Micron Technology announced its first line of PCI Express (PCIe) solid state drives (SSDs) aimed at enterprise class data centres with up to 700GB capacity and 3GB/sec throughput.

While the P320h is Micron's first PCIe-based SSD, it is only one in a category of products the company is aiming at entry level, mid-range and high performance applications, such as relational databases and streaming video.

"We'll have a product out soon that will meet the enterprise entry level category," Dibelius said. Dilbelius did not offer a timeframe for the upcoming high performance SSD, nor did he say when an entry level product would be released. In the meantime, the P320h is aimed at the midmarket, or "mainstream" data centre customer, and is optimised for use with web servers and online transaction processing databases, as well as a server cache, Dibelius said.

The P320h comes in 350GB and 700GB models. The P320h is a full height, half length PCI card that is 4.3-in. x 6.6-in. x 5.7-in. in size.

Using 4KB data packets, the 350GB model boasts an industry-leading 2GB/sec sequential read rate and a 2Gbit/sec write rate. The drive has a random read/write rate of 750,000 and 298,000 I/Os per second (IOPS), respectively. The 700GB model has the same sequential read/write rate, but sports a random write rate of 341,000 IOPS, said Janene Ellefson, a product marketing manager at Micron.

By comparison, Fusion-io's full-height, midrange PCIe SSD, the ioDrive Duo, offers up to 1.5GB/sec throughput and capacity from 320GB to 1.2TB. That card uses multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash memory, instead of the higher grade single-level cell (SLC) memory used by Micron in its P320h product.

Texas Memory Systems launched its second generation PCIe-based SSD last month. Its RamSan-70 SSD has from 450GB to 900GB of capacity and features Toshiba's newest 32-nanometer single level cell (SLC) NAND flash chips. It produces up to 2GB/sec throughput, still a full gigabyte per second slower than Micron's drive.

Ellefson said Micron has an advantage over competing PCIe SSD vendors such as Fusion-io in that it has built the card from the ground up using all of its own software and hardware. "We give Fusion-io all the kudos for opening the door and getting the excitement going around [PCIe SSDs], but we're going to bring high performance to a new level in terms of price performance that will drive adoption," Ellefson said.

Ellefson pointed to that Micron produces its own NAND flash, DRAM and controller, which was built to be compatible with its memory. "That gives us a very good solution," he said. "So there's one throat to choke if something goes wrong."

The P320h uses high performance 34-nanometer, single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash along with a technology based on a familiar acronym with a different twist: RAIN, or redundant array of independent NAND. RAIN is more commonly defined as "redundant array of independent (or inexpensive) nodes," which refers to the building blocks of a grid storage architecture that incorporates both processors and disk storage in one unit.

In Micron's instance, RAIN refers to utilising additional NAND as a cache, or buffer, to increase resilience.

"It's like a RAID 8 scheme. Data is RAIDed across seven channels with one parity channel," Ellefson said. "So data is replicated across the memory channels to enable complete rebuilds and backups if there's a power failure."

Ellefson said pricing will also beat out competitors who offer products for $20 to $25 per gigabyte. The P320h will sell for just under $16 per gigabyte, he said. Based on that figure, a 300GB model would have a suggested retail price of about $4,800. By comparison, Fusion-io's ioDrive Duo with 320GB capacity retails for $7,100 to $8,000.

The SLC-based NAND flash memory and wear-levelling algorithms also offer an exceptionally long life for the drive, Ellefson said. The P320h is capable of being filled with writes 10 times per day for 5 years, he said. Over a lifetime of use, the 350GB and 700GB cards are rated to handle up to 25 petabytes of data and 50 petabytes of data I/O, respectively.