What technology is used by the fastest SSD drives on the market? In October 2019, Micron launched the X100 series SSDs. They offer read and write data transfer speeds of 9 GB / s. We do not have to use several SSDs in a RAID configuration. Micron X100 drives have a standard controller that supports the 16x PCI Express 3.0 interface. In one second, this disk is able to perform up to 2.5 million operations. At the same time, we do not have to worry about high queuing. The drive only needs 8 microseconds to access the memory location. The average SSD takes almost ten times as long. For NVMe PCIe 4.0 models, the solid state drive offers a maximum bandwidth of 5 GB / s. At the moment, such fast drives are intended for use in data centers and server rooms. Their advantages also include low energy consumption. Moreover, they do not need additional cooling as they generate little heat. The better performance of the X100 drives is due to the new 3D XPoint memory. It is worth waiting for the moment when Micron releases its state-of-the-art SSD drives in versions intended for use in personal computers.
Basic information about 3D XPoint memory
The 3D XPoint memory is the fruit of Intel’s collaboration with Micron that began in 2005. Both companies conducted intensive research on the latest generation of silicon memories. They did it in 2015 with Intel Optane drives, which were to combine the advantages of SSD and HDD drives. The 3D XPoint memory has a much higher speed than the commonly used NAND memory. For a long time, drives using the new type of memory have remained too expensive for the average user. With the development of this technology, the moment is slowly approaching when we will start to massively use drives using 3D XPoint memory. It is an intermediate point between RAM and SSD technology. According to information from their manufacturers, 3D XPoint memory is a thousand times faster than the solutions used in semiconductor drives.
The potential of SSDs using 3D XPoint memory
A big disadvantage of the RAM system is its low capacity compared to SSDs or even traditional HDD drives. Therefore, only the data we need is loaded into RAM. The 3D XPoint technology offers speed at the DRAM level. Thanks to it, there is a chance that in the near future, computers with 1 TB of this type of memory will be able to act as if all the information on the SSD was constantly loaded into the main memory of the system. Moreover, no additional energy costs would be generated. What does this mean in practice? We would never have to wait for the program we were using to load again. The processor will not need to load files from SSDs. Thanks to the 3D XPoint technology, all files would be constantly loaded and thus we would have immediate access to them.
Keep in mind that 3D XPoint is not a new type of RAM or NAND. It is a completely new solution that may completely replace RAM memory chips in the future. However, this will depend on whether SSDs using this technology are affordable. Not everyone will be ready to buy such a drive if the NVMe PCIe model with similar performance is much cheaper. Especially that SSD disks from the Intel 750 series offers a reading speed of 2.5 GB / s. A typical computer with an Intel Broadwell or Haswell processor combined with dual channel DDR3 memory has over 17 GB / s of memory bandwidth. In the case of the most expensive computers, the bandwidth can even exceed 55 GB / s. Thus, 3D XPoint SSDs must be able to offer much better results.
How does 3D XPoint memory compare to NAND memory?
Micron manufacturers have made sure that their product will work in modern data centers that require efficient and regular transmission of huge amounts of data. Since 3D XPoint is a permanent memory, it works much more efficiently than NAND flash memory. It is characterized by a similar access time as in the case of DRAM technology, with a 10 times larger memory volume. It is also much more durable. Micron X100 SSDs are superior in many ways to Intel Optane drives. They use PCIe 3.0 x16 connectors, and their latency is only 8 microseconds. With 3D XPoint technology, disk capacity is not that important. We do not need large-capacity drives to take full advantage of this technology. With a bandwidth of 9 GB’s, comparable NAND drives are three times slower. Micron X100 drives feature a standard NVMe interface. So there will be no problems with using it in current computers. You just have to wait for the manufacturer to release models adapted to use in personal computers, not in server rooms.