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All-flash array maker Kaminario plans TLC flash in arrays

All-flash array pioneer Kaminario says software smarts can overcome limits of TLC flash storage to allow it to offer all-TLC and mixed MLC/TLC arrays

All-flash array pioneer Kaminario has imminent plans to announce storage products with triple level cell (TLC) flash drives, the chief technology officer Shachar Fienblit told Computer Weekly.

The main advantage will be a low cost for the customer, said Fienblit, as TLC packs more data into the same footprint as MLC flash, which is the current de facto standard.

Fienblit said the company would announce all-TLC and mixed MLC/TLC flash products, in 2015, “not too far from now”.

According to him, the use of TLC flash would allow more customers to use flash because it would become more affordable.

“We will announce a price point significantly better than any of the competition. In 2014, we were able to achieve $2/GB – with TLC that will improve significantly,” he said.

All flash storage is based on the use of cells in which data is stored by electrical switching between 1s and 0s. In single level cell (SLC) flash there is, as the name suggests, only one switch and two states, 0 or 1.

In multi-level cell (MLC) two switches provide four possible states, while in TLC there are three states, which increases the amount of data one cell can hold to eight possibilities.

Read more about flash storage

The downside to this is that to write to flash requires a process that entails copying all data in a page or block made of many cells into cache, updating it, erasing the existing block and replacing it with the updated information.

Not only does this take time and central processing unit cycles, but also contributes to wear in the flash chip – something that will continue as cell complexity increases.

For this reason, Fienblit said the company plans to use TLC aimed at datacentre use from the likes of Samsung and Micron, and that Kaminario's Spear operating system will help optimise flash workloads.

“There has been work to optimise writes to TLC and organise it so we can gain the value of flash without forcing the customer to use more. There’s a very minimal difference between MLC and TLC with smart software on top so it is not writing randomly, so for us it is the same,” he said. 

Read more on Flash storage and solid-state drives (SSDs)

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