Intel and Micron plan to further shrink NAND circuitry, doubling the density of their flash chips and further reducing the cost of SSD (solid state drive) storage.
IMFT (IM Flash Technologies), Intel and Micron's joint venture, released 25 nanometer (nm) circuitry a little over a year ago.
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Early this summer, the company plans to release an enterprise-class SSD based on 20nm circuitry and the PCIe expansion card standard.
"This will be the industry's leading drive," Kevin Kilbuck, Micron's director of strategic marketing for Micron's NAND Product Group, told Computerworld at the Storage Networking World conference here this week.
The new PCIe card, called the P320h, is the successor to Micron's first enterprise-class SSD, the P300, which is based on SLC (single-level cell) NAND flash memory.
The P320h will also use SLC NAND flash along with a technology based on a familiar acronym with a different twist: RAIN, or redundant array of independent NAND. RAIN is more commonly defined as "redundant array of independent (or inexpensive) nodes," which refers to the building blocks of a grid storage architecture that incorporates both processors and disk storage in one unit.
In Micron's instance, RAIN will refer to utilizing additional NAND as a cache or buffer to increase performance.
Unlike Intel, which last week said it was as much as walking away from SLC, Micron sees a future in offering SLC-based SSDs as the highest tier of storage in an enterprise, even if that tier only represents about 10 percent of SSD capacity sold.
Kilbuck contends that 10 percent of capacity will represent about 50 percent of market revenue by 2014.
In contrast, Intel said its most popular consumer-class SSD, the X25-M, outsold its SLC-based enterprsie-class SSD, the X25-E, by as much as 7:1 to 8:1 in the enterprise. So in the future the company plans to focus on enterprise-class products based on MLC NAND.
Micron admits its consumer-class SSD, the C400, is also far outselling its enterprise-class SSD, the P300. But, in terms of revenue, it expects enterprise-class SSDs to match that of the less costly consumer products.
For example, Micron separates enterprise SSD into three categories:
- Enterprise performance products based on PCIe and SAS interfaces that are aimed at OLTP, high performance computing and relational database applications.
- Enterprise mainstream products based on SAS and SATA interfaces that are aimed at web servers and data caching.
- Enterprise value products based on the SATA interface and aimed at being a boot drive, storage for log files in databases and data vaulting, or a DRAM offload point.
Kevin Dilbelius, Micron's senior product marketing manager for enterprise SSD, said the cloud is driving the need for higher performance flash products that can help blade server infrastructures serve up things like online streaming video.