The FTC was investigating the world’s four largest manufacturers of NAND flash memory: two in South Korea, one in Japan, and one in the United States. The four companies investigated are unnamed in the report, leaving us to wonder who they are. The report, however, does tell us the world’s four largest NAND flash memory manufacturers are Samsung and Hynix (in South Korea), Toshiba (in Japan), and SanDisk (in the United States). Perhaps it’s not such a mystery after all.
NAND flash memory, which is cheap to produce, is used in digital music players, digital campers, USB memory sticks, and the like. An over-production in the latter part of the decade lead to a downward spiral in prices, which some manufacturers are alleged to have perpetrated to gain market share. Manufacturers claim that pricing was more a factor of oversupply and technological advances, which the FTC seems to agree with, finding no evidence of price-fixing on the international level, and limited evidence of price-fixing on the domestic level.
SanDisk on Tuesday announced that it has begun shipping flash memory cards based on the company's X4 flash memory technology. Chips built using the new technology hold four bits of data in each memory cell, or twice as many as the cells in conventional multi-level cell (MCL) NAND chips, the company said.
"The development and commercialization of X4 technology represents an important milestone for the flash storage industry," said Sanjay Mehrotra, president and chief operating officer, SanDisk. "Our challenge with X4 technology was to not only deliver the lower costs inherent to 4-bits-per-cell, but to do so while meeting the reliability and performance requirements of industry standard cards that employ MLC NAND."
SanDisk called the shipment of X4 memory a "necessary evolution" for the industry, noting that the technology will result in a cost advantage for consumers.
SanDisk today announced a new line of Extreme Pro CompactFlash memory cards the company says is designed for professional photographers.
To that end, SanDisk says it has outfitted its new cards with an advanced memory controller capable of boosting read and write speeds up to 90MB/s, or double the performance from previous SanDisk high-end memory cards.
"The new SanDisk Extreme Pro CompactFlash line is the direct result of SanDisk's passion, commitment, and break-through engineering innovation to provide best-in-class flash memory cards for professional photography," said Eric Bone, vice president, retail product marketing.
In addition to raw performance, SanDisk says its Power Core Controller's firmware algorithms and 42-bit ECC engine also ensure data integrity and a longer life through optimized wear leveling.
The new Pro series will be available in capacities of 8GB to 32GB with an MSRP ranging from about $130 to $375.
SanDisk today unveils what it claims is the world's fastest 32GB SDHC card, the 32GB SanDisk Extreme, boasting read and write speeds at up to 30MB/s.
"The market for entry to mid-level DSLR cameras is growing, and SDHC is becoming the de-facto card format for these devices," said Susan Park, director, retail product marketing, SanDisk. "Our card's 32GB of storage and upt to 30MB/s read & write speeds enable DSLR users to shoot without worrying about storage or speed limitations."
The new card meets the SD Association's new Class 10 specification, and according to SanDisk, exceeds the requirement for today's high definition (AVCHD) video recording. The sustained write speed is enough to store 160 minutes of full HD 1920x1080 pixels at a 24MB/s data transfer rate.
The SanDisk Extreme SDHC 32GB cards will start shipping to "major retailers" in August with no word yet on price. In addition, the current 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB capacity SanDisk Extreme SDHC cards will be upgraded from Class 6 to Class 10, also in August.
According to some recent research, Samsung is the current leader in the half-billion dollar SSD market.
Having pulled in $185.88 million in revenues, Samsung held about 31.7 percent of the $585 million market in 2008. In second place was storage array SSD supplier STEC with $92.06 million, or about 15.7 percent. SanDisk finished third, selling $54.94 million worth of flash memory, giving them a 9.4 percent market share (down noticeably from their 17.3 percent market share in 2007).
Two terabytes of storage on a single memory stick might have been unheard of just a short while ago, but now it appears it will be a race to see who can reach the capacity milestone first. Taking a tag-team approach, SanDisk and Sony are working together to create two expanded formats in the Memory Stick series, the Memory Stick format for Extended High Capacity and the Memory Stick HG Micro format.
