TORONTO – Micron Technology unveiled its second generation of NVM Express (NVMe) SSDs at the Flash Memory Summit, using its 3D NAND to push capacities past 10TB.
In an advance telephone briefing with EE Times, Dan Florence, SSD product manager for Micron's Storage Business Unit, said the 9200 Series of NVMe SSDs were built from the ground up to break the shackles of legacy hard drive interfaces. The new storage portfolio is designed to address surging data demands while at the same time maximizing data center efficiency so customers can improve their overall total cost of ownership, he said, and is the storage foundation for the Micron SolidScale Platform, an NVMe over Fabric architecture ahead of standards development, announced earlier this year.
Florence said the Micron 9200 SSD is up to 10 times faster than the fastest SATA SSDs with transfer speeds up to 4.6 GB/s and up to one million read IOPS, making them ideal for performance, high-capacity use cases as application/database acceleration, high frequency trading, and high-performance computing. “NVMe just as an interface offers a lot advantages over the legacy interfaces that were really built for spinning media," he said. “It cuts out a huge chunk of latency and obviously because it sits on the PCIe bus it offers a higher bandwidth which allows you to get much higher IOPS."
NVMe also offers better ease of use of previous iterations of PCIe, Florence added, which had a lot of custom drivers. The industry standard that allows for NVMe to be plugged into pretty much any system with any operating system is helping to fuel its adoption.
The 9200 series is three times the capacity of Micron's previous generation of NVMe SSDs, ranging from 1.6TB to 11TB. “This will be the first monolithic NVME SSD that's larger than 10TB," said Florence. This allows for lower power consumption and makes it easier for the operating system to manage. The U.2 form factor also of the new SSDs also allows for more density per server.
Micron said its 9200 Series of NVMe SSDs are up to 10 times faster than the fastest SATA SSDs with transfer speeds up to 4.6 GB/s and up to one million read IOPS.
Depending on the use case and configuration, Micron is claiming the new NVMe SSDs outdo the faster hard drives by 300 to 1200 times for random performance, and three to seven time the random performance of the fastest SSD. Florence said random performance has become increasingly important for activities such as online transaction processing and database applications, as they use a random IO access pattern. “A lot of different data analyses workloads are similar. The sequential is more important for data ingest where you're working with large pipes of data." This includes user-generated content, he said, as well as massive amounts of Internet of Things data.
NVMs SSDs can essentially use most of the PCIe bandwidth, sand Florence, and most applications do require some level of random IO. “For a growing number of applications, the amount of data you can move and work with is what drives value. Dollar per IOPS becomes more important and NVMe clearly leads in that area."
For this latest batch of SSDs, Micron is using third-party controllers, said Florence; Microsemi, to be specific. In Micron's most recent quarterly update, and his first as CEO, Sanjay Mehrotra said having stronger controller and firmware capabilities with a roadmap for both internal and external controllers was a focus the company, as was having a mix of system level solutions in the NAND portfolio.
Micron's 9000 Series includes its FlexCapacity firmware, which provides advanced management and optimization tools to allow customers to tweak the drive so they can take full advantages of its capabilities and extend its lifespan, said Florence, but the company will continue to segment its SSDs product lines for specific workloads for those customers who just want to drop in a drive without customizations. “There is a demand for preconfigured devices."
Matthew Kimball, senior analyst for servers and storage at Moor Insights & Strategy, said the early and obvious adopters of NVMe has been data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. “But there are also HPC applications that are already taking advantage of the performance gains seen by deploying NVMe." He believes that as NVMe technology “mainstreams", there are other obvious candidates that maybe aren't considered today due to cost factors, such as server virtualization and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). “With VDI in particular, organizations will not only see better virtual desktop performance, but NVMe goes a long way to reducing the issues associated with boot storms – the massive amounts of users logging in at the beginning of a work shift."
Micron's 9200 Series of NVMe SSDs are the storage foundation for the the company's SolidScale Platform, an NVMe over Fabric architecture ahead of standards development announced in May.
Kimball said the high capacity of the Micron NVMe SSDs it significant for both the “early-ish" adopters and the larger market. “The number of devices and edge points that comprise IoT leads to a crazy amount of data being collected on a minute-by-minute basis," he said. “Sifting through, analyzing and turning that data into useful information means having to deal with datasets of unprecedented sizes."
Although 10TB and beyond may seem large today, it won't seem large tomorrow, Kimball added. For the mainstream users, this storage density per drive, per server and per rack means a big reduction in direct and indirect costs as there will fewer servers and racks to buy, less floor space to consume, and lower management and operational costs, he said, all of which are significant.
The flexibility of the firmware to tune drives for the unique performance characteristics and needs of an application will also be appealing for many uses cases, he said. “Take HPC as an example. It's a big umbrella workload category with applications that have varied needs. To be able to tune my storage environment so that I can attack a dataset faster allows me to cut down my analysis time, sometimes significantly."
For the foreseeable future, there doesn't appear to be any barriers to NVMe's momentum, said Kimball. “What's important for any new technology to see adoption at scale is the openness of the technology, standards, protocols and interfaces," said. “I can take a Micron SolidScale box populated with the 9200 NVMe drives and drop that into my existing infrastructure and know that it's going to play well."
Companies like Micron are being smart in their approach to ensure this easy adoption, Kimball said, as price can also be a big barrier to adoption, so the cost curve on new technology will have to move in a direction where a “server room on Main Street" can afford to purchase it, not just the hyperscale players. “It looks like Micron and others are going to be able to drive competitive pricing."
—Gary Hilson is a general contributing editor with a focus on memory and flash technologies for EE Times.