Micron Releases Quad-Level Cell SSD Aimed at AI, BI Workloads

Last week Micron Technology starting shipping what it says is the industry's first solid-state drive (SSD) built on quad-level cell (QLC) NAND technology.

According to the company, the the Micron 5210 ION SSD is aimed at the higher-capacity needs of performance-sensitive cloud storage demands of AI, business intelligence, big data and database systems.

The new drive is designed to provide 33 percent more bit density than triple-level cell (TLC) NAND. The company is aiming to address segments of the market "previously serviced with hard disk drives (HDDs)."

"This breakthrough QLC SSD will usher in a new generation of storage products that allows enterprise and cloud customers to experience the benefits of NAND flash across an expanding array of workloads that were previously relegated to slow, power-hungry hard drives," said Micron Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer Sumit Sadana in a statement.

NAND flash memory is a type of nonvolatile storage medium in which the contents are saved when the machine shuts down -- no power is needed to retain the data. The key advantage of this technology is that it can provide lower cost per bit while increasing maximum chip capacity. The result: SSD becomes competitive with HDD, which could solve a lot of problems for datacenter operators, said IDC analyst Jeff Janukowicz.

The new drive is available in a 2.5-inch (7mm) form factor, smaller than the traditional 3.5-inch HDD form factor. The smaller drive "reduces server sprawl by packing more performance into fewer racks, which allows data centers to save on expensive power and cooling costs," Micron said.

The Micron 5210 ION SSD is now shipping to "strategic enablement partners and customers," with general availability expected later this year. It will be available in a 2.5-inch form factor in capacities ranging from 1.92TB to 7.68TB, the company said, enabling more flash capacity per 2U chassis.

The Boise, Idaho-based company also made a joint announcement with its Santa Clara, Calif.-based partner Intel. The two companies announced production and shipment of the industry's first 4bits/cell 3D NAND technology. The new offering achieves 1 terabit density per die, the companies said, making it the world's highest-density flash memory.

The two companies also announced "development progress" on the third-generation 96-tier 3D NAND structure, which is designed to provide a 50 percent increase in layers.

"Commercialization of 1Tb 4bits/cell is a big milestone in [non-volatile-memory] history," said RV Giridhar, vice president of Intel's Non-Volatile Memory Technology Development group, "and is made possible by numerous innovations in technology and design that further extend the capability of our Floating Gate 3D NAND technology. The move to 4bits/cell enables compelling new operating points for density and cost in datacenter and client storage."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at