Western Digital announced this week that it has started shipments of its first products based on 3D QLC NAND memory. The initial devices to use the highly-dense flash memory are retail products (e.g., memory cards, USB flash drives, etc.) as well as external SSDs. Eventually, high-density 3D QLC NAND devices will be used to build high-capacity SSDs that will compete against nearline hard drives.

During Western Digital's quarterly earnings conference call earlier this week, Mike Cardano, president and COO of the company, said that in the third quarter of calendar 2019 (Q1 FY2020) the manufacturer “began shipping 96-layer 3D QLC-based retail products and external SSDs.” The executive did not elaborate which product lines now use 3D QLC NAND, though typically we see higher capacity NAND first introduced in products such as high-capacity memory cards and external drives.

Western Digital and its partner Toshiba Memory (now called Kioxia) were among the first companies to develop 64-layer 768 Gb 3D QLC NAND back in mid-2017 and even started sampling of these devices back then, but WD/Toshiba opted not to mass produce the NAND. Meanwhile, in mid-2018, Western Digital introduced its 96-layer 1.33 Tb 3D QLC NAND devices that could either enable to build storage products with considerably higher capacities, or cut costs of drives when compared to 3D TLC-based solutions.

At present, Western Digital’s 1.33 Tb 3D QLC NAND devices are the industry’s highest-capacity commercial NAND chips, so from this standpoint the company is ahead of its rivals. But while it makes a great sense to use 1.33 Tb 3D QLC NAND for advanced consumer storage devices, these memory chips were developed primarily for ultra-high-capacity SSDs that could rival nearline HDDs for certain applications.

It is hard to say when Western Digital commercializes such drives as the company is only starting to qualify 96-layer 3D QLC NAND for SSDs, but it will definitely be interesting to see which capacity points will be hit with the said memory.

On a related note, Western Digital also said that in Q3 2019 (Q1 FY2020), bit production of 96-layer 3D NAND exceeded bit production of 64-layer 3D NAND.

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Source: Western Digital


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  • Great_Scott - Monday, November 4, 2019 - link

    SSD endurance isn't the core issue here. Controller failure is very common, and in that case you lose all data with no chance for recovery.

    HDDs both tend to fail less often and give warning signs before they go, and when they do low-level data recovery is often possible.
  • PeachNCream - Friday, November 1, 2019 - link

    That's my concern as well. It's hard to find reliable information about how long a QLC-based storage device will retain data in an unpowered state. My backup needs are modest enough that a 1TB 2.5" HDD in an external case is good enough to keep a cold copy of everything I care about (actually using less than 200GB of it in total at the moment). While I like the durability of NAND from a shock and vibration tolerance perspective AND responsiveness without noise is nice too, speed isn't that critical in my backups since I have to push everything over USB (2.0 in the case of my oldest laptop) so a hard drive that sits in a drawer for half a year at a time seems like a better option. WIth that said, USB flash drives are selling as backup devices and lots of people buy and use them without problems. During the back-to-school shopping at Walmart, my local store had 64GB USB drives available at less than $8 USD. I picked one up and although it's really slow, it has been working since late August with no problems and I've been using it regularly to sneaker net stuff between computers.'s
  • Scipio Africanus - Monday, November 4, 2019 - link

    For cold storage needs, just go HDD honestly. There's no point is an SSD as you can read from above comments.
  • MenhirMike - Friday, November 1, 2019 - link

    I feel that SSDs have been stagnant for a while - 1 TB seems to be at $100 since seemingly forever, and while we got some nice speed improvements on the higher end NVMe drives, I'd like to see some archival/storage drives with high capacity and low price, even if their performance stays at current entry-level SSDs like the Crucial MX500's (SATA) or Intel 660p (NVMe).
  • bronan - Sunday, November 3, 2019 - link

    I agree that prices of ssd still are stagnant, if i look at what we can buy now for a little less i am not impressed. I was hoping to see the large size enterprise ssd products would start dripping into the consumer market. But untill now its hardly any real progress. True i can get a 1 Tb drive now, but the larger ones are still insanely priced and often only enterprise products with no consumer support or warranty. That does not say i can't use them but i would have suspected the market could have been invaded by larger drives already.
    I do however have other opinions about ssd drives regarding long time storage on them.
    Yesterday i started to check the data i put on 10 ssd which some of time had been written to for over ten years ago. They have not been used by me in all that time. After i saw similar threads about they would loose data after a certain period of time. I was curious to see if the drives would have lost the data and how much i could not recover. The result is stunning .... only one of them lost its data. And was being considered not being formatted, ofcourse it was all old useless data but still was a fine test to see how long ssd can keep data on them. Sadly i do not have more of these old enterprise mlc ssd to make a even larger test. Because i would like to see what happens if they are kept even longer so what happens when you store data on them and how long it will take before data gets lost for real. This far 9 out of 10 having all data on the drive for minimal 5 up to 10 year is very good. So how is it possible that these ssd still have the data on them. And did i check them in those 10 year ( yes/no) it would be a very helpfull test
  • shompa - Thursday, November 7, 2019 - link

    "faster" SSDs is held back by Intels 16 PCI lanes. Every single home intel since 2015 have 16 PCI lanes for graphics and DMI link at 3.8GB/s to the motherboards "fake" PCI lines. PCIe3x4 is 3.8 GB/s and thats why SSDs have been limited to that speed since 2015. And you cant install 2 NVme SSD without sharing bandwith with every single other bus on the PC. That's why slow SATA3 SSDs are at the same price as NVmeSSDs. I dont understand why my Zxxx intel motherboard has 7 PCI slots when 6 of them share 3.8GB/s bandwidth. AMD is a bit better with 24 PCI lanes. With Ryzen3 + X570 16 for graphics and 2x4 for NVme SSD. And here you can get faster SSD because of 8GB/s bandwidth PCI express4. Why cant AMD make a consumer chipset with more PCI lanes? They are starting to act evil since if I want more PCI lanes and PCI express4: I am forced to buy a minimum 24 core AMD. I just want a motherboard that supports a couple of PCI cars + minimum 4 NVme SSDs with full bandwidth. Today we are forced to Cascade lake or Threadripper. Just to segment the market and bleed people who uses computers to other stuff than gaming and prom.
  • rahvin - Saturday, November 2, 2019 - link

    Won't you be surprised when NAND prices triple like DRAM did beacuse the current oversupply has already been corrected with line shutdowns and investments halted and as soon as the excess clears out there will be a strong price reboumd, just like DRAM did 3 years ago when they fixed their supply issue.

    The prices you see right now are an aberation due to mispredicting market growth, 6 months ago there was story after story about NAND producers halting investment and shuttting down nand production lines. Hell samsung alone shut down 3 factories.

    If you want cheap drives buy them now, by Jan the prices will be going up as Christmas is likely to clear out excess stock thats depressed prices. I'd expect with the reduced production capacity prices will at least tripple just like dram did.
  • bill.rookard - Monday, November 4, 2019 - link

    I just want to know when I can get my 6-8TB SSD for $200. I'd love to replace my mediaserver NAS drives with something more robust. And to be honest, situations like that are ideal (write once read many) since you're just looking to store files for long times and read them.
  • naryfa - Thursday, November 7, 2019 - link

    I don't know... Is it only me? I still try to buy MLC drives whenever I can. When I see QLC it just bothers my lower intestines.

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