Right after announcing their 16nm TLC plans, Micron has acquired an SSD controller firm. Tidal Systems, made up of engineers from Link-A-Media Devices (LAMD) and SandForce was founded last year and has managed to create 2 of their own SDD controllers already. With in-house controllers, Micron will be able to iterate more quickly and provide a more unified SSD platform.
For the longest time, Micron has had to rely on third-party controllers to power their SSDs. While Silicon Motion does provide a somewhat complete controller and firmware package, Micron’s main supplier Marvell does not. This has meant that Micron has long had to write their own firmware for most of their SSDs. With the controller now in-house as well, Micron has room to reduce costs and also build on their long expertise in writing firmware.
Tidal Systems also brings their expertise around Low-Density Parity Check (LDPC) to the table. As NAND transitions to use TLC (Triple-Level Cell) and QLC (Quad-Level Cell) on ever smaller lithographies, the number of errors is sure to go up. With LDPC, SSD makers will be able to offset some of the error and endurance issues.
Even with Tidal Systems in-house now though, don’t expect any Micron drives to ship with the new controllers anytime soon. Toshiba took quite a while to integrate their OCZ controllers with their drives. With this purchase, it only leaves SanDisk as a major NAND and SSD producer without their own controller. It is critical though that SanDisk has been able to do the most with Marvell controllers, leveraging their in-house firmware to eek out performance that rival’s Samsung’s.
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