Twenty Questions with Crucial
Twenty Questions with Crucial
Crucial was kind enough to make one of their senior managers available for a quick question and answer period with Hardware Canucks. Below is the conversation, replicated in its entirety.
H In a few words could you tell us a little about yourself and the role you play at Crucial.
C Robert Wheadon, senior worldwide product manager, Crucial.
H Over the past 5 years we have seen a literal explosion in the storage arena. What role has Crucial played in the ever increasing popularity of Solid State Drives? What role do you see Crucial playing in the future (say next 5 years)? Does being under the Micron umbrella give Crucial unique advantages other companies may not have? If so can you describe some of them?
C Crucial has long been synonymous with reliability, quality, and a trusted name when it comes to SSDs even before the explosion in the storage arena. We introduced the first SATA 6Gb/s SSD to the market, showcasing the significant performance advantages of solid state drives over traditional hard disk drives. We have enabled cost reductions across the board through our innovative technology, including implementing our 25nm NAND flash technology in various products. Our most recent solution, the Crucial V4 SSD, is designed to match the performance level of PCs built prior to 2011 (SATA 3Gb/s bandwidth). As we look towards the future of storage, we’re continuing to innovate without sacrificing what has made us great: high-quality products backed by outstanding customer service.
Because our parent company is Micron Technology, Inc., a worldwide leader in NAND design and development, we’re able to provide major advantages to our customers: hundreds of SSD qualification tests, extensive investment in R&D, more than 30 years of industry expertise, and end-to-end quality assurance. Crucial SSDs are built with custom firmware and our own cutting edge NAND technology. Before the manufacturing process begins, our SSD prototypes undergo significant prerelease validation testing. When the manufacturing process is complete, we examine our drives again to ensure that they meet the endurance, performance, and compatibility specifications that we advertise.
H It seems that some companies have taken the ‘shotgun’ approach to their solid state line-up and have released a mindboggling number of models, each one meant to satisfy a very specific consumer group’s requirements. Crucial has taken a different approach. Can you describe what your core philosophy is and why having fewer choices can be considered beneficial for consumers?
C Our core philosophy is to provide customers with products that meet their needs, without sacrificing a quality development process. Our products are designed to benefit a wide variety of computing systems, so we’re more focused on meeting the needs of a lot of our customers with fewer, high-quality solutions.
H Recently Crucial has diversified their SSD portfolio and added in both Hybrid solutions and addition budget orientated solutions. This includes both the Adrenaline and V4 series of drives. Can you elaborate on the design decisions behind both of these drives and explain what the average customer of each of these drives ‘looks’ like?
C The Crucial Adrenaline was designed for consumers who don’t want to give up the capacity of their existing hard drive, but who want to experience the benefits of SSDs. The Crucial Adrenaline is for Windows®-based PCs, and includes a Crucial M4 SSD with a 3.5” adapter bracket and Dataplex™ software. By combining a low-capacity, high-performance SSD with an existing high-capacity hard drive, we were able to significantly improve performance for consumers at an affordable price.
As for the V4, the fact is that many consumers purchased their computers before 2011, and these systems have slower data transfer (SATA 3Gb/s) capabilities than newer systems. The Crucial V4 SSD was created to complement the abilities of these mainstream systems, while other SSDs on the market are designed for systems with high bandwidth capabilities (SATA 6Gb/s). Faster marketed performance levels cannot be achieved on an older system, and consumers end up paying for extra performance their computer system is unable to support. The Crucial V4 SSD features all the benefits and quality you’ve come to expect from Crucial SSDs over traditional hard drives: faster start-up times, faster data transfer speeds, and increased durability—all at a lower price than most high-performance SSDs. Why pay for performance you can’t use?
H How do these drives satisfy these customers’ needs differently than the competition? On the surface, the Adrenaline appears to be a moderate sized SSD coupled with Dataplex software. We can think of numerous companies with their own spin on this combination. In your opinion what are the key reasons a customer should choose the Adrenaline over the competition?
C Enabling PCs to start up twice as fast and to perform up to 8 times faster, the Crucial Adrenaline is a high-quality solid state cache product. Setting itself apart from the competition, the Crucial Adrenaline utilizes Micron NAND and Dataplex™ software, which we worked closely with NVELO to optimize for this offering.
H Since such a hybrid configuration is by default a non-TRIM environment have you customized the Adrenaline’s firmware to help curtail the potential long term performance drop off which seems to go along with most Hybrid solutions?