It's the Extended High Capacity format that boosts recording capacity up to 2TB, or 60 times more storage than the Memory Stick PRO format's 32GB ceiling. Meanwhile, the HG Micro format sports some technical enhancements, including an enhanced 8-bit parallel interface and 60MHz interface clock frequency, to make a 60MBps (480MBps in theoretical value) data transfer speed possible. By comparison, the Memory Stick Micro format uses a 4-bit parallel interface and a 40MHz interface clock frequency.
No release date has yet been given, but SanDisk and Sony have to be feeling the pressure from the SD Association, who recently announced a new card spec called SDXC, which also promises up to 2TB of memory and read/write speeds of 104MB/s. As our own Andy Salisbury points out, that's enough to accommodate 100 high-definition movies, 60 hours of HD recording, or up to 17,000 high-res photos. Wicked.
Now in its third generation of solid state drives (SSDs), SanDisk says its new G3 series qualifies as the world's fastest multi-level cell (MLC) based SSDs, equating the performance to that of a theoretical 40K RPM hard drive. That's a big claim considering that, for the most part, SSDs have thus far failed to push real-world performance boundaries.
SanDisk rates the G3 series at 200MB/s read and 140MB/s write, which the company says is five times speedier than the fastest 7,200 RPM hard drives, and twice that of SSDs shipping in 2008. On the reliability side, which is another concern when it comes to high usage Flash memory, SanDisk says its G3 series can withstand 160 terabytes written (TBW) for the 240GB version before the cells turn into read-only. By SanDisk's measurements, that translates to over a century of typical usage.
With the simple touch of a button, SanDisk has created a solution to easily back up crucial files on your flash drive. SanDisk has announced today that their Ultra Backup USB drive will be available in capacities ranging from 8GB to 64GB with prices between $40 and $200. This patent-pending backup technology has a backup capacity of up to 64GB, more than enough space to store any important files you may have. The introduction of this new one-button backup technology alongside its already-popular dual layer of both password protection and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) hardware encryption will make this one of the safest flash drives around.
SanDisk didn’t forget about their classics, though. The Cruzer underwent a facelift and is now sporting a new contemporary look featuring a sliding, cap-less USB connector. What hasn’t changed is the continuation of U3 technology allowing users to run applications directly off the drive.
If solid state drives (SSDs) continue to march into the mainstream market, 2008 might very well one day be looked at as the start of the SSD era. But for that to happen, the performance numbers have to improve and users have to be convinced that the technology can be reliable on a long-term basis. Performance, which is supposed to SSD's strong point, has come under fire amid real-world benchmark comparisons, and as far as SanDisk is concerned, Vista is to blame.
Taking matters into its own hands, SanDisk has developed a new file system, ExtremeFFS, which the company claims has the potential to increase write performance by up to 100 times in SSDs over existing systems.
"To maximize random write performance, SanDisk developed the ExtremeFFS flash file management system," the company wrote in a press release. "This operates on a page-based algorithm, which means there is no fixed coupling between physical and logical location. When a sector of data is written, the SSD puts it where it is most convenient and efficient. The result is an improvement in random write performance – by up to 100 times – as well as in overall endurance."
ExtremeFFS allows NAND channels to work independently of each other, so while some might be reading data, others can be simultaneously writing. The technology also purports to "learn" user patterns and eventually localize data, which sounds a lot like advanced defragging routines. Admittedly, SanDisk senior VP and GM Rich Heye's concedes that it might not make a difference in benchmarks, but believes "it is the right thing to do for end-users."
In related news, SanDisk has also come up with a performance metric it is calling vRPM, or virtual RPM. The metric has been designed to let users know how fast a typical hard drive would need to spin to match the performance of an SSD, which would also allow for a performance comparison between SSDs.