PDL Abstract

Improving 3D NAND Flash Memory Lifetime by Tolerating Early Retention Loss and Process Variation

Proc. of the ACM SIGMETRICS Conference, Irvine, CA, June 2018; Proceedings of the ACM on Measurement and Analysis of Computing Systems (POMACS), Vol. 2, No. 3, December 2018.

Y. Luo§, S. Ghose§, Y. Cai*, E. F. Haratsch^, O. Mutlu†§

§ Carnegie Mellon University
† ETH Zürich
* SK Hynix, Inc.
^ Seagate Technology


Compared to planar (i.e., two-dimensional) NAND flash memory, 3D NAND flash memory uses a new flash cell design, and vertically stacks dozens of silicon layers in a single chip. This allows 3D NAND flash memory to increase storage density using a much less aggressive manufacturing process technology than planar NAND flash memory. The circuit-level and structural changes in 3D NAND flash memory significantly alter how different error sources affect the reliability of the memory.

In this paper, through experimental characterization of real, state-of-the-art 3D NAND flash memory chips, we find that 3D NAND flash memory exhibits three new error sources that were not previously observed in planar NAND flash memory: (1) layer-to-layer process variation, a new phenomenon specific to the 3D nature of the device, where the average error rate of each 3D-stacked layer in a chip is significantly different; (2) early retention loss, a new phenomenon where the number of errors due to charge leakage increases quickly within several hours after programming; and (3) retention interference, a new phenomenon where the rate at which charge leaks from a flash cell is dependent on the data value stored in the neighboring cell.

Based on our experimental results, we develop new analytical models of layer-to-layer process variation and retention loss in 3D NAND flash memory. Motivated by our new findings and models, we develop four new techniques to mitigate process variation and early retention loss in 3D NAND flash memory. Our first technique, Layer Variation Aware Reading (LaVAR), reduces the effect of layer-to-layer process variation by fine-tuning the read reference voltage separately for each layer. Our second technique, Layer-Interleaved Redundant Array of Independent Disks (LI-RAID), uses information about layer-to-layer process variation to intelligently group pages under the RAID error recovery technique in a manner that reduces the likelihood that the recovery of a group fails significantly earlier than the recovery of other groups. Our third technique, Retention Model Aware Reading (ReMAR), reduces retention errors in 3D NAND flash memory by tracking the retention time of the data using our new retention model and adapting the read reference voltage to data age. Our fourth technique, Retention Interference Aware Neighbor-Cell Assisted Correction (ReNAC), adapts the read reference voltage to the amount of retention interference a page has experienced, in order to re-read the data after a read operation fails. These four techniques are complementary, and can be combined together to significantly improve flash memory reliability. Compared to a state-of-the-art baseline, our techniques, when combined, improve flash memory lifetime by 1.85×. Alternatively, if a NAND flash vendor wants to keep the lifetime of the 3D NAND flash memory device constant, our techniques reduce the storage overhead required to hold error correction information by 78.9%.