Micron Announces P420m PCI Express Solid State Drive For Enterprise and Data Center Applications

When it comes to solid state storage, or just about any type of storage technology for that matter, there are two things you can never get enough of -- capacity and speed.  SATA-based Solid State Drives offer a good balance of both currently, as NAND Flash density continues to scale, but they can't compete with PCI Express-based SSDs, when it comes to raw bandwidth.

PCI-Express SSD cards offer "direct attached" storage on a native PCIe system interface, without the need for translation to and from the SATA (Serial ATA) interface.  As a result, bandwidth bottlenecks are alleviated and transfer times for both sequential and random workloads are generally much faster.  Of course PCIe Solid State Drives are also much more expensive than traditional SATA SSDs, and so in general, these products are targeted more toward enterprise, data center or high-end workstation usage models. 

Not long ago we gave you a look at Micron's P320h PCI Express SSD.  This first generation PCIe SSD from Micron is built from a custom ASIC Micron developed with IDT, along Micron's SLC NAND flash.  SLC (Single Level Cell) NAND is more expensive but also offers much better write performance and endurance versus cheaper MLC NAND flash that is used in most SATA SSDs.

Micron's announcement today marks the follow-up to their P320h SLC-based product.  The new Micron P420m is a PCI Express-based SSD card that is based on the same native PCI Express NAND memory ASIC (Application Specific IC) that the P320h is based on, but instead uses Micron's lower-cost 25nm MLC NAND Flash in a similar Half-Height, Half-Length (HHHL) card format.

A quick glance at the specs shows the P420m offers about the same sequential and random read bandwidth as the P320h but higher read latency at 70us (the P320h clocks in at under 40).  Regardless, of the latency difference, 70us is still blazingly fast, as is the 3GB read specification. 

The unknowns here are sequential and random write bandwidth and IOPs, along with pricing; all of those numbers are TBD.  We'll be circling back with you on the P420m as we get more info and some hands-on time with the new card.  In the mean time, check out Micron's press release below for the official news...

Micron Unveils New PCIe I/O Accelerator

The New Micron P420m PCIe Accelerator Card Delivers High Performance, Reliability and Low Latency for Enterprise Servers and Storage Applications 

  • Vertically integrated solution, utilizing Micron’s MLC NAND, controller, DRAM, firmware and drivers
  • Delivers ultra-low latency, enabling fast and predictable response times
  • Designed using Micron’s XPERT architecture for improved performance and reliability
  • Available in both 2.5-inch and HHHL form factors in 350GB, 700GB and 1.4TB capacities

BOISE, Idaho, May 2, 2013 -- Micron Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:MU) today announced a new PCIe all-flash I/O accelerator to improve overall performance in enterprise servers, appliances and storage platforms. The new Micron P420m combines consistent performance with the inherent power efficiency of an all-flash system to deliver improved economics for enterprise data centers. The P420m accelerates performance of today’s demanding data center applications, including online transaction processing (OLTP), data warehousing and virtualization.

Ultimately, Micron’s P420m ends the wait game for digital data. It features ultra-low latency performance that enables fast and predictable response times to information frequently used in data center environments. When tested against competing PCIe solutions in a MySQL server running an OLTP benchmark, the P420m is the fastest and most consistent performer, delivering more than 3,200 web server requests per second. It handily manages online requests during peak traffic times, improving the overall end-user experience.

“The P420m is a true workhorse—it delivers where performance matters most,” said Ed Doller, VP and general manager of Micron’s Enterprise SSD division. “Introduction of the P420m is a testament to our commitment to storage innovation for all levels of integration. We’ve expanded our portfolio to address the changing storage needs of today’s data centers, regardless the workload.”

Micron will be showcasing the P420m, along with a broad portfolio of storage solutions, at EMC World, May 6–9 in Las Vegas (Booth #834).

The P420m is designed using Micron’s custom-designed ASIC controller, advanced 25-nanometer (nm) multilevel cell (MLC) NAND flash technology, DRAM, firmware and drivers to create a truly vertically integrated solution. The vertical integration begins with intimate knowledge of the NAND media and extends all the way to the end-system design, manufacture and drivers. This end-to-end involvement ensures delivering the ultimate level of storage quality and efficiency.

The P420m uses Micron’s Extended Performance and Enhanced Reliability Technology (XPERT) architecture, which closely incorporates the storage and controller through highly optimized firmware algorithms and hardware enhancements. The end result is a set of market-focused enterprise features that deliver ultra-low latencies, improved data transfer time, power-loss protection and cost-effectiveness, along with higher capacities and power efficiency.

The P420m low-profile accelerator card comes in a half-height, half-length (HHHL) form factor for rackmount servers. It is also the industry’s first MLC PCIe solution available in a 2.5-inch form factor. The 2.5-inch form factor is growing in popularity among IT administrators because of its ease of serviceability and scalability; it allows drive access from the front of the server, which eliminates the need to power down the server for drive service. This hot-swap capability dramatically decreases server downtime and maintenance costs.

It will be available in 350GB, 700GB and 1.4TB capacitiesi. Micron is currently sampling the P420m with production expected to begin in June 2013.