Over 50 years of development history of Flash Memory Technology.
Over 50 years of development history of Flash Memory Technology.
The development history of Flash Memory is shorter compared with other computer technologies. But the Flash Memory technology grows swiftly in response to the huge and rapidly changing storage market. It derived from the end of 1960s, and the concept was put forward in the beginning of 1980s. The technology has matured in the past decades development. Let’s explore the splendid development history of flash memory.
In 1967, Dawon Kahng and Simon Sze invented MOSFET called flash memory together in Bell Labs, which is the basis of EEPROM and EPROM.
Eli Harari, founder of American Flash Storage Developer SanDisk, worked in Intel and invented EEPROM the first the first programmable and erasable memory in the world, from 1978 to 1981. He thought the floating-gate could replace disk at that time, but the proposal was rejected by Andy grove the CEO of Intel.
In 1984, Dr. Fujio Masuoka, the founder of flash memory, presented an industry white paper about the new uses of floating-gate in Toshiba. Which is that the data in the chip could be entirely erased in the flash of camera in a moment. Then, Dr. Masuoka officially introduced Flash Memory at the IEEE 1984 Conference on Integrated Electronic Devices in San Jose. In 1986, Intel launched the concept of flash card and established a department focusing on SSD.
In 1987, Dr. Masuoka invented NAND flash memory, that is 2D NAND.
In 1988, Intel launched the first commercial flash memory chip for its great potential, which focused on computer’s storage softs. And it replaced successfully EPROM products. On March 1st, 1988, Eli founded Sundisk renamed as SanDisk, which concentrated on making flash memory more like a disk for storing data.
In 1989, SunDisk submitted the patent of system flash memory. The concept of flash memory disk was introduced after founding M-Systems, which is the pioneer of flash memory SSD. Intel launched 512K and 1MB NOR Flash in the same year. Psion launched PC which is based on flash memory. Microsoft cooperated with Intel to launch a flash file system. Western Data and SunDisk launched the SSD based on NOR Flash ,which fully simulated the traditional rotating ATA hard disk. Samsung and Toshiba subsequently launched NAND flash memory, with faster erase time, higher density, lower cost than NOR Flash, and more than 10 times durability. However, its I/O interface only allowed sequential access to data and was suitable for large-capacity storage devices such as PC cards and various memory cards.
In the beginning of 1990s, flash memory industry rapidly expanded at an unprecedented rate. The revenue in 1991 was $170 million, $295 million in 1992, $505 million in 1993, $864 million in 1994 and $1.8 billion in 1995.
In 1991 SUnDisk launched the initial SSD based on ATA of flash memory with 20MB capacity. At that time, 10,000 IBM ThinkPad handheld laptops offered the service support that SSD replaced disk. Toshiba released the world's first 4 MB NAND flash. Kodak sold its first professional digital camera, DSC100, for $13,000. Zenith Poqet and Hewlett-Packard showed off handheld laptops using flash cards at computer fairs.
In 1992, AMD and Fujitsu launched the first NOR product. Intel introduced the second generation FFS 2,8MB flash memory chips, 4MB-20MB linear flash card and 1MB Boot Block NOR Flash for BIOS applications. For the first time, internal write state machine was used to manage flash write algorithm. SunDisk launched PCMCIA flash memory card. PC has been using flash memory for BIOS storage since 1992.
In 1993, Intel introduced NOR Flash with 16MB and 32MB. Intel partnered with Connor to develope 5MB/10MB ATA flash drives. Apple started using NOR Flash in their Newton PDA.
In 1994, SunDisk launched Compact Flash card and 18MB serial NOR Flash chip for SSD application.
In 1995, SunDisk was renamed SanDisk and launched 34MB series NOR Flash, which was the first MLC flash memory chip for SSD application.
In 1996, Toshiba launched Smart Media memory card, also known as solid-state floppy disk card. Samsung started selling NAND flash memory. SanDisk introduced the first flash memory card applying MLC serial NOR technology. In 1997, the first mobile phone began to configure flash memory, which opened the consumer flash market.
In 1999, the revenue of NOR Flash was over $4 billion. Toshiba and SanDisk jointly founded the joint venture for making flash memory. Meguiar announced that more than 1 billion flash chips had been sold.
