Today Kioxia is celebrating 35 years of NAND flash. Specifically, the company invented NAND flash in 1987. At that time, NOR was dominant and there were doubters on whether NAND would become a viable technology. It took some time, but three and a half decades later, NAND is a large market that has changed the world. We figured we would cover this for a bit of fun this week.
Kioxia Celebrating 35 Years of NAND Flash
In the 1990s, we did not have mobile phones with a terabyte of flash or 1U servers with a petabyte. Instead, in the mid-’90s flash got its first big application in digital answering machines. There, NAND replaced tape. Most of STH’s readers are old enough to remember the tape answering machine days, but for those who are not, instead of just clicking voicemail on your phone, there was a physical box. That box usually sat on a tabletop or countertop and would pick up the phone after a certain number of rings, play a message, then record what the caller wanted to say. That recording happened on cassette tapes that were prone to fail. NAND removed the moving parts.
Since then, many devices have adopted NAND. The lack of moving parts plus the storage density and performance has allowed NAND to become widely used in devices everywhere. NAND is a foundational technology for everything from the data center to edge devices to IoT. That has driven funding in R&D. Here are Kioxia’s figures on the level of cost reduction and densities over the last 25 or so years (it took many years to go from invention to the answering machine use case.)
That R&D drove densities and brought new process nodes. The cost per GB has plummeted as densities have grown.
This has gone from a technology that struggled to find a use case for 5+ years to a $70B per year industry (and growing.)
Normally we do not cover this type of news story, but NAND is absolutely a foundational technology today. Like many other technologies, it was once dismissed only to become a market mover. Realistically, NAND is an enabling technology in so many facets of our everyday lives that this is one of those big industry milestones that is worth a moment to recognize.