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Micron unveils NVMe SSD, all-flash reference architectures

Micron Accelerated Solutions includes recommended all-flash hardware configurations for VMware VSAN and Ceph storage in its most recent server-side storage launch.

Micron Technology Inc. today made two enterprise flash storage moves, introducing PCIe-attached NVMe solid-state drives and all-flash reference architectures for deploying VMware Virtual SAN 6.2 or open source Ceph software.

The NVMe SSD additions are the Micron 7100 and Micron 9100 PCIe families for server-side storage. The drives integrate Micron's multi-level cell planar NAND flash memory and a PCIe Gen 3 NVMe interface. Micron eXtended Performance and Enhanced Reliability Technology firmware manages data protection and performance.

The Virtual SAN, or VSAN, and Ceph nodes are branded as Micron Accelerated Solutions. Formally, the nodes are known respectively as Micron Accelerated VMware Virtual SAN Ready Nodes and Micron Accelerated Ceph Storage Solution. Micron said similar reference architecture for Nexenta Systems' NexentaStor software is in proof of concept and expected to be available in 2016.

NVMe SSD aimed at mainstream, mixed-use workloads

The Boise, Idaho-based semiconductor maker, Micron, joins a growing line of vendors to add SSDs geared for the nonvolatile memory express protocol, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Intel. David Floyer, CTO and a founder of IT research firm Wikibon in Marlborough, Mass., said customers will use the Micron NVMe SSD to build scalable storage using public or hybrid clouds.

The NVMe is a tremendous help in the PCIe way of doing things.
David FloyerCTO and a founder of Wikibon

"It's clear the market is moving away from traditional, two-processor controllers for all of the storage," Floyer said. "That model has a very high software licensing cost [tied to legacy storage vendors]. When you're scaling down to much lower latencies, you have to be able to get rid of the SCSI overhead. The NVMe is a tremendous help in the PCIe way of doing things."

Janene Ellefson, Micron's enterprise SSD product marketing manager, said the 9100 Series is designed as a faster alternative to disk arrays, while the 7100 NVMe drives are geared for companies that need to reduce power consumption and conserve data center space.

"The 9100 SSD is designed for mainstream workloads," Ellefson said. "We're giving you a drive that balances endurance, capacity and pricing. The goal with the Micron 7100 is to give you a low-latency, high-performance SSD, with a lower-power profile."

The Micron 9100 NVMe SSD is available in a 2.5-inch U.2 form factor as an add-in card. Drive capacities are 800 GB, 1.2 TB, 1.6 TB, 2.4 TB and 3.2 TB. Projected use cases include big data applications, content delivery, database management, hyperscale workloads and high-performance computing.

The 800 GB Micron 9100 is rated to handle up to 540,000 random read IOPS and up to 55,000 random write IOPS. The 1.2 TB and 1.6 TB models are rated for identical random read performance up to 700,000 IOPS, 180,000 IOPS and 100,000 IOPS, respectively.

The 2.4 TB and 3.2 TB Micron 9100 are rated to deliver up to 750,000 random read IOPS and respective random write performance up to 300,000 IOPS and 160,000 IOPS.

The Micron 7100 NVMe SSD comes in M.2 and U.2 form factors. Projected use cases include hyper-converged storage, open compute platforms and virtualization. 

The M.2 Micron 7100 scales in capacity from 400 GB to 960 GB. The higher-capacity U.2 model adds 1.6 TB and 1.92 TB SSDs.

The 400 GB and 480 GB M.2 drives are rated for up to 180,000 random read IOPS, and up to 25,000 and 10,000 random write IOPS, respectively. The 800 GB and 960 GB capacities each are rated to handle up to 220,000 random read IOPS, and 33,000 and 12,000 random write IOPS, respectively.

The U.2 form 400 GB and 480 GB each are rated for up to 180,000 random read IOPS; the 400 GB can handle random writes up to 25,000 IOPS, compared with 10,000 for the 480 GB model.

The 800 GB and 960 GB U.2 capacity drives are rated to handle up to 220,000 random read IOPS, and 33,000 and 12,000 random write IOPS, respectively.

The 1.6 TB and 1.92 TB U.2 Micron 7100 SSDs are rated for up to 235,000 IOPS of random read performance, with respective random write performance up to 40,000 IOPS and 15,000 IOPS.

Micron's path to market is to forge distribution deals with server OEM partners to integrate its NVME SSD line, although it declined to identify any design wins.

All-flash VSAN, Ceph nodes hit the market

Micron's NVMe SSD line is not part of its all-flash reference architecture for VSAN and Ceph software-defined storage. The Micron Accelerated Solutions bundles VMware VAN 6.2 or the open source Ceph distribution with Micron M510 DC SATA SSDs in a 24-bay Supermicro 2U server. Customers can purchase preconfigured versions from Supermicro, or use Micron's recommended list of materials to build a homebrew model.

The all-flash VSAN bundle is tuned to deliver better performance than a traditional hybrid SAN, said James Meeker, a Micron director of enterprise solutions.

"We think the release of VSAN 6.2 is going to be a game-changer for VMware," he said. "No. 1, it's a platform optimized for SSDs and enables us to add value with our flash.  No. 2, the ability to do thin provisioning and deduplication within the array set addressed a lot of the questions that data administrators have been asking about."

The Micron Accelerated VMware VSAN Ready Nodes include ordering SKUs for the AF-4, AF-6 and AF-8. The AF-4 and AF-6 each have two storage controller adapters and 1.2 TB of Micron flash as a caching layer.

The AF-4 Ready Node configuration comes with eight 960 GB M510 SSDs for 7.68 TB of raw capacity and 40.42 TB of usable storage per node after VSAN data reduction is applied.

The Micron AF-6 comes with 12 960 GB SSDs for 11.52 TB of raw storage and effective capacity of 60.62 TB. Adding a third storage controller to support recommended caching ratios enables customers to scale AF-4 and AF-6 systems up to 24 drives.

The AF-8 configuration provides 20 TB of raw capacity and up to 106 TB of usable storage. It comes loaded with three M510DC 600 GB SATA drives for caching and 21 960 GB capacity drives. The AF-8 configuration comes with three drives sets: Each one has a cache SSD and seven capacity flash drives.

Micron's all-flash Ceph cluster includes eight Supermicro storage nodes, three Supermicro monitor servers, 40 GB Mellanox Technologies' dual-port network switches, up to 9.6 TB of raw flash capacity and 256 GB of DRAM. The Ceph cluster accommodates up to 10 960 GB Micron M510DC flash cards and 16 Micron 16 GB DDR4 RDIMM modules.   

Ceph on Micron storage is rated to deliver more than 1 million random IOPS, and targets enterprises that want to run block, file and object storage on a single hardware platform.

"This is definitely an emerging market, with a lot of mindshare from data center administrators," Meeker said of Ceph.

Floyer said Micron won't be the last NAND manufacturer to diversify into software for converged storage infrastructure.

"They're adding value by moving up the stack, and make things easier to integrate, maintain and improve on over time," he said. "I think you're going to see all the producers of raw NAND move up the stack as a way to make decent returns."

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