U.3 SSDs for Data Center Workloads

Micron took the wraps off their newest data center SSD products today. The 9400 NVMe series builds on the success of Micron’s third-generation 9300 series launched in the second quarter of 2019. The 9300 series utilizes a U.2 form factor with a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface and uses their 64L 3D TLC NAND. The drive’s maximum capacity was 15.36 TB, which matched the highest capacity HDDs on the storage front at the time (obviously with higher performance numbers). Over the past few years, data centers have moved to PCIe 4.0 and U.3 to keep up with performance demands and unify NVMe, SAS and SATA support. Keeping this in mind, Micron released the 9400 NVMe series of U.3 SSDs with a PCIe 4.0 x4 interface, using their now mature 176L 3D TLC NAND. The increase in capacity per chip also now enables Micron to introduce 2.5″ U.3 drives with capacities up to 30.72 TB, effectively doubling the capacity per chassis compared to the previous generation.

Like the 9300 NVMe Series, the 9400 NVMe Series is also optimized for data-intensive workloads and is available in two versions – 9400 PRO and 9400 MAX. The Micron 9400 PRO is optimized for read-intensive workloads (1 DWPD), while the Micron 9400 MAX is suitable for mixed use (3 DWPD). The maximum capacity points are 30.72 TB and 25.60 TB, respectively. The table below summarizes the specifications of the two drive families.

Micron 9400 NVMe Enterprise SSD
9400 Professional Edition 9400 max
Constituents U.3 2.5″ 15mm
interface PCIe 4.0 NVMe 1.4
capacity 7.68TB
NAND gate Micron 176L 3D TLC
sequential read 7000 megabits per second
sequential write 7000 megabits per second
Random read (4 KB) 1.6 million IOPS (7.68TB and 15.36TB)
1.5 million IOPS (30.72TB)
1.6 million IOPS (6.4TB and 12.8TB)
1.5 million IOPS (25.6TB)
Random write (4 KB) 300K IOPS 600K IOPS (6.4TB and 12.8TB)
550K IOPS (25.6TB)
strength operate 14-21W (7.68TB)
16-25W (15.36TB)
17-25W (30.72TB)
14-21 watts (6.40TB)
16-24W (12.8TB)
17-25W (25.6TB)
idle ? W ? W
write stamina 1 DWPD 3DWPD
Warranty 5 years

The 9400 NVMe SSD series is already in volume production for AI/ML and other HPC workloads. The move to faster interfaces and higher performance NAND has resulted in a 77% increase in random IOPS per watt over the previous generation. Micron also claims better all-around performance across a wide range of workloads compared to competing enterprise SSDs.

The Micron 9400 PRO went up against the Solidigm D7-5520, the Samsung PM1733 and the Kioxia CM6-R. The downside of the Solidigm D7-5520 is the lower capacity point (due to the use of 144L TLC), resulting in lower performance than the 9400 PRO in all but sequential reads. The Samsung PM1733 also has a capacity of 15.36TB, with similar performance figures to the Solidigm model. The Kioxia CM6-R is the only U.3 SSD with a capacity up to 30.72TB. However, its performance figures lag far behind the 9400 PRO’s across the board.

The competitors of Micron 9400 MAX are Solidigm D7-P5620, Samsung PM1735 and Kioxia CM6-V. Except for sequential reads, the Solidigm D7-P5620 lags behind the 9400 MAX in both performance and capacity. PM1735 is only available in HHHL AIC form factor and uses PCIe 4.0 x8 interface. So while it has 8 GBps sequential read performance, it cannot be deployed in a similar way to the 9400 MAX. The Kioxia CM6-V has a maximum capacity of 12.8TB and has a lower performance index compared to the 9400 MAX.

Although not the first company to introduce a 32TB class SSD to the data center market, Micron has ensured that their final product will deliver top performance across a wide range of workloads compared to the competition. We hope to have some real performance numbers for SSDs in the coming weeks.

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