Flash has already killed the 15,000-RPM "high performance" disk drive and mature 4-bit per cell "QLC" is taking aim at the 10,000-RPM performance tier.
Micron's weapon of choice to disrupt the 10K market is the 5210 Ion 2.5" SATA SSD. The 5210 Ion is the first 4-bit per cell SSD with the full gamut of enterprise features. The series is a direct swap to upgrade existing servers running spinning disks. The upgrade improves performance, power consumption, reliability and capacity. These are the same talking points for flash we've heard through the years. The difference now is even lower cost per gigabyte and improvements in density.
The 5210 Ion isn't just an upgrade model for existing servers. Modern workloads such as machine learning have increase data set sizes without increasing the number of writes to the disk. In years past, we saw a four reads to one write ratio as normal in the datacenter but the ratio has significantly changed in recent years. Micron tells us key customers see 5,000 reads to one write with many modern workloads. These workloads ushered in the QLC era.
When companies announced QLC technology, several datacenter customers paraded at Flash Memory Summit demanding low-cost flash for WORM or Write Once Read Many workloads. When finally available for testing, it became clear that QLC's endurance was much stronger than first estimated. WORM workloads were just the start thanks to powerful error correction technology perfected over the last several years with 3-bit per cell technology.
Micron released the 5210 Ion series in three capacities, 1.92TB, 3.84TB and 7.68TB. The company lists single drive performance at 540 MB/s sequential read and between 260 MB/s to 360 MB/s sequential write speeds depending on the model (and uses steady-state results).
The 5210 Ion's random performance peaks at 90,000 read IOPS for the 7.68TB drive and drops off from there to 80,000 IOPS (3.84TB) and 70,000 IOPS (1.92TB). Steady-state random write performance peaks at 13,000 IOPS for the 1.92TB model. The 3.84TB model moves the needle to 6,500 IOPS and that drops to 4,500 for the largest capacity, 7.68TB.
- Micron Flex Capacity
- AES 256-bit Encryption
- TCG Enterprise
- Power Loss Protection (in-flight and at-rest)
- Enterprise Data Path Protection (User and Meta Data)
- Hot Plug
- Adaptive Thermal Monitoring
Micron released the 5210 Ion with an impressive enterprise feature set that includes encryption, power-loss protection, variable capacity via software to tune the performance of your workload and the endurance of the drive.
Micron isolated a number of workloads friendly to the 5210 Ion. All the workloads listed feature heavy reads and minimal data writes.
Warranty and Endurance
We usually talk about endurance and warranty coverage with pricing, but the 5210 Ion is not a normal SSD. The series carries a traditional 5-year warranty against defects. The endurance is where this product differs from any other.
Most enterprise and consumer SSDs carry a fixed endurance usually promoted in either drive writes per day (enterprise) or total bytes written (consumer). The 5210 Ion gives users a better look at what to expect by the workload.
We've known for nearly a decade now that small block size data writes wear flash faster than large data blocks. We usually associate small block data as random data due to the way file systems store information.
Starting with 100% sequential writes, the 5210 Ion series has a simple 0.8 drive writes per day (DWPD). Mixing random data changes the DWPD endurance rating and all three capacities receive a different value.
The 7.68TB 5210 Ion is the lowest cost SSD in this capacity range. We found the drive at several outlets for right around $799. Bulk pricing from Micron may be less for some customers. The mid-capacity drive with 3.84TB sells online for $419 and the 1.92TB model for $230. We used Amazon for pricing details but CDW and even Newegg stock the 5210 Ion series.
In the chart above, we see Micron's take on pricing vs. a generic 2.4TB 10,000-RPM HDD. In the datacenter pricing goes well beyond the initial purchase cost and you can break pricing down a number of ways to reach a total cost of ownership.
The 5210 Ion works with Micron's Storage Executive SSD Management Tool. We use the tool in Windows to monitor the drive, but it has other useful features.
A Closer Look
The 5210 Ion series looks like most Micron and Crucial SATA SSDs shipping today. The series uses the thin metal silver case held together with tabs on each side. This series is all about delivering the best available value, so don't expect extras in the package.