Micron has announced the first 2.5" SSD which utilizes PCIe interface instead of the more common SATA interface. The 2.5" form factor allows for easy serviceability because the drives can be placed into the front end of servers. Traditional PCIe cards are harder to service and are not hot-swappable, requiring the server to be powered down. Furthermore, using PCIe instead of SATA eliminates the bandwidth bottleneck that SATA produces (maximum of 6Gb/s versus 32Gb/s for PCIe 2.x x8). 

The drive is essentially a 2.5" version of Micron's P320h SSD, which Micron announced in June (see our article here). Both use 34nm SLC NAND and are based on the same in-house controller. According to Micron's specifications, the controller is actually one of the fastest to date - providing read speeds of up to 3GB/s and write speeds of up to 2GB/s (yes, with a big B, i.e. bytes). Random 4KB read performance maxes out at 750K IOPS, while random read tops out at 341K IOPS (700GB version).

However, keep in mind that the controller features 32 channels. 2.5" SSDs typically utilize 16 NAND packages, which means only half of the available channels would be in use with Micron's controller. Micron couldn't provide us with any detailed specifications or performance figures yet as this announcement was for promoting the new interface, not the actual drive, so we don't know how much the performance differs from the FHHL sized PCIe card. The capacities are a bit smaller at 175GB and 350GB and at least random write performance should be slightly lower than what the FHHL card offers, but it's certain that this will be one of the fastest (if not the fastest) 2.5" SSDs. 

Micron is currently sampling interested customers and an actual product announcement is going to follow later this year with more specific performance details. No pricing has been revealed, but Micron hinted that the price of the FHHL card would be over $16 per GB, which works out to be $2800 for 175GB and $5600 for 350GB if the 2.5" version is priced similarly.

Source: Micron

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  • Demon-Xanth - Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - link

    I'm curious as to how it physically interfaces. If it requires a simple cable that has a PCIe connector on the other end, requires a special place on a motherboard, or has a daughter card.

    Honestly, I can see the possibility of a "rear PCIe bay" type of arrangement that would let you eject the storage from a PCIe based card out the back of the PC via a bay on itself. Along the same lines that PCI-PCMCIA adapters worked.
  • Beenthere - Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - link

    If this SSD is actually reliable and compatible, it's still gonna be a tough sell at those prices.
  • Kristian Vättö - Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - link

    Enterprise SSDs are known to cost thousands of dollars. There are many enterprise SSDs which are more expensive and slower than this one, so I wouldn't call this a tough sell. Enterprise world is just so different from the average PC world
  • Beenthere - Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - link

    Of course there are other expensive enterprise SSDs... but that doesn't make this one compatible or reliable. And yes the enterprise world is different than the consumer market, but not all enteprise folks are foolish. The price certainly doesn't insure reliability.
  • Luke212 - Thursday, March 8, 2012 - link

    unless these drives allow dual controller+mirroring, who in their right mind would buy one? you can lose 10k/100k of productivity its just wtf are they thinking.
  • taltamir - Monday, March 26, 2012 - link

    It actually wouldnt.
    It targets companies that need speed. Traditionally they would get this speed with an expensive (300+$ to thousands of dollars) RAID controller and short stroke 15k drives with few platters (super expensive for HDD).

    Those SSDs replace the entire shebang, raid controller and a ton of drives that take up space and generate heat and require more maintenance (by sheer dint of how many components it has)
  • antoncohen - Thursday, March 8, 2012 - link

    Isn't there going to be a problem with drivers? PCIe devices need drivers. If this interface takes off you'll need a driver for each make/model of drive. With a SAS/SATA interface you just need a driver for the SATA/SATA controller, not the actual drives. There is a use case for super fast hot-swappable SSDs, but I don't see this taking off for normal front accessible drives.
  • rrohbeck - Saturday, March 10, 2012 - link

    No, one driver can handle a list of PCI IDs.
  • 0ldman79 - Friday, March 9, 2012 - link

    Several of the big boys are working on this as an industry standard for new hard drives.

    I'm curious as to how they're going to do it, but I guess we'll see soon enough.
  • krazyderek - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    if disk IO is slowing down your database, and you have growing needs, i could see select customers dropping $15K on three of these for a raid 5. I mean the alternative is building a ram hog like facebook does with their 512gb of ram AMD servers.

    It seems like the biggest obstacle to these drives is raid. Where software raid is probably a no brainner with these, some builders prefer raid cards and i don't see x16 cards supporting two of these being a very good solution.

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