with decently quick latency numbers. ^.^ (crucial MX500 is CLOSE but not quite there ~$100 less and would be magic ticket)

    QLC might make it "lower cost to produce" but potential data retention/corruption, latency and other issues may not be a good thing........am sure we shall see soon enough how the "rubber meets the road" instead of just being marking BS o.O

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