Blurring lines: Why Micron memory matters in fueling AI acceleration

Rahul Sandil | April 2024

Recently, the Micron team showcased our industry-leading AI memory and storage portfolio at NVIDIA’s GTC event. This blog captures some details of the leadership AI products that drew the attention and excitement of exhibitors and attendees. Join me as we explore how Micron memory is not just enabling the future of AI but actively shaping it.

Making the powerful future of AI even more intelligent

We are charging into a realm where the digital and physical lines aren't just blurred — they're deeply interwoven. In this intertwined future, we're propelled forward not just by the computational might of CPUs and GPUs but by the unsung heroes of semiconductor technology: memory and storage chips. Together, these components are the backbone of artificial intelligence (AI) acceleration, the force turning the wheels of AI to make it an intrinsic part of our daily lives. Memory, in particular, serves as the lifeblood of AI, enabling it to learn from vast datasets and making our future interactions with technology more intuitive, seamless and decidedly less artificial.

Economies around the globe are experiencing a surge of adrenaline at the intersection of innovation and application. Through Micron's groundbreaking advancements — from the world's first 232-layer NAND technology, leading-edge 1ß (1-beta) DRAM innovation to the deployment of Micron HBM3E memory in NVIDIA's H200 Tensor Core GPUs — we see how these leaps are achievements in semiconductor fabrication and advanced packaging as well as in AI's journey toward a more hyperconnected future. Each innovation and breakthrough in Micron’s AI product portfolio brings us a step closer to a world where AI further accelerates from artificial to authentic, marking the dawn of an era where memory is a cornerstone of the AI revolution.

Memory and semiconductors are the building blocks of this transformation, fostering an environment where AI doesn't just mimic reality but enhances it. This journey through the corridors of innovation reveals how integral these technologies are in pushing AI’s boundaries. By understanding their pivotal role, we stand on the brink of a future where technology's capabilities are limited only by our imagination.

So, why did I write this blog? I’ve had the privilege of leading Micron's corporate marketing team through an exhilarating 20 months, marked by the launch of some of the most groundbreaking products to fuel AI acceleration. Working hand in hand with product leaders, salespeople, engineers and business managers, my teams and I have been at the forefront, launching these innovations and shaping the conversation around them. This journey has been about marketing world-class products and narrating the story of a future made possible by Micron's technology.

The AI hierarchy: Architecting intelligence

3D Pyramid of AI hierarchy within memory and storage technologies Infographic: AI hierarchy of memory and storage technologies.

In artificial intelligence, the memory and storage hierarchy isn't just supplemental to GPUs and CPUs — it's a backbone that defines AI's capabilities and potential. Near memory is at the top of this hierarchy, exemplified by technologies like Micron’s high bandwidth memory (HBM) solution, HBM3E. This layer facilitates high-speed data processing directly adjacent to the CPU or GPU, significantly reducing latency and increasing bandwidth. This near memory enables AI to perform complex calculations and process large volumes of data with unprecedented efficiency, essential for real-time analytics and decision-making.

Descending the pyramid, we encounter the main memory tier, primarily consisting of products like Micron’s monolithic high-capacity DDR5 DIMMS. This layer serves as the workhorse for AI computations, delivering unmatched speed with the capacity to manage the extensive data that AI algorithms must analyze. Micron’s advancements in DDR5’s speed and power efficiency provide a robust platform for operating AI systems, supporting the rapid execution of AI models and simulations.

The expansion memory tier introduces scalable solutions like Micron’s CZ120, which uses Compute Express Link™ (CXL™) and is designed to extend the system's memory capacity beyond traditional limits. This layer addresses the ever-growing demand for memory in AI applications, allowing more extensive, more complex models to be trained and executed. It symbolizes a critical innovation in overcoming the physical constraints of previous memory architectures — and it enables AI systems to scale up their capabilities without compromising performance.

