Solid-state drives (SSDs) are the fastest-growing segment of the mass storage industry. The technology’s inherent advantages of high performance, better responsiveness and low power consumption have made it the “go-to” technology in an expanding mix of applications.
The result has been strong demand among a broad variety of customers, from large enterprises and cloud service providers to white box solution providers and specialized industrial systems manufacturers. Global enterprise sales of SSDs are projected by Infinity Research to grow by nearly 17% on a compounded annual basis through 2020,1 with 2015 sales already exceeding $13 billion.2
Now, engineering breakthroughs are opening up new opportunities for SSDs. In particular, utilizing small form factor SSDs that support PCIe and much lower power consumption is causing enterprise IT and storage administrators to look to SSDs for even more applications. In particular, managing the rising cost of power and cooling is a high-priority item for data center teams tasked with reducing Opex while still delivering maximum infrastructure performance.
This white paper examines some of the new capabilities and functionality available in a new class of SSD solutions and how those engineering breakthroughs will be emerging in new use cases. The paper also profiles the broad and deep SSD portfolio of Micron, who has expanded its lineup to feature these important product breakthroughs.
Evaluating the Impact of Smaller Format and Lower Power
The appeal of SSDs for more and more Tier 1 applications and enterprise workloads is undeniable. The combination of high performance, low latency and ever-increasing capacities makes SSD the preferred storage tool for enterprise IT. Now, add in rapidly improving cost efficiencies and the accelerating adoption of the PCIe interface, and it’s easy to see why enterprise IT professionals and storage administrators are integrating SSDs anywhere and everywhere.
Legacy versions of PCIe, however, did come with the challenge of higher power, which impacted adoption. But new PCIe designs have moved the interface past that limitation. As a result, a new class of SSD has hit the market, incorporating the newest, highest-bandwidth PCIe interface as well as other important design advances. For instance, these new SSDs are using the small U.2/M.2 form factor and optimized drive internals. This combination results in a small drive package with lower height requirements, improving airflow in densely packed physical space.
The economic and operational advantages of this new, smaller, low-power SSD are substantial. Imagine being able to support high-performance workloads with a high-end PCIe interface, but at half—or lower—the power consumption of traditional SAS-based drives. Or think about SSD’s ability, when acting as a server’s primary storage, to offer significantly higher IOPS, much lower latency and better overall value than even the highest-performing HDDs.
In short, this new low-power SSD provides such benefits as:
- Better SSD density per platform, enabling far greater overall capacity and increased performance compared to legacy HDDs
- Cutting storage-related power and cooling costs by 50% 3
- Lowering Opex in the form of less power, cooling and physical space costs
- Transforming server-based primary storage to enable hot data capabilities while driving higher capacities and improved cost metrics such as cost per IOPS and cost per kilowatt hour of power
New Use Cases for SSDs
It’s easy to imagine how a smaller SSD consuming less power could be deployed in a variety of new use cases—that’s because it’s already happening. Here are a few of the emerging use cases for this new generation of smaller, low-power SSDs:
- Server-side flash, the new normal. “In 2016, we will stop putting hard disk drives in our servers,” noted SearchDataCenter.com.4 Not only do new SSD configurations increase performance and trim your Opex, but server-side flash offers the lower latency required for complex algorithms, often employed in financial services, energy and predictive analytics.
- Hyper-converged infrastructure appliances. HCI is an important development in data center infrastructure, and many HCI solutions vendors are deploying flash alongside HDD and, in some cases, replacing it. The thinking is simple and logical: If you’re really going to transform your enterprise infrastructure with HCI, then rethinking your approach to approach to storage makes a lot of sense.
- ROBO environments. Remote and branch offices often struggle to get all the IT resources they need, ostensibly because they don’t have traditional data centers supporting tens of thousands of users. But ROBO environments are running performance-intensive workloads and demand the power and speed of flash storage. Today’s new SSD options deliver both the capacity and performance ROBO customers need in small form factor arrays or embedded into servers.
- Open Compute Project infrastructure transformation. The OCP initiative represents a real breakthrough—the collaboration of technology suppliers and customers to build next-generation web-scale infrastructure based on the tenets of standardization, commoditization and interoperability. OCP-based solutions represent a radical move away from legacy data centers by reducing complexity while supporting modernized infrastructure requirements such as capacity, performance, redundancy, intelligence, scalability and cost efficiency—all in less physical real estate.
- Data center consolidation. Many enterprises now utilize multiple data centers, and many CIOs and their business colleagues would prefer not to have to expand their capacity by adding new seven-figure data centers. Data center consolidation leans heavily on next-generation hardware that is smaller yet more powerful and more cost-efficient than legacy data center designs.
- PCIe-based all-flash arrays. For more and more Tier 1 applications, PCIe represents the same exciting upgrade in performance that Fibre Channel provided for HDDs two decades ago. New, smaller SSDs with lower power consumption can be configured in small, cost-efficient arrays to deliver more capacity without having to buy more SSDs than is absolutely necessary.
- Specialized applications. While “carpeted” environments like corporate offices are usually the first workloads to pop to mind, non-traditional environments like field operations benefit from flash’s durability and ability to support ruggedized requirements like military applications and high performance. Even emerging technologies like intelligent drones could take advantage of small, low-power SSDs for use cases like unmanned commercial package delivery.
- Internet of Things-driven analytics. The IoT movement is driving gigantic, exponential growth in data for sophisticated, real-time analytics. While this certainly requires high capacity to accommodate all that unstructured data, it also requires the high performance and, in particular, low latency that SSDs are uniquely qualified to deliver.
