OCZ to Launch SSDs with TLC NAND, Slashing Price, Durability

OCZ acquired the SSD controller manufacturer Indilinx earlier this year–perhaps in a bid to loosen its ties to SandForce while increasing the profit margins at the same time. In any event, the first product bearing the “Indilinx Infused” tagline, the OCZ Octane, was recently announced. Among other things, the new and improved Indilinx controller is capable of handling up to 1TB of NAND circuitry and seems to deliver good performance in the SATA III version, which is equipped with 25nm synchronous MLC NAND.

The Indilinx controller is also capable of managing TLC NAND, and OCZ has apparently decided to start shipping SSDs with this cheaper memory type. TLC is normally used in memory cards and other low-end solid state storage formats. Although TLC NAND is 30% cheaper, it is much less durable than any other memory type on the market.

In short, the most expensive SLC (single-level cell) memory type stores one bit per cell, whereas MLC stores two. One of the consequences is that SLC-based drives are capable of about 100,000 write cycles on average, whereas the latest 25nm MLC-based drives can manage 3,000 before it reaches the end of its useful life. To counter this problem, wear-leveling algorithms, error-correcting code, and over-provisioning are employed in current consumer SSDs.

TLC NAND stores 3 bits of data in each memory cell and wears out after only 1,000 write cycles. Other than the negative effect on durability, the performance also takes a hit. The plan for TLC NAND is to use even better ECC (error-correcting code) with help from Indilinx nDurance technology to increase the memory cells’ durability, and also to counter performance losses when the SSD starts to fill up with data.

OCZ claims that its TLC-based SSDs should have a life span of “at least four years.” The company will likely be the first manufacturer on the market with TLC NAND SSDs and the drives will be pushed to OEMs who are looking for a cheaper option, but they are also expected to reach the consumer market in one form or another in the first quarter of 2012. OCZ will also make a move on the enterprise market with TLC NAND in Q3 next year.

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