This week, Micron announced that it had started production of its 232-layer NAND. I had the opportunity to sit down with Jeremy Werner, vice president and general manager of Micron’s storage business unit, to discuss the significance of this achievement and how it addresses the growing demands for storage.
Micron is a leader in storage and memory, and I believe its 232-layer NAND extends that leadership to improve the performance of storage solutions. It should address the storage challenges that arise from the large amounts of data the world creates. Bill Cerreta, vice president and general manager of the platform business unit at Pure Storage, also joined him to discuss how Pure Storage meets real-world demands with Micron’s 232-layer NAND. Let’s dive right in. Below is the podcast episode where I sit down with Jeremy and Bill and talk about Micron’s 232-layer NAND and discuss
The world’s first 232-layer NAND
As Jeremy Werner pointed out, NAND is everywhere and all around us, from the deepest space telescopes to video game controllers. It’s in everything and it’s the fundamental way data is stored in the modern world. As zettabytes (about one million terabytes) of data are stored in computers, data centers and the cloud around the world, they are stored in NAND storage. A good example of how NAND has shaped the way we use computers is that smartphones wouldn’t be as small and compact as they should be without NAND.
As Werner pointed out, all new NANDs today are manufactured as 3D NANDs, except for the NAND storage needed for legacy applications. The reason is that NAND is built on wafers, which is a very expensive commodity.
An analogy Werner gave was with real estate in a metropolitan area. Space is very valuable in a city center, and in order to maximize space in the city center, architects build tall skyscrapers. Similarly, building 232-layer NAND like a skyscraper allows for greater bit density per slice. 3D NAND has allowed Micron to scale and efficiently build taller skyscrapers and be more efficient than anyone else in the industry.
Keep in mind that layers aren’t everything. Although a fab can build twice as many layers, if those layers aren’t as compact as competitors, it isn’t as dense. This is where the question of layers versus areal density arises. Areal density measures the number of bits that can fit in a square millimeter of silicon. While areal density is a better measure of a wafer’s density, this density is achieved in today’s NAND innovations through increased layers. Werner said that in 232-layer NAND, Micron gets 14.6 GB in a square millimeter or about 1,000 hours of 4K video in the size of a postage stamp.
Real use case with Pure Storage
Pure Storage is one of the few companies to use raw storage and create something unique rather than using standard storage. Bill Cerreta, Vice President and General Manager of the Platform Business Unit at Pure Storage, talked to Jeremy Werner and me about how Pure Storage changed its strategy on SSD system design a while back. about five years old. Cerreta said that leaves a lot of capacity and performance on the table. By streamlining the firmware and moving many functions from the SSD to Pure Storage’s OS, it was able to expose more capacity in the SSD and reduce latency for customers.
While this unique Pure Storage approach seems to take a major hit in terms of time to market, it does give Pure Storage a competitive edge. Pure Storage can take its software designs and operating system level and plan for future generations of NAND storage. Cerreta says this unique approach to software NAND allows Pure Storage to move to this 232-layer NAND and expose its benefits to its customers much faster than its competitors.
NAND in the future
The challenge of today’s data centers comes down to IT trying to keep up with the explosion of data and storage innovations trying to keep up with IT. As more data is created, more storage is needed at high capacity with the power efficiency to stay within budget.
I think Micron’s 232-layer NAND helps solve many of these challenges that enterprises face within the data center. It is able to pack more data into a smaller footprint while improving its power efficiency over previous generations. As Cerreta points out, when NAND consumes less power in the system, these systems are able to budget power towards components that would perform better.
Micron ships its 232-layer NAND to its consumer SSDs under the Crucial brand. Over the next year and a half, it will migrate all of its product lines from its 176-layer NAND to its next-generation 232-layer NAND.
Memory and storage have become essential components of the data center and computing as a whole. Micron is the first company in the world to begin volume production of its 232-layer NAND, and I think that’s great news for data and storage. As more data is created every day, innovations like Micron’s 232-layer NAND are meeting the demands of the data center.
Incredibly, Micron has created a storage solution that can hold 1,000 hours of postage stamp-sized 4K raw footage. As we see Micron’s 232-layer NAND storage in solutions such as Pure Storage’s storage operating system, I believe this could have a positive impact on the data center.
While I’d love to find fault with Micron’s product roadmap, production capacity, or technologies, it’s hard. The company remained silent for five years, because other companies were talking a lot. I like where the business is now.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.
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