Colfax® Research: Micron’s 5210 ION Enterprise SATA QLC SSD Delivers 8x Faster Machine Learning

By Doug Rollins - 2018-11-08

Building for Four (bits per cell)

When we designed our Quad Level Cell (QLC) based SSD – the Micron 5210 – we knew we were breaking new ground. We’ve seen SSD adoption growing – from adding a bit of a caching boost to broader, mainstream adoption for the most demanding IT workloads.

But there was often something missing, something that was a last step, a last hurdle in front of even broader adoption and benefit. We also knew that important workloads were changing, that most enterprise data needed to be read quickly – not rewritten repeatedly.

We took a new look at SSDs and the NAND technology they use. We wanted to enable a more approachable price point while embracing fast-growing, read-centric workloads like machine learning. We designed our Micron 5210 SSD to meet the growing demand for cost-effective, performance storage. With the Micron 5210, we shipped the industry’s first SSD built on Quad Level Cell (QLC) NAND – the next evolution in storage technology that delivers fast capacity for less. Optimized for read-intensive and performance-sensitive workloads like machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), real-time analytics, big data, content delivery and business analytics.

Until now, these read-intensive workloads have been shackled to the slow performance of hard drive technology developed 50 years ago.

Enter Colfax International

We were thrilled to work with Colfax International’s Research Team (Colfax Research) on a machine learning project to highlight what the Micron 5210 SSD can do. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, Colfax Research is charted to help leverage new platforms to build value in computational innovation.

The Micron 5210 SSD – The “IT” SSD for Machine Learning

Colfax just published their findings in “How New QLC SATA SSDs Deliver 8x Faster Machine Learning,” a white paper in which they analyze how the Micron 5210 SSD outperforms legacy (traditional) machine learning storage (7200 RPM HDDs). Colfax looked at throughput and completion time of a TFRecord using a 7.68TB 5210 ION SSD and a Seagate 7200 RPM HDD and said:

“In our study, with the Micron 5210 ION SSD, a read-intensive transformation of an image dataset with the purpose of a TFRecord file creation was accelerated by about 8x compared to a similar-sized HDD. In a 100,000 image dataset at 23MB per image, our test HDD took 15.17 hours to resize the images and pack them into a single TFRecord file while the Micron 5210 ION SSD took only 1.88 hours to do the same task–13 additional hours for the HDD to complete the same work.”

Reading that a second time, what struck me wasn’t just the throughput – it was the time difference to complete the same work. I had to put the text in another form to really see how much of a difference that is:

Colfax Research findings: TFRecord Creation Time

5210 ION SSD

Colfax’s Take on QLC SSD Value

In discussing why the Micron 5210 SSD was superior, Colfax noted:

“For years, 7200 RPM hard disk drives (HDDs) have been the standard media on which machine learning (ML) training data sets have been stored. These traditional HDDs have been preferred due to their low cost and easy to adopt SATA interfaces. However, HDDs suffer from relatively slow throughput. Solid State Drives (SSDs) have been too expensive to justify their potential gain. Despite SSD cost / GB decreases, their overall cost has remained just out of reach for all but the most demanding (and expensive) ML platforms. This barrier is starting to fall with the introduction of the world’s first QLC SSD, the Micron® 5210 ION enterprise SATA SSD.”

They went on to say:

“Faster completion times can have dramatic effects on overall project value, delivery and expense. When analyzing the potential benefits of the Micron 5210 ION, a cost per GB analysis at the time of acquisition may be short-sighted. One should consider the total cost of ownership, the value of keeping expensive CPU assets busy, and the potential reductions in yearly operating expenses related to power and cooling.”

How Can the Micron 5210 ION SSD Help You?

We’re thrilled to hear what Colfax found! Much faster completion times demonstrate a long-term view of Micron 5210 SSD value. Capacity, affordability and Colfax’s measured results – a winning combination in machine learning! Their tests showed 8x better machine learning results – how can the Micron 5210 SSD help with your ML projects?

Here’s how to get started right now:

  1. Download Colfax’s paper from their research site:
  2. Learn more about Micron’s QLC technology: 
  3. To stay current on all things Micron Storage, follow with us on Twitter @MicronStorage and on LinkedIn, and let me know your thoughts on Twitter @GreyHairStorage.
Doug Rollins

Doug Rollins

Doug Rollins is a principal technical marketing engineer for Micron's Storage Business Unit, with a focus on enterprise solid-state drives. He’s an inventor, author, public speaker and photographer. Follow Doug on Twitter: @GreyHairStorage.