Not All 3D is Created Equal

By Kevin Kilbuck - 2015-09-10

If you follow these things, then you know that 3D NAND has the industry buzzing.  Of course it does, because it’s our future.  It puts flash memory on an aggressive scaling curve, meaning we’ll achieve capacity points and cost per gigabyte reductions that enable new applications.  3D NAND also promises to “set the clock back” in terms of performance and reliability, since it uses more relaxed design rules (in the X-Y direction) than the planar NAND technology that is in wide use today.  So, is 3D NAND the greatest thing since sliced bread (without the empty carbs)?  Perhaps, but it won’t be an overnight transformation.  We must understand that not all 3D NAND technologies are the same — and how the various suppliers get there may vary greatly.

Here at Micron, we have a SOLID vision for where 3D NAND fits and a strategy for deploying it.  We see 3D NAND exactly as described above — providing cost, performance and reliability benefits that can be realized at the system level, enabling new applications for flash memory.  Micron’s first-generation 3D NAND with 32 tiers provides higher capacities (48GB on a single die) than other’s third-generation, 48-tier 3D NAND products.  In addition, we’re using proven floating gate technology to lessen the unknowns, which could yield benefits in deploying 3D NAND at the system level.  Other developers of 3D NAND are rumored to be struggling to yield cost benefits over today’s <20nm planar NAND. This could be attributed to attempting to deploy a new technology that utilizes an unproven architecture too early. 

You can think of 3D television as a good analogy.  Remember those first 3D TV sets?  You were lucky if you could watch them for more than 20 minutes without getting a headache — and that was while wearing those special glasses (just make sure they were scratch-free)!  It was quickly apparent that people aren’t willing to pay more money for something that did not provide an improved user experience.  Now that 3D TV is becoming more economical and the technology has improved to provide tangible end-user benefits, 3D television is becoming more mainstream.  3D NAND will follow a similar approach, and the good news is — we’re almost there!

So… get ready — 3D NAND is coming, and it’s going to be disruptive.  Everyone will see the benefits, whether in the form of much-improved local storage for your mobile devices or cloud and enterprise storage solutions that are faster, more reliable and greener.  While 3D NAND may not assist you in watching your 3D TV without wearing special glasses, it just may eliminate some headaches.

Kevin Kilbuck

Kevin Kilbuck

Kevin is Micron Technology's Director of NAND Marketing.