Intel: This 'ruler' SSD is world's densest, so you can cram 1PB in single 1U rack

IBM and Microsoft take up Intel's new long and skinny SSDs for cloud storage.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Video: Samsung Electronic's new SSD: 33.2TB of memory for enterprises and data centers.

Intel has unveiled its new 3D NAND solid-state drive (SSD) 'ruler' form factor storage for data-center servers.

The chip giant first set out this form factor a year ago, based on the Enterprise & Datacenter Storage Form Factor (EDSFF) standard for server makers to cut cooling costs and offer a more efficient format than SSDs in the classic 2.5 inch size.

Intel describes the new ruler-shaped Intel SSD DC P4500, which is 12 inches by 1.5 inches, and a third of an inch thick, as the world's densest SSD.

Server makers can jam up to one petabyte (PB) -- or a thousand terabytes (TB) -- of data into 1U server racks by lining up 32 of these 32TB Intel rulers together.

So, instead of the decades-old 2.5-inch square SSD drives inherited from and designed for disk-based storage, Intel now has long and skinny sticks, thanks to flash.

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The new shape allows it to optimize SSD storage density, cooling, and power for data centers. Samsung's take on this is its Next Generation Small Form Factor (NGSFF) SSD standard, announced last year and aimed at replacing the M.2 SSD standard.

Samsung boasted it could fit up to 576 terabytes (TB) in a 1U rack, and in January enterprise storage vendor Supermicro announced a 1U server with space for 36 of Samsung's NGSFF non-volatile memory express (NVMe) SSDs that supported up to 288TB per system.

Intel says one of the key advantages over disk is that its ruler is cooler, helping companies reduce demand for air conditioning.

Cloud giants IBM, Microsoft, and Shenzhen, China-based internet behemoth Tencent, the owner of China's version of WhatsApp, WeChat, have adopted its ruler SSDs to support their cloud and data-center operations, according to Intel.

Intel says the slim and long format demands half the airflow to keep them cool compared with traditional SSD format hardware, while its 3D NAND SSD takes up just a 10th of the power and is about five percent of the size of hard-disk storage.

The cooling edge is enabled by the ruler design, which allows air to flow directly to processors located at the rear of a machine.

"A new form factor itself isn't all that exciting, typically," said Wayne Allen, director of data center storage pathfinding, Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group.

"But because [the ruler] impacts everything about server design and helps increase performance and reach new levels of density, it's a big deal."


The ruler-shaped Intel SSD DC P4500 can hold up to 32TB.

Image: Walden Kirsch/Intel

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