As we move further down the memory and storage hierarchy, SSD data caches represent a crucial intermediary storage solution that offers fast access to frequently used data. This tier accelerates the data retrieval process, ensuring that AI applications can operate without delays caused by data access times. Micron's leading SSDs, like the 9000 and 7000 series, exemplify how leveraging fast storage can significantly enhance AI's responsiveness and efficiency.

At the base of our pyramid, data lakes embody the foundational data storage layer. They are vast pools of raw data that supply AI algorithms for training and analysis. The ability to efficiently store and manage this data is fundamental to the development of AI, underscoring the importance of advanced storage solutions like Micron's 6000 SSD series in enabling the exponential growth of data in AI ecosystems. The traditional spinning hard disk drive (HDD) has long expired in this AI-fueled paradigm.

Together, these layers form a cohesive structure that underpins the AI revolution, highlighting the indispensable role of memory and storage technologies in realizing AI's full potential. Micron's industry-leading innovations across this hierarchy allow us to appreciate how each tier contributes uniquely to advancing AI. Taken together, these innovations can make AI less artificial and a lot more integrated into our digital lives.

Near memory: AI's fast-twitch fibers supercharged by Micron HBM3E

Infographic laying out the benefits of Micron HBM3E near-memory innovation Infographic: Micron HBM3E, near-memory performance and power benefits.

Micron HBM3E emerges as a beacon of near-memory innovation, offering unprecedented speed and efficiency critical for the demands of large language models (LLMs) and AI applications. By overcoming memory bottlenecks, HBM3E enables AI systems to achieve closer to their peak processor performance, a feat that's becoming increasingly essential as the size of LLMs and their datasets grow exponentially.

Micron's leadership in this space is underscored by our commitment to pushing the boundaries of memory capacity and bandwidth — with solutions like the 8-high 24GB and 12-high 36GB configurations — and pioneering energy efficiency within the semiconductor industry. With a 30% lower power consumption compared to competitors, Micron HBM3E makes AI more sustainable, an aspect of technology development that's growing in importance.

The introduction of HBM3E into the market, especially its integration with NVIDIA’s H200 Tensor Core GPUs, signifies a generational leap in performance. This leap is about enhancing the AI compute cores and delivering a more energy-efficient pathway to AI acceleration. Micron HBM3E is setting the stage for AI applications to run larger models more efficiently, heralding a future where AI can expand without the constraints of current memory limitations. These capabilities will also drive down the operational costs and environmental impact of data centers.

Micron HBM3E's market-leading lower power consumption is pivotal for the sustainable future of large AI data centers. This focus on leaping a generation demonstrates a forward-thinking approach to meeting AI research and development's intense computational demands while prioritizing sustainability and operational cost efficiency. Integrating Micron’s energy-efficient HBM3E solutions could save substantial operational costs for AI-focused data centers. These savings are crucial, as the power consumption associated with high-performance computing resources is a significant operational expense. For large cloud service providers, prioritizing energy efficiency could significantly reduce electricity consumption and operational costs, underscoring the importance of selecting the right memory technology for their ambitious AI infrastructure.

Moreover, this strategic move toward more sustainable computing practices highlights the broader industry trend of reducing the environmental impact of large-scale computational operations. Micron’s advancements in memory technology not only empower the computational leaps required for cutting-edge AI acceleration but also illustrate how technological innovation can align with environmental sustainability goals.

This transition reflects an industrywide emphasis on uncompromising performance with power efficiency and sustainability. We are now also sampling our HBM3E 12-high 36GB solution, which enables even higher capacity for AI platforms. Micron HBM is the hero product in the evolving landscape of AI infrastructure, where technological innovation meets conscientious design to enrich the future of AI.

Main memory: The AI server’s “thought processor” elevated by Micron’s monolithic, high-capacity DDR5

Infographic laying out the benefits of Micron DDR5 main memory innovation Infographic: Micron DDR5, main memory performance and power benefits.

