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Bust these 4 myths about QLC storage

Peter Krass's picture

by Peter Krass on 04/27/2021
Blog Category: cloud-and-data-centers

Are your data-center customers being held back by 4 common myths about QLC 3D NAND storage technology?

If so, they’re far from alone. Some of these mythical misconceptions have been spread by people who should know better, including industry analysts and market watchers.

The truth is, QLC 3D NAND is powerful technology. It offers high bandwidth, low latency reads for read-intensive workloads, as well as high capacity and excellent space efficiency — all at a low operating cost. Here’s how:

> QLC stands for quad-level cell, meaning 4 bits get stored on each cell. Previous technologies offered per-cell densities of 3 bits (TLC), 2 bits (MLC) and 1 bit (SLC).

> 3D refers to the way these cells are stacked vertically, like the floors of a skyscraper, reaching up to 144 layers. This increases storage density, yet without sacrificing data reliability.

> NAND is the flash architecture used in SSDs, USB drives, digital cameras and some smartphones.

Combined, all that innovation puts these drives in the sweet spot for “warm storage” of read-intensive workloads.

4 myths busted

With help from Intel, here’s your tech provider’s guide to these 4 common misconceptions about QLC 3D NAND technology — and what you can say to set your customers straight:

1. Endurance

> Myth: For most workloads, SSDs powered by QLC 3D NAND technology are not sufficiently durable. As measured in drive writes per day (DWPD), QLC 3D NAND drives simply don’t last as long as other kinds.

> Reality: Intel QLC SSDs are actually more durable than conventional hard disk drives (HDDs). They also provide up to 4x more total bytes written (TBW) than other QLCs. That’s important. TBW offers a truer measure of drive endurance than DWPD. TBW does this by factoring in the drive’s capacity, which DWPD does not.

2. Performance

> Myth: QLC 3D NAND drives offer less read and write performance than TLC drives. They also offer poor performance/watt. And there’s no fit for QLC drives, given their performance and durability issues.

> Reality: Intel QLC 3D NAND is the right technology for today’s high-growth segments, including AI, cloud storage and high-performance computing (HPC). These applications value the efficient movement of massive amounts of data at high speed. And QLC fits the bill. It’s perfect for these workloads, which require frequent, high-bandwidth reads with only infrequent writes.

QLC technology can also fill the gap between HDDs and TLC storage. TLC NAND SSDs offer high performance, but lack efficiency around both cost and capacity. HDDs, by contrast, offer a low cost per gigabyte, but fall short on both performance and operational efficiency. QLC can fill these two technologies’ cost-performance gap.

3. Quality & reliability

> Myth: SSDs based on QLC 3D NAND technology, compared with TLC SSDs are more error-prone and have reduced data retention. All that makes them risky replacements for HDDs.

> Reality: Intel QLC technology offers quality and reliability that’s just as good as that of TLC tech — and better than that of HDDs. Compared with HDDs, QLC drives offer a much lower actual annualized failure rate (AFR), 2x orders of magnitude better on uncorrectable bit errors (UBER), and a wider operating range.

4. Maturity

> Myth: QLC technology is too new and unproven. Sticking with older TLC technology is safer and smarter.

> Reality: QLC 3D NAND isn’t actually that new. Intel has had the technology in volume production since 2017. That’s 4 years, plenty of time in the tech world. Also, Intel’s latest QLC drive, the SSD D5-P5316, is actually the company’s third generation of QLC NAND. Among the new drive’s many enhancements is support for the latest PCIe 4.0 interface.

Don’t let your data-center customers miss out on the value of QLC 3D NAND storage technology. Find out if they believe these common myths. If they do, set them straight.

Share these related Intel resources:

> Intel 3D NAND technology

> QLC NAND SSDs are optimal for modern workloads

> Intel SSD D5-P5316 product brief

> QLC NAND technology is ready for mainstream use in the data center


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