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article imageSamsung unveils world's largest hard drive — 16TB super-fast SSD

By James Walker     Aug 13, 2015 in Technology
Samsung has created the world's highest-capacity hard drive, cramming 16TB of file storage space into a unit that fits into a 2.5-inch bay. Even more significant is that the drive is actually an SSD based around 3D NAND chips and not a hard drive at all.
SSD technology is becoming increasingly mainstream as prices fall and consumer drives become more popular. They are up to 100 times faster than a typical hard drive and contain no moving parts, making them both completely silent and more durable than their mechanical counter-parts.
Up until now, SSDs (solid state drives) have been hindered by two factors: cost and storage capacity. Just a year ago, a 120GB SSD would have cost more than a 1TB mechanical hard drive and in any case most SSD manufacturers do not produce drives with capacity over 1TB.
Traditionally, this is due to limitations surrounding the density of NAND flash chips required to achieve such a high storage capacity on a 2.5-inch solid state unit. Although work still needs to be done to level out the costs, Samsung today announced a breakthrough in the issue of capacity.
Ars Technica reports that the company unveiled a 16TB 2.5-inch SSD at the Flash Memory Summit in California. As covered by German news site, the drive is based around close to 500 new 256Gbit NAND flash dies. These dies are double the capacity of the 128Gbit units that were commercialised only last year, containing 48 layers of 3D V-NAND flash memory each.
The dies are built in-house by Samsung. The company has found great success with its range of in-house consumer SSDs, currently the 850 EVO and 850 Pro lines. The drives often exhibit performance as good as that of rivals costing two or three times as much as the relatively budget-friendly Samsung units.
The performance has been partly attributed to how every aspect of the drive is designed and built by Samsung without any outsourcing. Samsung engineers have designed and built it all, from the actual hardware to the firmware and software controlling it.
Samsung's SSDs are based around its 3D V-NAND technology which involves turning memory chips on their side so that they can be stacked up into dozens of layers. The "V" implies "vertical" while 3D indicates the layering of the flash storage. Arranging the chips in this way means that they can be stacked much closer to each other so more can be added, leading to increased memory density and ultimately increased storage capacity.
The new 16TB drive certainly won't be showing up in your computer anytime soon though. Samsung exhibited an experimental server equipped with 48 16TB SSDs at the Flash Memory Summit, giving it a total of 768TB of ultra-fast solid state storage. It is in environments like these that such high-capacity SSDs will be most useful.
Samsung's achievement is remarkable because it surpasses everything that has gone before it. While solid state drives still have a long way to go before they can achieve cost parity with mechanical hard disks, the prices are falling and the potential storage capacity has suddenly overtaken that of the ageing trustworthy media.
The mechanical drives built by renowned manufacturers like Western Digital and Seagate are only available in sizes up to around 10TB - 6TB less than the SSD which dramatically out-performs them in virtually every scenario.
Ars Technica notes how in 2013 - when SSDs were still comparatively rare even in enthusiast systems - only 24 NAND layers could be put onto one die. In 2014, it increased to 36. Today, Samsung announced 48 and next year it seems feasible that we will see 60, allowing for the creation of super-fast solid state drives to surpass any storage medium we have ever seen before.
More about Samsung, Ssd, hdd, Hard drive, solid state
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