C The Crucial Adrenaline solution utilizes a 64GB Crucial M4 SSD. We provide 50GB of NAND for caching data and dedicate 14GB of NAND for background tasks that optimize the performance and endurance of the drive.
H Both the V4 and the Adrenaline are aimed at the budget-minded consumer who is not using a bleeding edge computer system. What are the key areas that will help them decide on one over the other?
C All consumers are budget-minded. The Crucial Adrenaline was designed for those who want to experience the benefits of SSDs without giving up the capacity of their existing hard drive – a combined need for high capacity and better performance. Typically, these consumers have 1TB to 2TB of storage in desktop systems, and are not looking to replace an existing hard drive; they simply want a storage solution that performs better. With the Crucial Adrenaline, we are able to deliver an improved storage performance to meet those consumers’ needs.
The Crucial V4 was designed to boost the performance of pre-2011 systems, and is a great solution for laptop systems where high storage capacity isn’t necessary. If a consumer wants to significantly improve the performance of an older computer and doesn’t have the need for massive amounts of storage, then the V4 is a great solution for them.
H Budget orientated, SATA 3Gb/s solid state drives are becoming more and more prevalent. In your opinion what sets the Crucial V4 series apart from the competitions offerings?
C It’s quality that sets Crucial apart from the competition. We perform hundreds of SSD qualification tests, extensive prerelease validation testing, and have more than 30 years of industry expertise under our belt. With the Crucial V4 SSD, we’re able to deliver everything consumers expect from our award-winning line of SSDs: faster read/write speeds, faster boot times, faster application loading times, and increased reliability compared to traditional hard drives. To further set ourselves apart from the competition, we've included custom firmware to deliver powerful performance in the Crucial V4 SSD for mainstream computers at an affordable price.
H One of the major strengths of Crucial solid state drives has been their non-TRIM environment performance. Even for enthusiasts it was not all that long ago that “TRIM vs. non-TRIM” or “short term vs. long term” performance was a major concern. With Windows 7 gaining market dominance and both Intel and AMD offering TRIM capable chipsets for a few generations now, do you see this as an area that will be as important in the future as it was in the past? Is this one of the main priorities behind the V4 as it is meant for older systems?
C Not long ago, pre-Windows 7 operating systems didn’t even recognize SSDs as a different storage device from hard drives. Now, specific support for SSD occurs in all major operating systems and chipsets, and TRIM is one of those features. Our drives are designed to take advantage of the TRIM command, and we don’t stop there. As a worldwide leader in the NAND design and development, our engineers are able to implement features in the firmware which improve upon the performance and endurance of the NAND. Optimizing the performance and endurance of SSDs continues to be important, and is why we continue to make significant investments in R&D.
H The V4 relies upon the lesser known Phison controller. What made Crucial decide on this route instead of – for example – a SF2181 or SF2141 controller?
C Unlike other SSDs on the market, Crucial SSDs treat all files the same, regardless of whether they’re compressed or uncompressed. While many SSDs on the market achieve faster speeds by using file compression, some of the most common file types – video, mp3, advanced graphics files and zip files – can’t be compressed any further, resulting in SSDs that often deliver drastically slower speeds than advertised.
H Another way in which some companies go about creating value orientated drives is by using lower binned NAND chips and using ‘custom’ firmware to limit the wear and tear on those NAND ICs. Has Crucial done this with the V4 or any Crucial branded drive? If not, can you elaborate on why not? If you have, can you say why you have done this? [SIZE=5]
C The Crucial M4 SSD uses the same quality Micron NAND as the Crucial M4 SSD.
H Can you explain why someone should opt for the V4 over that of the M4?
C If your current system predates 2011, the Crucial V4 SSD is the better option for you. The Crucial V4 SSD is designed to complement the capabilities of mainstream SATA 3Gb/s systems at an affordable price, while the Crucial M4 SSD is designed to deliver powerful SSD performance for cutting-edge SATA 6Gb/s systems.
H With SATA 6Gb/s interface already being quickly saturated by this generation of drives what do you foresee the future of SSDs being? For example, will we ever see PCI-E based solution from Crucial?
C We prefer to not disclose information about the Crucial product roadmap.
H You have stated that one of the main goals of the V4 series has been to give consumers an easy, reliable and yet frugally priced upgrade option for their aging systems. Since Crucial has always used custom firmware, will we ever see a software based solution that will allow customers the ability to schedule ‘cleaning’ times for their drive or do you feel such “toolbox” solutions are not needed and “Idle Time / Background garbage collection” routines are enough?
C We believe such a tool is not needed at this time.
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