Micron to bump up enterprise SSD speed

P300 drives coming in May will use SATA 3.0's 6G bps interface to beat hard drives, Micron said

Micron Technology will bring faster interfaces to its enterprise SSD (solid-state disk) line in June when it begins shipping its P300 drives to makers of storage equipment.

The P300 line will use the SATA 3.0 specification, with throughput as high as 6G bps (bits per second), in place of the SATA 2.0 standard that Micron uses on its P200 drives, said Kevin Dibelius, senior product marketing manager, in an interview Wednesday at Storage Networking World in Orlando.

SATA 2.0 is limited to 3G bps. With the new, higher standard, Micron's SSDs will be able to outperform any hard disk drive, because the company claims even the fastest spinning disks can't fill the 6G bps link between the drive and system that SATA 3.0 offers, Dibelius said. (Seagate announced a SATA 3.0 HDD last year.) To help the P300 fill that pipe, the new SSD also uses ONFI (Open NAND Flash Interface) 2.1, a faster connection between the flash silicon itself and the controller inside the SSD.

The P300 drives will be made using Micron's 34-nanometer manufacturing process and will come in 50GB, 100GB and 200GB sizes, shipping in sample quantities to system makers in late May. Dibelius expects them to hit the market in storage platforms in June. Pricing will be comparable to the P200, which is being phased out.

The upcoming SSDs finally give Micron the speed it believes it needs to compete with hard disk drives (HDDs) in high-performance storage systems, given the price premium for SSDs. The slower P200s didn't quite meet that bar.

"We didn't see enough performance to really (make) the cost per IOP (I/O operation) as competitive as it needed to be," Dibelius said.

With the higher performance, SSDs can begin to replace the most expensive tiers of HDD storage in an enterprise, such as 10,000 rpm and 15,000 rpm drives, Dibelius said. In that way, the higher cost of SSDs can be offset by a smaller outlay for high-end disks, he said.

"We think (the P300) is going to lend itself much better to this space," he said.

Late last year, Micron announced its move to SATA 3.0 and ONFI 2.1 in its consumer-oriented MLC (multi-level cell) SSDs when it introduced the C300 series. That series also represented the first SSDs made with the company's 34-nm process technology. The P300 SSDs will use SLC (single-level cell) technology, which is considered more dependable in the long term and is typically used in enterprise flash storage.

In addition to stepping up to the new manufacturing process and interface standards, the P300 includes NAND management features designed for longer life in enterprise online-transaction-processing environments. These include data path protection and automatic wear leveling, which prevents one area of the NAND array from being overused. The SSDs are designed for a useful life of at least five years, according to Micron.

Dibelius would not comment on when Micron may start using its 25-nm process in SSD products.

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