SSDs get bigger, while prices get smaller

An oversupply of memory chips, plus aggressive pricing by SSD suppliers are causing SSD prices to drop, while the capacity of drives continues to increase.

SSDs get bigger, while prices get smaller

With so much going on in the enterprise storage world, two bits of good news have come out — capacity is going up, and prices are coming down.

According to the report from DRAMeXchange, the enterprise SSD market has been growing fast. It projects enterprise SSD sales to top 30 million units this year, up from fewer than 20 million units in 2016, and that rate of growth is expected to continue in the next three years.

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That’s despite tight supply for memory chips in the first quarter resulting in high average selling prices. For the second quarter, which we are in the midst of, DRAMeXchange expects a rebound in demand due to increased supply.

“The oversupply will continue in NAND Flash market, where suppliers face the pressure to consume production capacity,” says Alan Chen, research director at DRAMeXchange, in a statement. The firm predicts that the average contract price of enterprise PCIe SSD and SATA SSD may fall by 10 percent or more in the quarter.

In addition to the oversupply, some suppliers of enterprise SSD have applied aggressive price strategies to win more orders from OEMs and to acquire higher market share. So, the buyer is the winner in all of this.

New type of SSD from Intel and Micron

All of this comes as a new type of SSD hits the market, the quad-level cell (QLC) NAND flash memory jointly developed by Intel and Micron. NAND flash memory chips have billions and billions of cells that hold one or more bits of information. The first SSDs were single-level cell (SLC), so one bit per cell. Then came two-bits (MLC) and three bits (TLC) per cell. This tripled capacity in the same space.

The tradeoff is that TLC drives are a little slower than SLC and are thought to have a shorter lifespan, although a 2016 study threw cold water on that. For that reason, there are some enterprise SSDs that use SLC instead of multi-level cells. However, most SSDs, enterprise and consumer, use TLC for maximum capacity.

Western Digital, the granddaddy of hard-drive makers, was the first to announce QLC but Intel and Micron beat them to market. Not a surprise, really, Western Digital has enormous resources, but it’s a har-disk maker. Intel and Micro live this stuff.

If it’s not obvious, QLC drives will have 33 percent more capacity than

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