Bridging The Gap Between Consumer And Enterprise Storage
With the release of its M500DC, Micron continues a trend we've seen a lot of lately: dividing the SSD space into smaller pieces serviced by more purpose-built products. The relevant players take different approaches to this. For example, Intel cost-reduces its high-end enterprise drives, while Samsung adds enterprise-oriented features to its consumer architecture. Micron's M500DC takes the latter approach, incorporating higher-end functionality on a more desktop-class drive, rather than building a P400m (Micron P400m SSD Review: High Endurance MLC Is Here To Stay) with less expensive NAND.
The M500 and its nearly-identical, Crucial-branded cousin offered good performance, large capacities, and reasonable pricing. In fact, you'll still find M500s in Best SSDs For The Money. And while Crucial went after cost-conscious consumers, Micron pushed its M500 at entry-level, read-focused enterprise customers. The M500DC fills a gap for the company between its M500 and P400m. Micron achieves this in much the same way as SanDisk (formerly SMART), taking 20 nm MLC NAND and applying a healthy dose of semiconductor and firmware know-how to stretch the attributes that matter for more demanding enterprise-focused customers.
Although Micron calls the segment it's targeting "Cloud/Web 2.0 Storage", a more general description would be a mixed-workload environment. The M500DC's endurance rating places it in front of read-focused SSDs with origins in the consumer space, while still clearly behind eMLC- and SLC-based drives. Not many SSDs fit that exact description, so comparisons are difficult. And this takes us back to advice we give over and over: know your workload. The more granular you get in predicting what your application does with storage, the better you can optimize total cost of ownership.
|User Capacity||120 GB||240 GB||480 GB||800 GB|
|Interface||6 Gb/s SATA|
|Form Factor||2.5" 7 mm / 1.8" 5 mm|
|Sequential Read||425 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||200 MB/s||330 MB/s||375 MB/s|
|4 KB Random Read||63,000 IOPS||65,000 IOPS|
|4 KB Random Write||23,000 IOPS||33,000 IOPS||35,000 IOPS||24,000 IOPS|
|Power Consumption(Active Max)||4 W||5 W||6 W||6.2 W|
|Endurance (TBW)||0.5 PB||1.0 PB||1.9 PB||1.9PB|
Looking over its specifications, you can see that the M500DC is more than just a read-focused enterprise SSD. Write endurance falls between one to two Drive Writes per Day (DWPD), which is four to seven times higher than what you get from repurposed desktop technology, but below the 10 DWPD you'd see from Intel's SSD DC S3700 or Micron's P400m. It comes close to SanDisk and its Optimus Eco family, which is rated at 3 DWPD.
Topping out at 35,000 random write IOPS, the M500DC is also aligned with high-end enterprise SSDs. Unfortunately, read performance is a little underwhelming at 65,000 IOPS and 425 MB/s. Those are respectable numbers, but they're nowhere near the Optimus Eco and its 95,000 IOPS and 500 MB/s performance. They're also lower than most entry-level enterprise-oriented SSDs. We're not overly concerned yet, though. If you have a true mixed workload, the added write performance more than makes up for any shortcoming in read speed.
So, from a high level, the M500DC is set up to be more capable than most entry-level enterprise SSDs, but not as much so as the drives built to tolerate write-intensive tasks. For many of Micron's customers, price is going to determine which way they go. Unfortunately, as we often see, the company holds that information back. At higher capacities, however, we're expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.15/GB, putting Micron's latest on par with Intel's SSD DC S3500. But let's see if we can form an opinion about the M500DC without the luxury of knowing what it costs.