Micron's high-capacity DDR5 main memory emerges as a crucial component of AI processing capabilities, delivering unparalleled speed and efficiency and shaping the future of AI acceleration. The 128GB DDR5 RDIMMs boasts speeds up to 8000 MT/s and harnesses Micron’s advanced 1ß node for an over 45% increase in bit density. This advancement — representing a leap in both performance and energy efficiency — is pivotal for AI's demanding data analysis and processing needs. It also significantly enhances AI systems' responsiveness and decision-making speed with 17% lower latency.

Further enriching the ecosystem, Micron’s LPDDR5X and LPCAMM2 products amplify this momentum. LPDDR5X, with its peak bandwidth of 9.6 Gb/s, outpaces its predecessor by 12% while reducing power consumption by 30%, showcasing Micron’s commitment to leading the industry in low-power memory innovation. Micron LPCAMM2, on the other hand, introduces a new paradigm in main memory for AI PCs and data centers. It offers speeds up to 9600 Mb/s and significantly lowers power consumption, thereby enabling more efficient and powerful AI computations in a more compact modular form factor.

Micron's advancements in high-capacity DDR5 and the innovative LPDDR5X and LPCAMM2 memory modules illustrate a significant leap in meeting the evolving needs of AI and machine learning workloads. These technologies offer enhanced speed, efficiency and reduced power consumption, attributes that are vital for leading cloud service providers across the globe.

In an era when data centers are becoming increasingly foundational to the infrastructure of AI cloud services, the push to optimize energy use without sacrificing performance is more critical than ever. By integrating Micron's cutting-edge memory solutions, these cloud giants can scale their AI capabilities more sustainably and ensure a lower total cost of ownership, showcasing a commitment to innovation that propels the entire tech industry toward a more efficient and powerful AI-powered future.

Expansion memory: Breaking boundaries with Micron CZ120

nfographic laying out the benefits of Micron CZ120 expansion memory innovation Infographic: Micron CZ120, expansion memory performance benefits.

Expansion memory is a critical bridge in AI's memory and storage hierarchy, enabling systems to handle increasingly complex workloads without compromising speed or efficiency. Positioned between main memory and data caches in the hierarchy, CXL expansion modules exemplify the innovation at this tier and provide a scalable solution that meets the demands of advanced AI applications. This technology allows for seamless scalability and enhanced performance across various use cases, showcasing the transformative impact of expansion memory in the broader landscape of AI technology development.

Micron CZ120 memory expansion modules using CXL represent a pivotal shift in data center capabilities, addressing the insatiable demand for memory in AI and high-performance computing. With 128GB and 256GB capacities and speeds up to 36 GB/s, these modules enhance server performance by providing the necessary memory capacity and bandwidth for complex workloads. This advancement is vital for applications like AI training, software as a service (SaaS) and in-memory databases, promising to elevate computational efficiency to new heights.

Micron's collaboration with industry giants like Intel and AMD in developing and testing the CZ120 memory expansion module using CXL underscores a unified effort to meet the surging demands of data centers. This strategic partnership aims to foster the adoption of CXL technology, promising a new era of server memory efficiency and performance. Through the Micron technology enablement program, Micron offers extensive support and resources, ensuring that our innovations in CXL-based memory expansion modules significantly improve data processing capabilities and cost efficiency for data centers worldwide.

SSD data caches: Solidly speeding up access with Micron 9000 and 7000 series data center SSDs

Infographic showcasing Micron's 7500 and 9400 SSDs Infographic: Showcasing Micron's 7500 and 9400 SSDs.

In the hierarchy of AI's computational framework, the local SSD data cache layer bridges the gap between the need for rapid data access and the vast reservoirs of stored information. Traditional HDD storage solutions often need help to keep pace with the data throughput required by intensive AI workloads, leading to bottlenecks that can significantly hinder the performance of AI applications.

