Micron introduces its highest-endurance MLC SSD for servers

P400m uses higher quality NAND flash, XPERT firmware for extending SSD performance, life span and data integrity

Micron today announced it is shipping its highest endurance, multi-level cell (MLC) enterprise-class solid-state drive (SSD) for servers, P400m, which can sustain 10 full drive writes per day for five years, the company said.

The P400m SSD's endurance is the equivalent to writing every picture posted to Facebook daily to the drive for 311 days straight (about 78 billion photos total), Micron said.

By comparison, Micron's entry-level SSDs offer one to three full drive writes per day and a midrange SSD offers about five full drive writes, according to Matt Shaine, Micron's product marketing manager for enterprise SSDs.

Micron's new P400m SATA server SSD.

"Customers have really been asking us for faster speeds, better performance and better reliability, and well be providing that for them with the P400m," Shaine said.

The P400m is a 2.5-in. form factor drive with a serial ATA (SATA) 6Gbps interface. It uses multi-level cell (MLC) 25 nanometer NAND flash, and a Marvell controller with eight channels to the flash chips.

Unlike its most recently released SATA SSD, the Crucial M500, the P400m uses higher quality NAND flash geared for enterprise data center use. It is also the first drive to use Micron's new wear leveling and error correction code firmware that it calls XPERT (extended performance and enhanced reliability technology). As the name implies, XPERT is aimed at extending SSD longevity and enhancing data integrity, the company said.

In addition to its new firmware, the drive also take advantage of generous overprovisioning of NAND flash capacity in order to first arrange data before writing it permanently to the flash; that way fewer program-erase cycles need to be performed, which extends the life of the flash.

"The P400m is over provisioned 71%. The P400m over provisions space to provide enterprise-level endurance, latency, and reliability. Over provisioning provides additional working space in the drive that enables the controller to execute background tasks while foreground tasks (host I/O) run with consistent latency and performance levels," a Micron spokeswoman wrote in an email response to Computerworld.

"As Microns first MLC enterprise drive design, Micron took a very conservative and cautious approach: provide performance that bests legacy SLC drives, but provide it reliably, with SLC-equivalent endurance," the spokeswoman continued. "Essentially, they didnt want to turn customers into validation testers. Other vendors may be less conservative with their design philosophy."

As a higher capacity drive, the previously released M500 was also positioned for use in consumer products and for Web 2.0 applications in businesses. Because of that the M500 was tuned for higher read performance and endurance, rather than write endurance. The new P400m is tuned for a more even read/write mix to address applications such as big data analytics and virtualized server infrastructures.

Using 128K transfer blocks, the P400m has a maximum sequential read speed of 350MB/s, and a sequential write speed of 300MB/s. Using 4K block sizes, the SSD has a maximum random read performance of 55,000 I/Os per second (IOPS) and a random write rate of up to 16,000 IOPS.

The backside of the P400m SSD.

The P400m comes in 100GB, 200GB and 400GB capacities. Micron said pricing would be competitive with other SATA-based server-class SSDs on the market, but would not release specific prices for the drive.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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