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The End of the Enterprise

The End of the Enterprise

If you’re a Star Trek fan like me, you might think this blog title refers to the demise of the starship Enterprise whose five-year mission was to explore strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilizations. Happily for you it doesn’t! Instead, I’m referring to the tectonic shift that’s happening in the enterprise drive market.

In the past, enterprise was synonymous with needing the best of the best when it came to drive endurance and performance. Hard drive companies like Seagate and Western Digital created products specifically targeted at the most demanding workloads. They coined these drives “mission critical” to help customers place them in applications where a hard drive failure could result in the failure of a key business operation. These drives were built with more robust componentry, which resulted in a lower failure rate. Although these mission critical drives were still susceptible to mechanical failures inherent in the technology, they were a big improvement over standard hard drives. If normal hard drives were analogous to a Toyota Corolla, then these mission critical drives were a Lexus.

Once SSDs came on the scene in the mid 2000s, it forced companies to change their enterprise storage thinking. SSDs, with their significantly higher IOPS performance, could easily max out the system bandwidth. They quickly became analogous to the Ferrari of drives. And with these early drive designs using SLC media, the endurance, measured in total bytes written (TBW), had no problem meeting customer requirements. The big challenge to growing customer adoption was getting customers comfortable with the new technology.

“Flash” forward to today and what you see is a more educated customer base that better understands the performance and endurance differences between the different flash media types like TLC, MLC, and SLC. These customers also better understand their system workloads and when and where to deploy SSD technology. This newfound knowledge is causing customers to rethink their performance and endurance needs, opening the door to a whole new way of classifying drive endurance.

This new endurance classification, called fills per day, refers to how many times the customer can completely fill a drive’s rated capacity over a defined period of time. For example, a 100GB drive with a TBW rating of 100 terabytes could be filled 0.56 times every day in a five year period (100TB x 1024GB/TB = 102,400GB total endurance; 102,400GB/5 years = 20,480GB per year; 20,480GB/365 days = 0.56 fills per day). Early generation SSDs were typically spec’d to meet 10 fills per day, which provided plenty of endurance headroom for the majority of enterprise applications. As SSD pricing came down and enterprise workloads were better understood, end customers began realizing they could offer a lower performance and lower endurance drive for some applications.

These lower fill per day drives still needed to have the same robust enterprise features sets, like data path protection and power loss protection, but they no longer needed the more expensive SLC media to hit the new endurance targets. This has forced SSD manufacturers to rethink their roadmaps and create product SKUs that address a wider variety of endurance targets using different NAND media.

Micron is meeting this enterprise evolution head on and has developed several products like our M500 and M500DC to address the changing drive endurance landscape. We also have several new products in development (SATA, SAS, and PCIe) that will further expand our portfolio and cover even more endurance swim lanes. Leveraging Micron’s NAND media expertise, we’re able to tailor products to meet customer specific endurance, performance, and price points. It’s one of the reasons customers like partnering directly with a NAND manufacturer like Micron who can develop and offer a broad portfolio of products.

So, even though the starship Enterprise completed its five-year mission, Micron continues its journey to provide our customers with new product solutions that can address the evolving enterprise landscape. The “mission critical” drive requirement of the past has now given way to a new class of products that offer the right product for the right workload at the right price point! Check out our SSD products page on micron.com to see how we can help you find the RIGHT solution.

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