This bottleneck is particularly problematic in data centers, where the delay in fetching data from slower storage mediums can drastically affect the efficiency of AI models in real-time decision-making processes. The Micron 9000 and 7000 series SSDs address this challenge head-on, offering high-speed data access essential for feeding AI algorithms without delay and ensuring a smooth and efficient pipeline for AI computations. The efficiency and speed of these SSDs make sure that data-intensive AI applications — from machine learning models to complex analytics — operate seamlessly, reduce latency and maximize performance.

Expanding on SSD data caches' critical role in AI workloads, the Micron 9000 and 7000 series SSDs emerge as key solutions in eliminating data access bottlenecks. The Micron 9400 SSD, in particular, sets a new performance benchmark for PCIe Gen4 storage, delivering mixed workload performance that surpasses major competitors by up to 2.3 times and improving power efficiency by up to 77%. This series provides capacities up to a staggering 30.72TB, which enables maximum storage density and operational efficiency in data centers. Such capabilities ensure that AI algorithms have swift access to the necessary data, facilitating real-time processing and decision-making.

In real-world applications — such as advanced medical diagnostics and AI-enhanced customer experiences — the Micron 9400 SSD’s superior performance and capacity are indispensable. Its delivery of 1.6 million input/output operations per second (IOPS) for 100% of 4K random reads and exceptional performance in mixed read and write workloads illustrates its readiness to tackle the most demanding data center tasks. Whether it's accelerating processing time for machine learning, training models or providing the speed and efficiency required for high-frequency trading and online transactions, the Micron 9400 SSD is essential for modern, data-intensive workloads.

Moreover, the Micron 9400 SSD's impressive energy efficiency addresses the high power demands of contemporary data centers and supports a more sustainable approach to high-performance computing. With improved IOPS per watt, data centers can achieve higher energy throughput, reducing operational expenses and environmental impact. This balance of performance, capacity and efficiency not only exemplifies Micron's commitment to advancing storage technology to meet the evolving needs of AI and cloud computing, but it also makes it a pivotal solution for overcoming traditional storage challenges in AI-driven environments.

Networked data lakes: Laying the foundation with Micron 6000 series data center SSDs

Infographic laying out the benefits of Micron's 6000 series data center SSDs. Infographic: Showcasing Micron 6500 ION SSD's performance, speed and density.

Data lakes are integral to the AI ecosystem, serving as the bedrock on which the vast universe of data that AI relies on is stored. They are critical for their storage capabilities and for ensuring data remains fluid and accessible for many AI processes. By aggregating data from diverse sources in its native format, data lakes allow for more comprehensive data analysis and machine learning, providing the raw materials necessary to fuel AI's predictive insights and decision-making.

The capacity to store and manage vast amounts of unstructured data makes data lakes indispensable for organizations looking to leverage AI for a competitive advantage. Micron 6000 series data center SSDs enhance this foundational layer by ensuring data is stored securely and readily accessible, enabling the swift data retrieval essential for dynamic AI computations.

The Micron 6500 ION series of data center SSDs emerges as a cornerstone solution in addressing the critical need for rapid, reliable access to these data reservoirs. The 6500 ION series, celebrated for being the world's first 200+ layer NAND data center NVMe SSD, sets a new standard in data storage, offering unparalleled performance, security and energy efficiency compared to its predecessors and competitors.

Performance benchmarks reveal the 6500 ION's superiority in handling diverse workloads with remarkable efficiency. For instance, in Ceph object storage workloads, the 6500 ION demonstrates up to 3.5 times better performance in sequential writes and up to 49% in random reads than its counterparts. Furthermore, its prowess extends to NoSQL database applications like Cassandra, which showcases up to 2.6 times better peak performance in read-intensive tasks, making it an ideal choice for data centers that manage complex, high-demand workloads.