In 2001, Toshiba and SanDisk announced that 1GB MLC NAND was launched. SanDisk launched the first flash memory product with NAND system by itself. Hitachi launched AG-AND. Samsung began mass production of 512MB flash memory devices.
In 2004, NAND's price initially dropped below DRAM based on the same density, and the cost effect replaced flash memory in the computing field.
In 2005, Apple company launched IPod shuffle and IPod nano based on flash memory. Microsoft released the concept of hybrid hard drives. Multimedia Card Association launched MMCmicro card. Samsung initially used 70 nm process in mass production of NAND flash memory. Meguiar also launched NAND products. Over 3 billion flash memory chips were sold and shipped in the same year. NAND's total sales capacity exceeds DRAM's.
In 2006, the revenue of flash memory was over $20 billion. Intel introduced Robson Cache Memory which is called Turbo Memory now. Microsoft launched ReadyBoost. This year is an important for SanDisk. The company announced that they would launched the NAND technology and microSDHC card with 4 bits of cell storage. At the same time, SanDisk also took over Martix Semiconductor and M-Systems. Samsung and Seagate showed off their first hybrid hard drives. Meguiar and Intel formally cooperated to form IMFT for the manufacture of NAND flash memory. Spansion launched ORNAND flash memory and announced the start of production of 300 mm wafers using a 65-nm process.
In2007，the revenue of flash memory was over $22 billion and NAND was $14.5 billion. Toshiba launched eMMC NAND and the first SSDbade on MLC SATA. IMFT started selling 50nm NAND flash memory. Apple formally launched the first generation of the iPhone with 4 GB or 8 GB flash memory. Fusion-io announced to launch 640GB ioDrive based on MLC NAND. BitMicro launched 3.5-inch SSD with 1.6TB capacity for military applications. Spansion took over Saifu. Dell added SSD options to its laptop configuration and flash storage to netbooks that cost less than $200. Seagate launched its first hybrid hard drive, the Momentus PSD.
In 2008, SanDisk launched ABL to achieve accelerating MLC, TLC and X4 NAND. Intel and Meguiar announced to launch 34nm MLCNAND. Toshiba initially launched MLC SATA SSD with 512 GB. IBM first demonstrated the Million IOPS flash array. EMC announced to apply SSD based on flash memory to enterprise SAN application. Apple launched two generations MacBook Air without the option of hard disk, which respectively configured 64GB SSD and 128GB SSD. Meguiar, Samsung and Sun Microsystems announced to introduce high-durability flash memory. Violin first introduced a full-flash-based storage device. Samsung announced the launch of 150 GB 2.5 inch MLC SSD. Meguiar launched its first serial NAND flash. Toshiba has developed 3D NAND BICS.
In 2009, Intel and Meguiar introduced 34nm TCL NAND. Samsung launched the first full HD video recorder with 64GB SSD. Seagate entered the SSD market. SandForce launched the first controller based on SandForce data compression. Virident and Schooner launched the first application based on flash memory for data centers. Plaint introduced the first SAS SSD. SanDisk sold SDHC with 4-bit per unit storage and Memory Stick PRO cards. Western Data took over Silicon Systems and entered the SSD market. SanDisk had launched a flash repository that claimed data could be stored for 100 years.
In 2010, Toshiba launched 128G SD card based on 16-core stack. Intel and Meguiar launched 25nm TLC and MLC NAND. In the same year, Meguiar took over Numonyx and Microchip took over SST. Samsung started producing 54GB MLC NAND. Seagate announced to launch the first self-managed hybrid hard disk, Momentus XT.
2011 is a year of acquisition. LSI bought SandForce. SanDisk took over IMFT, and Apple acquired Anobit. Fusion-io took over IO Turbine. Seagate launched the second generation hybrid hard disk, Momentus XT with 8GB NAND flash memory and storage capacity of 750GB HDD.
