The Future Of Flash Management

Published on June 5, 2012, in FAB.

When Apple bought Anobit for $390 million it left a void in the NAND Flash market. Anobit Technologies was founded as a fabless semiconductor start-up focused on improving  NAND flash memory. Anobit departs from the typical fiddling with architecture and manufacturing by focusing its efforts on predicting errors in flash-memory with their Memory Signal Processing (MSP) tech. These signal processing algorithms increase speed, endurance and lower system costs by utilizing a variety cell (MLC) NAND, as well as MLC endurance and performance with triple-level cell (TLC) NAND, thus reducing the cost per-bit.

Anobit acquisition posed a major problem for the major FABs with companies such as Samsung, Hynix and Micron all had large contracts with Anobit for their TLC and MLC NAND. As suppliers are driven by the urgency to reduce cost.  Every 18 months or so they have moved down the process technology ladder in order to appreciate production cost savings.  They have also transitioned to lower grade MLC and TLC NAND, giving  slower and less reliable Flash but at higher capacity NAND, this race to reduce cost while providing higher capacity result in degraded performance and quality of the Flash memory.

To overcome the lower quality and performance the FABs rely on Anobit’s controller to provide their customers with an advance solution, one that enhances both the Flash quality and performance and enabled their customer to use their Flash. Without Anobit’s solution the FABs are now faced with a major issue when they try to sell their Flash products mainly to Smartphones, SSDs, Tablets manufacturers, without an alternative controller their Flash may not meet with their customer’s minimum quality and performance requirements, after all Apple got to know Anobit through  Hynix, which use to sell, flash solutions based on Anobit controllers to Apple and Samsung look at Anobit to enable their TLC Flash.

To fill this void the FABs are now looking for other solutions to enable the use of their Flash. It turns out that there is another privately-held company in Israel that does flash controllers. Which are sources have already told us that it is becoming an acquisition target for flash giants such as Samsung, Toshiba and SanDisk.

The company in question is DensBits Technologies, founded in 2007 by Ilan Hen, ex-Intel, and Dr. Hanan Weingarten, a well-known expert in information theory and data communications coding and later joined by Amir Tirosh an ex msystems Flash veteran and backed by Sequoia Capital and Bessemer Venture Partners. If DensBits does not hurry too soon to a tempting exit, it could become the ARM (ARMH) of flash, through a business model of licensing and royalty agreements for the consumer and enterprise markets.

DensBits’ solution is based on the communications modem. Just as the telecommunications world took a great leap forward in quality and speed thanks to sophisticated modem technologies, even though transmission was via the same old copper wires that had been in the ground for decades, so DensBits arrived at the Memory Modem solution. With the aid of advanced algorithms, they have developed an optimal Memory Modem that combines Error Correcting Coding (ECC), Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and management solutions.

This modem supplies performance unlike anything else currently on the market for existing flash chips even at low production geometries, particularly for TLC (3x). These are chips that save a third on production costs in comparison with MLC, but, apart from SanDisk, there is no flash manufacturer that manages to achieve satisfactory quality in TLC controllers


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One Response

  1. Nathan W.

    Interesting article!
    According to Amir Tirosh (EVP Marketing) they can get 60% faster write speeds not because of the parallel architecture or memory cycling trick but rather because their ECC is so strong – they can get away with using shorter write pulses than traditional designs – and still reconstruct the data reliably.
    That’s impressive!

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