Micron launches faster U.3 datacenter SSD

Micron has launched a 9400 datacenter NVMe SSD using the PCIe gen 4 interface with great performance and a 30.7TB maximum capacity.

Update: 7450 and 9500 positining comment from Micron added. 10 Jan 2023.

Just over nine months after launching its 7450 datacenter SSD using PCIe gen 4 and 176-layer 3D NAND, Micron has used the same TLC NAND and interface to build the 9400 with double the maximum capacity, 60 percent more random read IOPS, slightly more sequential read and significantly more sequential write bandwidth.

A statement from Micron’s datacenter storage VP and GM, Alvaro Toledo, said: “High performance, capacity and low latency are critical features for enterprises seeking to maximize their investments in AI/ML and supercomputing systems.” 

Micron 9400
Micron 9400

Micron says the 9400’s latency is 69μs read and 10μs write. For reference, the 7450’s latency is as low as 80μs read and 15μs write, with the 9400 being more responsive.

Micron told us: “The 9400 is aligned to the NVMe performance market which is currently focused on U.3, especially for high capacities over 30TB like the 9400 SSD. Our 7450 SSD is a mainstream data center SSD and offers one of the industry’s broadest form factor options to address diverse use cases for all major platform functions including boot and main data storage.”

The 9400 comes in the U.3 2.5-inch format, whereas the preceding 7450 comes in U.3, E1.S and the M.2 formats. The 9400 also comes in PRO and MAX variants for read-centric and mixed read/write workloads respectively, like the 7450. Both the 7450 and 9400 PROs have a 1 drive writes per day (DWPD) endurance with the MAX variants enjoying a 3 DWPD rating.

Here’s a table comparing the 7450 U.3 variant and the 9400’s characteristics:

Micron SSD performance

The 9400 has a maximum of 1.6 million random read IOPS compared to the 7450’s 1 million, and 410,000 (MAX) random write IOPS, with the 9400 delivering up to 600,000. There has been a 25 percent sequential write speed boost from the 7450’s 5.6GBps to the 9400’s 7GBps, with a lesser sequential read speed increase from 6.8GBps to 7GBps. 

Since the 9400 and 7450 use the same NAND, we understand the speed increases come from greater parallelism inside the controller and drive.

Looking into the speed picture

How does the 9400 compare to other PCIe 4 SSDs? 7GBps sequential reads is good but not outstanding but the 7GBps sequential writing speed is very good.

For example, Inspur’s Enterprise NVMe SSD  reaches 7GBps sequentially reading and Samsung’s AIC format PM1733 and PM1735 achieve 8GBps. A Phison-Seagate X1 SSD in U.3 format attains 7.4GBps, but that drive is not actually shipping. Solidigm’s D7-P5520 and P5620 drives, both in U.2 format, deliver up to 7.1GBps read bandwidth. The 9400 is not top-rank in this general company, but is top if only U.3 format drives are considered.

Sequential write speeds of 7GBps or above are rare indeed. The only drives that exceed this are the Phison Seagate X1 SSD that puts out 7.2GBps when reading, and Liqid’s LQD4500 with its 16 lanes and AIC format pumping out up to 16GBps. But that has a composable systems focus. Micron’s 9400 is top in shipping U.3 format drive terms.

In the IOPS field, the 9400’s 1.6 million random read IOPS are only exceeded by Liqid’s LQD4500 (4 million and same AIC composable systems proviso) and the Phison-Seagate X1’s 1.75 million. A U.2 format SmartIOPS Data Engine T2 reaches 1.7 million random read IOPS. The 9400 is the fastest shipping U.3 drive again. 

The 9400 MAX’ 600,000 random write IOPS are exceeded by several other drives; Western Digital’s SN770 and SN850, Solidigm’s P44 Pro, SK hynix’ Platinum P41, Seagate’s FireCuda 520 and 530, Samsung’s 980 Pro and 990 Pro, and others, all in M.2 gumstick card format. No other U.3 or U.2 NVMe PCIe gen 4 SSD beats the 9400 though. It reigns supreme in U.3 random write IOPS terms.

Micron declares that the 9400 is the world’s fastest PCIe 4 datacenter U.3 drive shipping, and that’s certainly true.

It has provided numbers showing faster performance than competing SSDs with RocksDB (up to 25 percent higher performance), Aerospike Database (up to 2.1 times higher peak performance), and multi-tenant cloud architecture workloads (double the overall performance ), but hasn’t identified the competing products.

Power efficiency and rack space

Micron says that, at the 7.68TB capacity level, the 9400 SSD delivers 94,118 4K random read IOPS/watt versus 53,100 IOPS/watt for the prior generation Micron 9300 NVMe SSD. But this is a 64-layer, PCIe 3, 3D NAND drive from 2018. It would be surprising if the 9400 wasn’t more thrifty with its electrical power.

Toledo said: “Thanks to its industry-leading 30TB capacity and stunning performance with over 1 million IOPS in mixed workloads, the Micron 9400 SSD packs larger datasets into each server and accelerates machine learning training, which equips users to squeeze more out of their GPUs.” 

Micron points out that a standard two-rack-unit, 24-drive server loaded with 30.72TB 9400 SSDs provides 737TB per server. By doubling capacity per SSD, Micron is enabling enterprises to store the same amount of data in half as many servers. 

WEKA co-founder and CEO Liran Zvibel provided a nice quote for Micron: “High-performance, high-capacity storage like the Micron 9400 SSD provides the critical underlying technology to accelerate access to data and time to insights that drive tremendous business value.” 

Wally Liaw, co-founder and SVP of business development at Supermicro, was on-page as well: “The Micron 9400 SSD delivers an immense storage volume of over 30TB into every rack while simultaneously supporting optimized workloads and faster system throughput for advanced applications.”

Download a 9400 product brief here.