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Micron ships first MLC PCIe flash card

Micron unveiled its P420m MLC PCIe flash card in 2.5-inch (350 GB, 700 GB) and half-height, half-length (700 GB and 1.4 TB) form factors.

Micron Technology Inc. has expanded its flash product line with its first MLC PCIe Express NAND card, two years after launching its first SLC PCIe flash card.

The P420m multi-level cell (MLC) card should help Micron sales because MLC cards are more commonly deployed than single-level cell (SLC) in the enterprise. MLC cards are cheaper than SLC and software enhancements have improved MLC's reliability and performance. Micron was slow to the MLC market, as most of its major competitors already have MLC PCIe flash cards.

"We are [moving forward] to the MLC side of the house and getting into the mainstream market," said Janene Ellefson, Micron's enterprise solid-state drive (SSD) product marketing manager. "With the P420m, customers will have a suite of PCIe SSDs to choose from between MLC and SLC for different workload requirements and capacity points."

The P420m comes in a 2.5-inch hot swappable drive accessible from the front of the server, and a half-height, half-length (HHHL) form for rackmount environments. The 2.5-inch drive is available in 350 GB and 700 GB capacities, and the HHHL rackmount unit comes in 700 GB and 1.4 TB capacities. Both form factors are designed for between one and four drive fills per day.

STEC Inc. introduced its s1120 2.5-inch, 2 TB HHHL PCIe card in January. Violin Memory also introduced a 2.75 TB HHHL PCIe SSD card and a 5.5 TB HHHL PCIe SSD card in March.

Ellefson also said Micron expects the P420m to be attractive to cloud data centers and environments that require Web acceleration and online transaction processing. Micron maintains that the P420m will achieve up to 750,000 random read IOPS, and has up to 3 Gbps throughput.

The 420m also has Micron's Xpert suite of storage enhancements that the company says improves SSD performance and reliability. The suite includes Micron's redundant array of independent NAND, the SSD version of RAID for hard-disk drives, and power holdup technology that keeps enough power on the card to flush in-flight data and write it to the NAND in case of a total system power failure.

Joseph Unsworth, a research vice president for Gartner's NAND flash and SSD practice, said the market is moving towards 2.5-inch and HHHL form factors.

"It will be increasingly important to have 2.5-inch form factors because of the serviceability, but the market is still very small for this form factor in terms of adoption," he said. "HHHL is the key form factor because density matters to the customers whom are buying most of the PCIe cards, and to no surprise they are Hyperscale customers and Tier II Hyperscale customers."

The P420m is sampling with Micron OEM partners and the vendor expects general availability this summer.

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