back to article A little bit of TLC: How IBM squeezes 16,000 write-erase cycles from QLC flash

IBM says it has managed to coax TLC-class endurance and performance from cheaper QLC flash chips, with customers of the company's FlashSystem 9200 all-flash arrays getting the benefits. No one else can do this, according to Andy Walls, IBM Fellow and CTO for flash storage products. Quad-level cell flash is cheaper to make …

  1. Natalie Gritpants Jr Silver badge

    Nobody gets 3 x compression. Apart from maybe manufacturers benchmarks. 1.5 is more like it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You do. Plenty of SAP/DB2 and Oracle instance achive this (and better - or is it worse, in this case?). Certainly not for your windows CIFS server, but these won't end up on a FCM storage in first place.

      AC due to propable backtracking to customers/former employers.

  2. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

    You won't get even 1.5x with, say, video...

    On-device compression is largely a marketing con. One also has to consider the interface bandwidth issues: a NVMe/PCIe3 x4 has a theoretical throughput of approximately 4GB/s. There are multiple vendors of SSDs that can sustain speeds (at least for bursts lasting 10s of seconds) in excess of 2GB/s. So even if you did could achieve 3x compression on the data, you won't realize it. Better to put the compressor on a controller...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Putting video on flash is akin to transporting bricks using a motorbike.

      Unless you're actually editing that file then it's better off on lower tiers.

      Different types of file compress different amounts. I think we all know that now.

  3. Myself

    The very last line in the article, about the cost of characterizing the devices, seems wrong. I thought the point of the invention was that the controller does the characterization autonomously, early on in the device's service life. So it's not taking up time during manufacturing, and thus not incurring cost in the usual sense. Did I misunderstand?

  4. Thomas F Thurlow

    What about caching flash writes to extend the life of flash?

    Having flash that lasts through 16 times as many writes as it might is good. But caching writes to TLC or QLC flash and only writing

    out cached contents to flash infrequently also is a way to extend the life of flash storage. For caching with DRAM, if one has battery backup for

    when power goes out, then the caching works o.k. Like the battery of a laptop, or battery backup for servers.

    But if there is no battery backup, having a lot of flash disk updates in DRAM cache when power goes out is problematic.

    Consumer flash drives don't say much about caching when one buys them.

    1. Bitsminer Bronze badge

      Re: What about caching flash writes to extend the life of flash?

      I think the manufacturers are working their spec sheets very carefully instead.

      Seagate "Barracuda" flash drives for consumer upgrades are rated at total writes of 600x the capacity of the drive. Which is pretty good as long as you don't do video editing all day long, but spend your time reading El Reg instead -- meaning the disk is idle.

      Enterprise drives are about 3x better write endurance, if my math is approximately correct (Nytro 1351 series, just to pick a product.)

      The end user can also adopt these strategies: keep the drive less than half full; use big RAM as a buffer to reduce writing rate; sleep more often.

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: What about caching flash writes to extend the life of flash?

      Some filesystems let you disable all synchronous writes and buffer flushing (as long as you have RAM to spare). It really cuts filesystem latency and storage writes on cloudy instances that don't exist after a reboot anyways.

  5. Cuddles Silver badge


    "Quad-level cell flash is cheaper to make than triple-level cell flash and increases storage density"

    Is QLC actually cheaper to make than TLC? My impression was that it's cheaper per bit stored, but it's almost certainly more expensive to make per wafer, simply because it's more complicated. So it's not that it's cheaper to make and increases storage density, but rather that it's more expensive to make but increases storage density by more than enough to compensate for that in a finished product.

  6. cmaylopj

    IBM getting 16,000 PE Cycles from QLC, Enmotus is getting 30,000 PE Cycles from QLC.

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