Flash Storage Solutions From Micron
Micron, one of the industry’s leading suppliers of SSDs and a pioneer in the development of flash technology for memory and storage applications, is bringing to market a new, small, low-power solution for data center and enterprise requirements. The new 7100 is a PCIe-based SSD optimized for the lower power and cooling requirements of today’s performance-intensive workloads in on-premises infrastructure, as well as virtualized infrastructure, cloud computing and other enterprise environments.
The 7100 is designed for use cases that demand the low latency, high IOPS and low power consumption of SSDs, but without compromising on enterprise demands for high capacity to accommodate the non-stop growth of unstructured data. The 7100 is offered in drive capacities ranging from 400 GB to 1.9 TB, with read bandwidth of 2.5 GB/second and write bandwidth of 900 MB/second.
The drive, which comes in small-footprint M.2 and U.2 form factors, delivers performance of 220,000 IOPS, making it an enterprise-class solution for a wide range of use cases that need the high throughput enabled by the PCIe interface.
Unlike many competitors’ PCIe-based SSDs, the Micron 7100 runs at very low power, typically in the range of 6 to 9 watts, up to a specified maximum of 12 watts. This represents a power savings of 50% compared with most PCIe-based SSDs on the market.5
This is a key capability, because many enterprise customers may have delayed or deferred purchases of PCIe-based SSDs due to the power typically required for the high-performance interface, particularly in all-flash arrays. As such, IT decision-makers used to stick with lower-performance SAS or SATA drives in order to avoid higher power consumption or heat build-up in tightly packed arrays. Now Micron allows customers to have the high performance of flash and PCIe, without running up significantly higher power and cooling costs.
In fact, compared with a typical 15k SAS-based HDD, the 7100 provides significant advantages across a number of key factors, including sustained bandwidth, IOPS, latency and power consumption.
The 7100’s low height improves airflow, allowing storage administrators to achieve higher capacity and high performance by deploying densely packed all-flash arrays.
For familiar customer pain points of power, cooling and performance, the 7100 is designed as a more cost-effective solution that also supports high scalability, resiliency and high endurance. The endurance factor is worth noting because not all workloads require the same number of daily writes per drive, meaning that customers may be paying for greater drive endurance than they actually need. The 7100 is offered in different configurations to support from <1 to 3 drive-writes per day, giving customers the flexibility to select the most appropriate endurance levels for their workloads.
Micron also has introduced a higher-end SSD—the 9100—as part of its ongoing commitment to continue expanding its SSD portfolio. The new 9100 is offered in capacities ranging from 800 GB up to 3.2 TB, supporting up to 750,000 IOPS and the U.2 and HHHL (half-height/half-length) form factors.
The 9100, which also supports PCIe, is ideal for higher-performance workloads like seismic modeling, OLTP, Hadoop/Spark analytics and other high-read applications. Like the 7100, the 9100 is built on a foundation of Micron’s decades-long engineering expertise in flash technology, allowing the company to become a leading supplier of SSDs in a range of configurations, including server-based flash, all-flash arrays and hybrid arrays. The drives utilize Micron’s eMLC flash technology to achieve a unique combination of high IOPS, low latency, high endurance and low power consumption.
Micron offers a full range of SSD solutions, from client-based storage to data center infrastructure and enterprise-wide storage requirements, supporting PCIe, SATA and SAS interfaces.
SSDs are now a very big deal for enterprises in all verticals looking to deliver breakthrough performance improvements for Tier 1 applications and other demanding workloads. Big upgrades in flash storage capacity and significantly lower price per capacity now make flash highly desirable in a wide range of environments, often replacing legacy HDDs.
And it’s not just well-established performance-centric applications like analytics, financial modeling, energy exploration and OLTP where flash storage makes a difference. New advances in SSD engineering have resulted in solutions that are implemented in smaller form factors that also dramatically reduce power and cooling requirements. These improvements have opened up an entirely new array of use cases for SSDs, particularly those based on high-performance PCIe interfaces that otherwise could require more power and cooling to support low latency and high IOPS.
Micron, a leader in flash storage, has used its extensive R&D resources to create leading flash storage components to incorporate in an impressive new small form factor SSD that achieves significantly lower power and cooling in a PCIe configuration. This makes flash not only appropriate for, but especially attractive in, workloads such as server-side flash, hyper-converged infrastructure, ruggedized environments such as military and other non-office settings and remote/branch offices.
The low-power 7100 SSD, combined with the new higher-end 9100 solution, represents an important expansion of Micron’s already-extensive lineup of flash storage solutions. Micron’s engineering expertise in flash technology, combined with its world-class manufacturing and global service/support capabilities, makes it an important part of enterprises’ storage architecture roadmap.
Click here for more information on Micron’s family of solid-state drive solutions.
1 “Global Enterprise SSD Market 2016-2020,” Infiniti Research Ltd., January 2016
2 “Solid State Drive Market Global Trend and Forecast to 2022,” MarketsandMarkets, March 2016
3 Assuming 20-25W MAX for high-performance NVMe products and 8.25-12.1 MAX for the Micron 7100.
4 “Server SSDs Open up Storage Possibilities in Data Centers,” SearchStorage.com, February 2016
5 Based on competitor solid state drives in the range from 6W to 25W, with the average range being at 25W.
6 Pricing for 15K HDD based on CDW. Performance data for 15K HDDIOPS based on third party review