Micron Proving Its NAND Leadership By Shipping World’s First 232-Layer Device

MICRON

This week, Micron announced that it began production of its 232-Layer NAND. I was given a chance to sit down with Jeremy Werner, Corporate Vice President and General Manager of Micron’s Storage Business Unit, to discuss the significance of this feat and how it addresses increasing demands on storage. 

Micron is a leader in storage and memory, and I believe its 232-Layer NAND extends this leadership to drive performance for storage solutions. It should address challenges in storage that arise from the large amounts of data the world is creating. Bill Cerreta, Vice President and General Manager of the Platform Business Unit at Pure Storage, also joined as he shares how Pure Storage address real-world demands with Micron’s 232-Layer NAND. Let’s dive right in. Below is the podcast episode where I sit down with Jeremy and Bill and talk about Micron’s 232-Layer NAND and discuss

The world’s first 232-layer NAND

As Jeremy Werner pointed out, NAND is everywhere and all around us, from the most profound space telescopes to video game controllers. It is in everything and is the fundamental way data is stored in the modern world. As zettabytes (about a million terabytes) of data is stored in computers, data centers, and the cloud worldwide, it is stored in NAND storage. A great example of how NAND has shaped the way we use computers is that smartphones would not be as small and compact as they would need to be without NAND.

As Werner pointed out, all new NAND today is fabricated as 3D NAND except for NAND storage needed for legacy applications. The reason is that NAND is built on wafers, which are a very expensive commodity.

232-Layer NAND MICRON

An analogy that Werner gave was with real estate in a metropolitan area. Space is very valuable in a downtown area, and in order to maximize the space downtown, architects build up large skyscrapers. Similarly, building up a 232-layer NAND like a skyscraper allows for more bit density per wafer. 3D NAND has enabled Micron to scale and build higher skyscrapers effectively and be more efficient than anyone else in the industry. 

Keep in mind that layers are not everything. Although a fab may build twice as many layers, if those layers are not as compact as competitors, it is not as dense. This is where the question of layers versus areal density comes into place. Areal density measures how many bits could fit into a square millimeter of silicon. While areal density is a better measurement of a wafer’s density, that density is realized in today’s NAND innovations through the increase in layers. Werner said that within the 232 Layer NAND, Micron is getting 14.6 GB into one square millimeter or around 1000 hours of 4K video into the size of a postage stamp.

Real-world use case with Pure Storage 

Pure Storage is one of the few companies that is taking raw storage and creating something unique rather than using off-the-shelf storage. Bill Cerreta, Vice President and General Manager of the Platform Business Unit at Pure Storage, talked to Jeremy Werner and me about how Pure Storage changed its strategy on SSD system design about five years ago. Cerreta said that it was leaving a lot of capacity and performance on the table. By streamlining the firmware and moving many of the functions from the SSD to Pure Storage’s OS, it has been able to expose more capacity in the SSD and lower the latency to customers.

Raw NAND compared to off-the-shelf NAND. MICRON

While this unique approach by Pure Storage seems as though it would take a major hit when it comes to time to market, it gives Pure Storage a competitive advantage. Pure Storage can take its software designs and the OS level and plan for future generations of NAND storage. Cerreta says this unique approach to NAND software allows Pure Storage to shift to this 232-Layer NAND and expose its benefits to its customers much more quickly than its competitors. 

NAND in the future

The challenge of today’s data centers boils down to computing trying to keep up with the explosion of data and storage innovations trying to keep up with computing. As more data is created, more storage is needed at a high capacity with the power efficiency to keep within budget. 

I believe Micron’s 232-Layer NAND helps solve many of these challenges that companies are facing within the data center. It is able to pack more data into a smaller footprint while improving its power efficiency over previous generations. As Cerreta points out, when the NAND takes up less power in the system, these systems are able to budget power towards components that would yield better outcomes. 

Micron is shipping its 232-Layer NAND to its consumer SSDs under the Crucial brand. In the next year and a half, it will be migrating all of its product lines from its 176-Layer NAND to its next-generation 232-Layer NAND.

Wrapping up

Memory and storage have become critical components within the data center and computing as a whole. Micron is the world’s first company to begin volume production of its 232-Layer NAND, and I believe this is exciting news for data and storage. As more data is created every day, innovations like Micron’s 232-Layer NAND meet the demand in the data center. 

Incredibly, Micron has created a storage solution that can fit 1,000 hours of raw 4K footage in the size of a postage stamp. As we see Micron’s 232-Layer NAND storage in solutions like Pure Storage’s Storage OS, I believe it could positively impact the data center. 

While I’d like to find fault in Micron’s product roadmap, production capability, or technologies, it’s hard. The company was quiet for five years working away as other companies were doing a lot of talking. I like where the company is now. 

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.