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Micron Releases the First Quad-Level Cell NAND SSD 

Can SSDs dominate data centres?

By CBR Staff Writer

Micron today released the industry’s first Quad-Level Cell NAND solid state drive (SSD) at the firm’s 2018 Analyst and Investor Event. The 5210 ION SSD is optimised for Big Data, AI and cost reduction.

What is a Quad-Level Cell NAND SSD? 

Succinctly, the Quad-Level Cell is the densest SSD cell ever.

This bit density (built on the Micron 64-layer 3D eQLC NAND), drives down cost, enables quick access and analysis of read-centric data stores and comes with a full enterprise SSD feature set.  

Available in a 2.5-inch form factor, compared to the traditional 3.5-inch HDD, Micron said the 5210 ION SSD reduces server sprawl by packing more performance into fewer racks, which allows data centers to save on power and cooling costs.

“Jeff Janukowicz, research vice president at IDC said at the launch: “QLC enterprise SATA SSDs provide an affordable way to move enterprise applications to flash and have the opportunity to increase the addressable market for flash in the enterprise.”

Optimised for Big-Data, AI and Cloud 

As mentioned, Micron’s Quad-Level Cell is optimised for read-intensive operations.

This has significant benefits within the cloud, AI and machine learning contexts, which are better suited (due to their high-performance centricity) for this SSD architecture in relation to cost and effectiveness.

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Evidence of this can be seen in Micron’s collaboration with the Chinese search engine giant Baidu, as stated in yesterday’s press release.

This deep technical collaboration helps Baidu to build on our leadership position as the premier AI service and cloud service provider in China, providing an exceptional user experience for our customers.”


Micron chip fabrication. Credit: Micron

Increased Component Density and Cost 

Up until now the maximum number of bits that could be stored on a cell was three. This represented a 50% increase from the previous cell iteration which could store two bits. Naturally, this bit division has lowered the cost of a storage per cell over time.

In keeping with this trend, Quad-Level Cells allow costs to be lowered even more on a per gigabyte basis. This is likely to draw the attention of business executives, who will be able to lower costs for performance heavy functions, such as AI and cloud, whilst also providing a higher capacity in these areas.   

Challenging SSD’s 

Nicolas Maigne, Senior Partner Management Manager, Cloud and Enterprise Storage told Computer Business Review: “Up until now this market was not challenged by SSD’s”.

SSD Quad-Level Cell’s are likely to have considerable impact on the HDD market, which has traditionally been favoured due to the price/performance trade-off.  

This, coupled with SSD’s many benefits compared to HDD’s such as: optimisation for read-centric data stores, the ability to store more per 2U chassis, and the use of less power than 7200 RPM HDDs for corresponding capacity is likely to begin a new perception of SSD’s when compared to HDD’s in such contexts.  

Already Being Shipped 

The drives are already being shipped, so the utility of the technology will become more apparent as firms draw on its new capabilities. Ultimately, Micron’s innovation in this space has possibly spawned a completely new era of SSD capabilities and may inspire the industry to continue pushing the boundaries in this area.  


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