The Micron 6500 ION excels in performance, operational efficiency and sustainability. With its high-capacity offering of 30.72TB and advancements in meeting power and cooling requirements, the 6500 ION allows for significant server consolidation, reducing capital, operational expenses and carbon emissions. This synthesis of high performance, capacity and efficiency underscores Micron's commitment to driving data center capabilities forward and ensuring they can meet the ever-expanding demands of AI and machine learning technologies.

Memory matters in AI acceleration: Micron’s vision for a future fueled by innovation

Infographic of Micron AI memory and storage portfolio showcasing HBM3E, GDDR6X. CXL, high-capacity DIMMs, DDR5, LPCAMM2, UFS 4.0 and data center SSDs Infographic: Micron AI memory and storage portfolio showcasing HBM3E, GDDR6X. CXL, high-capacity DIMMs, DDR5, LPCAMM2, UFS 4.0 and data center SSDs.

Memory is vital for advancing AI, shaping how fast AI learns, evolves and integrates into our lives. Each tier of the hierarchy plays a pivotal role — such as near memory's high-speed processing and main memory's vast data management. Likewise, expansion memory's scalability, SSD data caches' rapid access and data lakes' foundational storage collectively ensure AI's seamless operation. This intricate hierarchy highlights memory and storage's indispensable role in AI's journey toward a future where technology augments reality, underscoring the need for continued innovation and investment in these critical semiconductor technologies.

From our humble beginnings in a Boise dentist’s basement in 1978 to our position today as a global leader in memory and storage solutions, Micron showcases a relentless drive for innovation and excellence. Celebrating more than 45 years of technological breakthroughs — including development of the world's smallest 256K DRAM, our leading-edge 1ß memory node and the industry's first 232-layer NAND — Micron has consistently pushed the boundaries of technology.

These milestones are not just achievements in semiconductor fabrication but also pivotal moments that have propelled the AI revolution forward. As we look to the future, ongoing focus and investment in memory and storage technologies are crucial for harnessing the full potential of AI. Micron's commitment to innovation underscores the importance of these technologies in advancing AI, encouraging us to drive forward with humility, curiosity and ambition. Micron's vision for the future, where AI transforms our world to enrich life for all, is underpinned by our values (people, innovation, tenacity, collaboration and customer focus). And we are continuing forward with the belief that technology can and should be a force for good.


Why Micron memory and storage matter in AI acceleration

From data centers to autonomous vehicles, discover how Micron's broad portfolio of AI solutions collectively contributes to shaping the future of AI, powering innovation across all sectors.

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Frequently asked questions

What role does memory play in AI acceleration?

Memory enables AI systems to efficiently process and learn from large data volumes, which is crucial for real-time analytics and decision-making.

How does Micron contribute to AI development?

Micron advances memory and storage with innovations like the first 232-layer NAND and 1ß DRAM, boosting AI capabilities.

Why are SSD data caches important for AI workloads?

SSDs provide quick data access, smoothing AI operations and overcoming traditional storage bottlenecks.

What is the significance of data lakes in AI?

Data lakes store the extensive data that AI algorithms need, with Micron's SSDs ensuring efficient management.

How does Micron envision the future of AI and memory technology?

Micron sees AI integration into daily life as being driven by ongoing innovation in memory technology.

Why does memory matter in AI acceleration?

Effective memory solutions enhance AI model operation, enabling faster data processing and decision-making.

Vice President of Corporate Marketing

Rahul Sandil

Rahul Sandil is vice president of Micron’s Corporate Marketing, where he leads brand management, creative studios, business and technology marketing, marketing technology and digital marketing. Passionate about creating customer-centric experiences that connect communities with technology, Rahul believes in the power of storytelling, creativity and data to drive business outcomes and social impact. He is also an avid geek and usually the first to adopt new consumer technology products. To read more about Rahul’s thoughts on AI, marketing and leadership, check out his blog, connect with him on LinkedIn, subscribe to his newsletter or follow him on Medium.

Rahul Sandil