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Happy new year: OCZ expects to ship flash drives with a 50 per cent capacity jump next year, starting shipments in January.

It's going to ship 3-bit multi-level cell (MLC or TLC) flash, according to Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers, who was at an OCZ investor presentation last week.

TLC flash is inherently slower, less reliable and has a shorter working life compared to 2-bit MLC. These things have to be fixed by over-provisioning, better error correction and detection, and clever ways of reducing write frequency in the flash controller.

Ryan Petersen, OCZ's CEO, said that this TLC (Triple Layer Cell) product would have a four-year life and the cost/GB would be more than 30 per cent below current product prices.

OCZ SVC, MLC and TLC Cost chart

OCZ NAND cost comparisons

The chart shows OCZ's general view of NAND costs for SLC, 2-bit MLC and TLC flash. We can roughly say SLC is $3/GB, 2-bit MLC $0.75/GB and TLC will be $0.60/GB. This might be thought not to be such a cost decrease as earlier productions of TLC pricing suggested.

OCZ reckons it has an up to two-year lead in TLC flash compared to other suppliers and may be pricing accordingly.

OCZ will use its in-house Indilinx Everest 6Gbit/s SATA controllers in the products and says it has a strong relationship with a flash supplier.

This could be Micron, with whom OCZ has a wafer arrangement to have Micron produce OCZ-branded flash and deliver predictably better performing product.

Rakers writes: "The company announced that it will have new controllers rolling out over the next several months – next-generation high-performance and consumer platforms launching in January (Native PCIe and SATA support, TLC support, up to 70k IOPs and then moving to 100k IOPs, and a reduction of costs of up to $10 per SSD shipped)."

Next autumn the Indilinx controller will get a firmware refresh with the ability to double flash's working life through branded nDurance v2 technology.

If Micron is supplying OCZ's TLC flash, then we might expect Micron to produce its own TLC product – unless OCZ has an exclusivity deal.

SanDisk would no doubt dispute OCZ's claimed TLC lead. It has its own Pliant controller technology and that may well be being focused on countering TLC disadvantages. We could be seeing intense OCZ-SanDisk competition in the TLC product space in the second half of next year. ®

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