Published October 17, 2023

Author Solidigm Team


Delivering Data Storage for the Modern Data Center with QLC NAND Flash

Summary of Jeff Janukowicz IDC article

Programmer in a data center after installing QLC SSDs
Programmer in a data center after installing QLC SSDs

With the explosion of data across all industries, data centers have begun exploring and implementing emerging technologies to address growing storage demands. Among these technologies is Quad-Level Cell (QLC) NAND flash, which has shown tremendous promise in providing high performance, endurance, and capacity with substantially reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) for data centers.

The bottom line: QLC advantages summarized

In this article summary, we provide a short recap of a recent Analyst Brief written by Jeff Janukowicz, Research Vice President, Solid State Drives and Enabling Technologies at International Data Corporation (IDC), which examines the many advantages QLC NAND flash technology presents for datacenters.

QLC NAND flash presents notable advantages, such as increased storage density and cost-effectiveness, rendering it an appealing choice for environments dealing with massive volumes of data.
Jeff Janukowicz, IDC

This claim is both qualified and expanded on with the observation that “most of today's modern workloads are read and data intensive,” an important characteristic that will inform data center architects as they choose to weigh the benefits of QLC against other NAND flash technologies.

Highlighting evolving consumer needs

Before diving into a detailed examination of the advantages of QLC over other NAND flash alternatives, IDC’s Analyst Brief highlights an evolving set of consumer needs that will likely impact a data center’s choice for new storage technology. The three needs are highlighted 

  1. Tightening IT budgets, which indicate a more pronounced need for cost-effective storage)
  2. Increased IT complexity, which indicates a demand for more versatile storage capable of handling diverse data and applications seamlessly
  3. Sustainability as a strategic initiative, which indicates a need for storage that conserves space, consumes power less hungrily, and stays cool more efficiently

The advantages of SSDs over HDDs for modern data centers

Setting the stage for a discussion on NAND storage technology, IDC’s Analyst Brief touches on the advantages of SSDs over HDD for today’s data centers. In summary, these advantages can be distilled to “faster data access, reduced latency, and enhanced overall system performance.” The brief asserts that these advantages are vital in modern data center operations, “where microseconds can make a monumental difference accessing the data and making vital data-driven decisions.”

Another advantage touched on is adaptability. Due to a wide range of NAND technology available, as well as number of form factors and capacities, SSDs can fit into an extensive range of configurations and applications, all while saving space. This makes them more futureproof for evolving data centers.

Defining QLC NAND Flash and diving Into its benefits

IDC’s Analyst Brief defines QLC NAND Flash as “non-volatile memory technology that stores four bits of data per memory cell, distinguishing it from single-level cell (SLC), multi-level cell (MLC), and triple-level cell (TLC) NAND flash.”  It calls out the benefits of QLC NAND as:

  • Cost-effectiveness and higher storage density
  • High capacity for storing large data sets
  • Reduced power consumption and cooling requirements
  • Improved read and write performance

IDC’s conclusion: For data centers in search of high-capacity storage that balances cost-effectiveness with solid performance, QLC NAND Flash drives present a compelling choice.

Considerations before investing in QLC

After outlining the benefits of QLC NAND Flash technology, IDC’s Analyst Brief provides a list of factors to consider before investing in QLC drives. These factors include:

  • Endurance and lifespan management techniques.
  • QLC performance characteristics.
  • Error correction and reliability strategies.

Providing an in-depth examination of each of these factors, the brief gives readers a better understanding of the limitations of QLC, as well as the specific areas where it can be augmented, to make the most out of their potential investment.

QLC NAND Flash deployment in data centers—best practices

In a final educational section, IDC’s Analyst Brief covers several best practices to follow when deploying QLC NAND Flash technology in a data center. “This starts with understanding workload requirements and data access patterns,” the brief asserts, but it also hinges on data center architects understanding “which applications and data types are suitable for QLC NAND flash.” The brief then lists several deployments for which QLC is an excellent choice. These include:

  • Storage arrays 
  • Object storage
  • Servers 
  • Virtualized environments
  • Context delivery networks (CDNs)
  • Data analytics

Download the full article to learn more

To get IDC’s full take on the many advantages of QLC NAND Flash for data centers—as well as how, where, to maximize those advantages—check out the full IDC Analyst Brief, written by Jeff Janukowicz .

Delivering Data Storage for the Modern Data Center with QLC NAND Flash