In 2012, Samsung made 3D NAND and launched the first generation flash memory chip of 3D NAND, which is the first 32-layer SLC V-NAND SSD,850 PRO. SanDisk and Toshiba announced to launch 19nm flash memory supporting 128GB chip. Seagate launched joint flash memory and HHD SSHD. Elpida introduced ReRAM. Meguair and Intel launched 128GB NAND chip with 20nm. SK Telecom acquired the controlling right of Hailishi Semiconductor, and SK Hynix was founded. Spansion launched 8Gb NOR chip. SanDisk acquired FlashSoft. OCZ acquired Sanrad. Samsung acquired NVELO. Intel acquired Nevex and launched CacheWorks. LSI introduced Nytro flash memory with MegaRAID CacheCade cache software. Meguiar launched 2.5-inch enterprise-class PCIe SSD.
In 2013, Samsung launched 3D V-NAND with 24-layer and showed off 1TB SSD in FMS. Diablo Technologies announced to launch memory channel storage technology. SMART Storage Systems incorporated Diablo design into ULtraDIMM. Western Data and SanDisk launched SSHD using iSSSD + HDD. Toshiba launched a series of SSHD. Everspin announced to sell STT MRAM. M.2 PCIe interface officially released NVMe standard to accelerate communication with flash storage. Western Data acquired sTec, Virident and Velobit. SanDisk acquired SMART Storage Systems. Meguiar acquired bankrupt Japanese chip maker Erbita. Intel launched Intel cache acceleration software.
In 2014, Samsung, SanDisk and Toshiba announced the introduction of 3D NAND production equipment. SanDisk launched 4TB enterprise SSD and released 128GB micro SD card. IBM announced that eXFlash DIMM applied SanDisk ULLtraDIMM and the memory channel storage technology of Diablo. Samsung also started selling 32-layer MLC 3D V-NAND, 850 EVO.
In 2015, SanDisk introduced InfinitiFlash storage system. Cypress Semiconductor acquired Spansion. Toshiba and SanDisk announced to launch 483D NAND. Intel and Meguiar announced the launch of 384 GB 3D NAND. Samsung launched its first NVMe m.2 SSD and 48-layer V-NAND. SanDisk launched a 200GB microSDXC UHS-I card. Cypress launched 4MB Serial FRAM. Intel and Meguiar announced to launch 3D XPoint Memory. Intel also launched Optane DIMM and SSD based on XPoint technology.
In 2016, Toshiba sold 48-layer TLCNAND using in iPhone 7. In the same year, SK Hynix sold UFS serial products using in LG V20 based on 36-layer stacking technology. XMC founded the first NAND flash memory factory in China. Meguiar showed off 768GB 3D NAND. Western Date acquired SanDisk by $19 billion. Everspin launched 256MB MRAM chip and 1GB chip in the end of this year. IBM launched TCL PCM storage chip. Intel was ready to sell 3D NAND products to enterprise market. While Megguiar began to sell SSD to consumer market.
In 2017, SK Hynix began to sell 72-layer 3D NAND. Toshiba and Intel started selling Optane SSD. HPE acquire Nimble and Simplivity. Samsung, Toshiba and WD began to sell 96-layer 3D NAND. Meguiar distributed string stack 3D NAND. Everspin released 1GB STT-MRAM chip samples. In the same year, Violin Memory, a veteran flash array manufacturer founded in 2005, was privatized after its bankruptcy and has returned to the storage stage at present.
In 2018, Bain Capital completed its $18 billion acquisition of Toshiba flash business. Intel released Optane Data Center persistent memory. Samsung announced to Z-SSD. The National Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund invested 138.7 billion Yuan in the domestic semiconductor industry in the first phase, with 23 domestic semiconductor enterprises publicly invested. Ziguang Group's Yangtze River Storage Research and Development 32 layers of 3D NAND chips and mass production at the end of the year, but also plans to skip 96 layers of 3D NAND in 2020, directly into 128 layers of stack. In the same year, Tintri, a hybrid flash startup, filed for bankruptcy, and its assets were acquired by HPC storage provider DDN for $60 million.
In 2019, Intel and Meguiar formally ended the 14 years cooperation in the aspect of NAND Flash technology. Some professionals believed that Intel might consider to cooperate with NAND suppliers beside SK Hynix to develop chips or SSDs. In the same year, AWS, the global public cloud giant, announced the acquisition of E8, which is a storage company based on NVMe over fabric (NVMe-oF) technology to make full flash array. The ever-changing and developing flash market is still ahead. In any case, we have great expectations for the future of flash memory.