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Micron releases first 176-layer NAND data center SSD

The Micron 7450 marks the launch of the first 176-layer NAND SSD aimed at the data center, bringing a consistently low-latency, PCIe Gen 4 performance and a spectrum of form factors.

Micron is sampling its 7450 SSD, a portfolio of 176-layer 3D NAND drives that delivers consistent and predictable low latency during a time of supply chain shortages and disruptions to NAND production.

The new SSD, which can be purchased in three main form factors, use the PCIe Gen 4 interface, soon to be the most widely adopted interface for data centers, according to Micron. The new SSD is a follow-on to Micron's first PCIe Gen 4 data center SSD, a 96-layer NAND that it released in October.

"[The market is] ready to adopt the PCIe Gen 4 growth as the [7450] comes out," said Alvaro Toledo, vice president and general manager of data center storage at Micron. "By 2025, the expectation is that the vast majority of the units shipped will be PCIe Gen 4."

Push for performance

Micron was also the first flash manufacturer to announce 176-layer 3D NAND drives at the 2020 Flash Memory Summit. At the time, the vendor said the enhanced density would bring better quality of service (QoS), consistency and predictability of latency, and performance to the data center.

While density and latency were always goals, Toledo said the disruptions to supply chains have encouraged companies like Micron to focus on other issues as well.

"In this era of semiconductor shortages, we need to get more for the same resources," he said. "We think the 7450 and us as being on the leading edge of that."

Until the WD and Kioxia contamination issue, it was a buyer's market. Now, prices are rising for the unforeseen future.
Patrick MoorheadAnalyst, Moor Insights & Strategy

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, pointed to another disruption that could have a significant effect on the market -- the contamination at Western Digital (WD) and Kioxia NAND production facilities.

"Until the WD and Kioxia contamination issue, it was a buyer's market," he said. "Now, prices are rising for the unforeseen future."

The 176-layer NAND represents a density increase in an order of magnitude, lowering the price per bit. It could lower costs, all things else being equal, according to Moorhead.

By the numbers

Toledo said performance is quoted as 1 million IOPS in random reads. He also noted the 7450's low latency, which Micron has demonstrated can achieve a QoS at 2ms or below in a 70/30 mixed workload -- 70% read, 30% write -- to mimic how the drive would be used in the data center.

"Latency is critical for hyperscalers that have very consistent [service-level agreements] but also traditional data center users that run multi-threaded databases, multiple queues, into the drive," he said.

Micron 7450 SSD in all form factors
Micron 7450 176-layer NAND SSD portfolio

The QoS is six-nines, meaning that 99.9999% of the time, the drive can hit a consistently low latency, Toledo said.

The 7450 SSD line offers several form factors and capacities, coming in U.3, both 7mm and 15mm; E1.S, 5.9mm, 15mm and 25mm; and M.2, both 2280 and 22110.

The top capacity is 15.36 TB in the U.3. But Toledo highlighted the 8 TB, particularly in the E1.S, an Enterprise & Datacenter SSD Form Factor (EDSFF).

"It is so critical for big data centers to continue to pack more into the racks," he said.

EDSFF is seeing broader adoption, particularly by hyperscalers, Toledo said. The Z-height varies with heatsink, which is related to potential performance, as an increase in power can be run to the drives with a larger heatsink, he said.

Moorhead pointed to other areas for the EDSFF beyond hyperscalers. "[The new EDSFF] is increasingly being looked at by edge vendors that want the highest density in the harshest conditions," he said.

The last form factor, 7450 M.2 2280, is the only M.2 PCIe Gen 4 drive with power loss protection, which is important for an M.2 that is used primarily as a boot drive in a data center, Toledo said.

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