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October 25, 2019updated 13 Jul 2022 3:53am

Micron Hits Market with “World’s Fastest” SSD – Mystery Surrounds 3D XPoint Materials

"An entirely new class of non-volatile memory"

By CBR Staff Writer

Memory heavyweight Micron says it is bringing the world’s fastest-yet SSD to market, tapping its 3D XPoint technology to drive high performance local storage in its new Micron X100 SSD, which can handle a claimed 2.5 million input/output operations per second (IOPs), triple today’s SSD offerings.

The X100 SSD has the industry’s highest bandwidth at more than 9GB/s in read, write and mixed modes, and provides read-write latency 11 times better than NAND SSDs, the Boise, Idaho-based firm said Thursday; describing 3D XPoint as “an entirely new class of nonvolatile memory”.

The new product will drive “breakthrough performance improvements for applications and enable entirely new use cases,” said Micron’s Chief Business Officer, Sumit Sadana, introducing the SSD — which it expects to be put to work powering workloads like AI in data centres.

The Micron X100 will be available via “limited sampling with select customers” this quarter, Micron said. The company did not specify a price for the X100, nor a date for broader commercial roll-out.

Micron X100

A Micron X100 SSD. Credit, Micron

Micron X100 SSD

The Micron X100 SSD is the first Micron product built using innovative new technology co-developed by Intel and Micron. The two parted ways on its development in January 2019, with Micron exercising its right to buy out Intel’s stake in their joint venture IM Flash Technologies for $1.5 billion (£1.1 billion). and Intel now markets its alternative under the “Optane” brand.

Mystery continues to surround the precise nature of the technology, which was initially linked to so-called phase change memory and understood to use  chalcogenide materials. Neither Intel nor Micron have been particularly open about the nature of the technology and a lawsuit surrounding the IP of phase change memory in the US continues to quietly rumble on.

(A description by Micron says the SSDs use “perpendicular conductors [that] connect 128 billion densely packed memory cells. Each memory cell stores a single bit of data. The initial technology stores 128Gb per die across two stacked memory layers… memory cells are written or read by varying the amount of voltage sent to each selector. This eliminates the need for transistors, increasing capacity and reducing cost.”)

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Micron said in a release: “The Micron X100 SSD is the first solution in a family of products from Micron targeting storage- and memory-intensive applications for the data centre. These solutions will leverage the strengths of 3D XPoint technology and usher in a new tier in the memory-to-storage hierarchy with higher capacity and persistence than DRAM, along with higher endurance and performance than NAND.

It was not immediately clear if the X100 will require specific chipset/CPU configurations – Computer Business Review has asked the question – and Micron looks to be easing it into the market gently. The company does claim “ease of adoption” as among the blisteringly fast storage technology’s benefits, saying as the X100 SSD uses the standard NVMe interface, it requires “no changes to software to receive the full benefits of the product”.

The new Micron 7300 NVMe series of SSDs for the data centre, meanwhile are designed for commonly used mixed read-write, compute and virtualised tasks such as SQL and NoSQL, for hyperconverged infrastructures, and demanding cloud platforms. They will be available for order in a range form factors, capacities and endurance levels, starting in December 2019. 

Read this: If Moore’s Law’s Dead, What Now for Silicon Valley? The CEOs of Arm, Micron, Xilinx Have their Say

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