HPC

Micron fires off some in-memory flash data rockets

New unit will go beyond selling chips and standard components


Comment Micron’s Storage Business Unit (SBU) wants to shake up the server status quo with a dynamic upstart duo: in-memory app accelerating data processing rockets and instant access, cold data flash vaults.

How it’s going to do that begins with its NAND chip development plans, which we learned about at a Silicon Valley briefing. It starts at the chip level.

Chip tech

Micron currently makes NAND chips in its foundry and builds them into SSDs and PCIe flash cards for use by OEMs and consumers. As an example, IBM uses Micron MLC flash in its FlashSystem all-flash array.

These two basic NAND technologies are developing. Chips are moving from planar 16nm MLC flash to 3D TLC flash using a 4X-3X process in order to achieve better access speed and endurance from the TLC cells. Capacity-wise Micron mentioned that 50TB SSDs were feasible in the future.

Micron is not saying what the process size is; we think it is between 49nm and 30nm. Such chips will enable high-capacity components for in-memory applications using storage memory; SAP HANA type software for more everyday apps.

These TLC 3D chips will evolve into 3D QLC chips, enabling active archive applications, and then there will be a post-NAND future as and when 3D process shrinks run out of steam. Perhaps there will be 3D HLC (6-bits per cell) technology as well.

Moving up the stack to the component level, Micron makes SSDs and PCIe flash cards. These are evolving to use the standard NVMe interface which should enable, as well as faster-than SATA/SAS direct access interfaces, external PCIe fabrics capable of replacing slower LAN links.

Storage BU

The newly-formed Storage Business Unit (SBU) led by Darren Thomas, has been set up to go beyond selling chips and standard (commodity) SSD/PCIe components.

Darren Thomas in Top Gun jacket

Darren Thomas, Micron Storage BU head. Had a beard at Dell, but clean-shaven now

We were told there were four markets for the SBU:

  • After-market upgrades
  • Corporate computing via OEM
  • Enterprise
  • Data Centres for hyperscale and cloud providers; the cutting edge and Google/Facebook style

The first thing the SBU is doing is having collaborative deals with customers. The Micron FortisFlash comes in a non-standard form factor and has been customised at a deep interface level by IBM.

A multi-faceted deal exists between Seagate and Micron, with Seagate now having no strategic relationship for flash with Samsung. Seagate hybrid disk drives, SSHDs, have small amounts of Micron flash added to the disk drive to enable much faster-than-disk access to high priority data.

Micron buys firmware for its SAS SSDs from Seagate, and Seagate uses Micron flash in its Xyratex arrays. There is a rolling five-year deal between Seagate and Micron, which includes a volume Micron NAND chip supply component.

Stack systems

Micron wants to go beyond this level, with Thomas saying that "we're taking a very hard look at taking Micron into the systems level. Watch this space". So what does this mean?

We can envisage Micron inhabiting a value stack landscape running from left (chips) to right (application software) through components, modules, hardware systems, base and system software;

Micron_value_stack_Landscape

In the chart the boxes in the Chips column represent Micron’s current and forthcoming NAND chip types, flagged as “Future.” Ditto in the Components column with SAS and PCIe interfaces both going to NVMe.

Right of these columns we are in El Reg’s supposition-land. The hardware systems column includes servers, storage arrays, Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Appliances (HCIAs), and embedded systems, like video surveillance kit, PCS, notebooks, tablets and smart phones.

We think Micron’s intention here is to have servers and storage arrays and embedded server systems use large amounts of Micron chips and SSD/PCIe components with storage-class memory combining fast, expensive, volatile DRAM and slower, cheaper and persistent flash.

It wants to have such systems used in two high growth rate areas of the market; latency-critical in-memory applications on the one hand, and latency-insensitive “Big Data and Archive” applications. The diagram shows this, with the central blue area being uninteresting to Micron.

Micron_workload_types
Next page: Possible pathway

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading
  • Utility biz Delta-Montrose Electric Association loses billing capability and two decades of records after cyber attack

    All together now - R, A, N, S, O...

    A US utility company based in Colorado was hit by a ransomware attack in November that wiped out two decades' worth of records and knocked out billing systems that won't be restored until next week at the earliest.

    The attack was detailed by the Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) in a post on its website explaining that current customers won't be penalised for being unable to pay their bills because of the incident.

    "We are a victim of a malicious cyber security attack. In the middle of an investigation, that is as far as I’m willing to go," DMEA chief exec Alyssa Clemsen Roberts told a public board meeting, as reported by a local paper.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021