Intel and Micron’s joint manufacturing company, the Intel-Micron Flash Technologies group, just announced that they’ve started sampling products based on a new 25nm manufacturing process – their smallest yet.
On the left is a picture of 4GB of 2-bit MLC flash storage based on the 34nm process the companies switched to using last year; it’s 172mm2 in area. On the right is 8GB of 2-bit MLC flash storage based on the new 25nm process; it’s just 167mm2 in area.
What does that mean for consumers? Just what the headline says – roughly double your SSD storage for the same price; Intel plans on shipping drives based on this process in Q4 of this year. We’ll see the X25-M come in sizes of 160GB, 320GB and 600GB. SSDs are really starting to achieve the storage densities necessary for users to seriously consider replacing hard drives with them. Naturally, the price isn’t there yet, but it’s coming. The new 600GB Intel drive may not be for most consumers, but their 160GB one may just be affordable enough for you.
What’s really getting crazy is that the memory makers believe they can knock things down even further, past the current incredible 25nm. An image of a piece of silion beneath a scanning-tunneling microscope shows that 10nm, things are only 20 atoms across. Twenty atoms! The question then becomes, how much further can these companies take the process before a., they start running into issues regarding the fundamental laws of physics and b., they’ll need to jump to an entirely different technology in order to keep gaining these performance enhancements?
No one quite knows the answers to those questions, at least not yet. As long as we keep getting cheaper solid state drives, I doubt most consumers care.