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Samsung, Sun develop NAND flash memory chip

Samsung this week unveiled a high-endurance 8GB single-level cell NAND flash memory chip, jointly developed with Sun Microsystems Inc., which can significantly boost the lifespan and performance of solid-state drives.

The new flash memory chip can increase data write and erase cycles by up to five times compared to standard server-grade SLC memory devices, noted Samsung officials in a statement. Typically, SLC NAND flash memory can last for 100K write/erase cycles before becoming unusable.

Product pricing and shipping dates for the new flash device were not disclosed. Samsung officials could not be reached for comment on the announcement.

Graham Lovell, Sun's senior director of Open Storage, confirmed that Sun jointly developed the SLC NAND flash memory technology but declined to discuss technical details of the chip or its launch timeframe. "It's their device, not ours," he said. He declined to disclose whether Sun plans to sell the jointly developed product.

Lovell did confirm that Sun has worked with Samsung over the past few months to make sure that the new flash memory chip can meet the high-transaction demands of corporate IT environments. He noted the new flash device is compatible with Sun's server and storage products. Sun also plans to unveil its own solid state technology later this year

Lovell said that Samsung expects the new chip will be used for high-end data processing applications, data intensive server operations and storage applications. Analysts have predicted that corporate customers will soon begin evaluating solid-state storage technology as an alternative to over traditional spinning drives.

Jeff Janukowicz, an analyst for market research firm IDC, admitted prices for solid-state drives are still "relatively high" compared to physical drives. That chasm, he noted, serves as the main hindrance adoption in corporate IT shops.

Janukowicz said Samsung's decision to focus on the problem of write/erase endurance of NAND in solid-state disks, and to partner with Sun could set the stage for similar industry partnerships, could mark the start of more widespread efforts to convince IT of the benefits of diskless storage systems.