How the world's first quad-port SSD will revolutionize intelligent vehicle structures

Puneet Sharma | April 2024

The modern vehicle is increasingly becoming a “data center on wheels” and innovations in advanced features and computing architecture are making this moniker more applicable every day. For example, the connected car is the most complex software-driven machine today, with approximately 100 million lines of code and is soon expected to expand to 1 billion lines with the rise of AI in vehicles. But the problem is today’s existing automotive architectures simply aren’t designed to scale to support this explosion of data. They need to evolve — and storage needs to evolve with it. So what does that entail?

The shift to centralized architectures

Today’s vehicles are migrating from the traditional domain distributed architectures to domain and zonal architectures with centralized decision-making to simplify design. In fact, McKinsey estimates that by 2030, the global share of vehicles with zonal architecture will reach around 18% and continue to grow.

With existing domain approaches, systems are grouped by function within the vehicle, such as in-vehicle infotainment (IVI), connectivity, powertrain and more. While this was once sustainable, as cars have grown more complex, the numbers of sensors, cameras and electronics have multiplied exponentially, with some having up to 150 electronic control units (ECUs). This demands more complex, heavy wiring — which drives up cost and weight.

Zonal architectures simplify the way electronics are connected by efficiently grouping systems and devices in physical zones near the ECUs controlling them. The local controllers for these zones then connect to a central high-performance computer cluster akin to a data center server, with premium cars using clusters of up to four systems on chips (SoCs). Many new vehicle models in development are already planning to adopt this centralized architecture. However, today’s automotive storage solutions haven’t yet evolved to support these high numbers of SoCs to deliver optimal system efficiencies.


That’s why we are proud to unveil a new paradigm for automotive storage — the Micron 4150AT SSD, which builds on the flexibility and scalability enabled by data center SSDs. Extending beyond the dual-port capability commonly utilized in data centers, the 4150AT is the first SSD across any end market to offer four ports and combine that with the power of single-root input/output virtualization (SR-IOV). These groundbreaking features empower the industry shift to centralization and smarter, safer vehicles. Let’s take a look under the hood to understand how and why.

A drive built for the new era of intelligent vehicles

The convergence of multi-port SSDs with SR-IOV technology offers a powerful solution for managing data separation and data sharing simultaneously. Each of the 4150AT’s ports can connect to an SoC and can support up to 16 virtual machines (VMs), providing fine-grained control over data access. 

The 4150AT’s quad ports provide multiple independent data paths, allowing concurrent communication with the host system. These ports can be allocated to different VMs or workloads, ensuring strict isolation of data traffic. Whether it’s latency-sensitive applications or high-throughput workloads, multi-port SSDs offer flexibility and accelerate time to insight.

Meanwhile, SR-IOV enables the 4150AT SSD to support dozens of VMs, which is critical as today’s workhorse SoCs increasingly use virtualization to multitask. Notably, each VM can have its own isolated storage region, or namespace, to store and access data, while sharing a pool of data with others. System architects can selectively allocate ports, ensuring critical data remains isolated while allowing efficient data sharing when needed. Private namespaces, combined with SR-IOV, ensure that data can only be accessed by the virtual machine or host attached to the namespace, maintaining critical data privacy and security. Whether in cloud environments, edge computing or data centers, this approach empowers precise storage management. 

We’ve also kept security top of mind in designing the 4150AT, building it with the latest device-level protections and security, including hardware-based data encryption, device attestation, secure boot and cryptographically signed firmware.

Driving architectural efficiency for today’s modern vehicles

So how does all of this enable centralized architecture? Since existing storage solutions can typically only connect to a single SoC, the capacity of that storage device is only available for that domain or function — for example IVI, or ADAS, or connectivity. In some situations, this leads to design teams spending significant time, energy and compromises to get code to fit into a footprint to avoid having to double up to the next available capacity — for example from 512 gigabytes to 1 terabyte. In other cases, there is unused, or stranded, capacity in one function’s storage device such as IVI, that could have been used by another SoC for a function such as ADAS or connectivity. By replacing up to four storage devices, our 4150AT SSD dramatically improves efficiency, total cost of ownership and cost per gigabyte while streamlining architecture.

An alternative approach for sharing storage across SOCs relies on a costly, automotive-grade PCIe switch to connect a storage drive to multiple SoCs. These are often power-hungry and eat up valuable board space. The 4150AT’s multi-port capability eliminates the need for a switch, giving carmakers more design flexibility in their vehicle while reducing heat and power consumption in the design.

The 4150AT’s ability to connect multiple SoCs also alleviates the need to keep redundant copies of data — and the savings here can be significant. For example, navigational data for a single city alone can be up to 100 gigabytes and often is shared by both ADAS and IVI systems. But existing approaches require this data to be stored at least twice within the vehicle with local storage tied to each SoC. Multiply that by however many cities and that is hundreds of unnecessary gigabytes of storage, equating to lost dollars and wasted space and bits. With the 4150AT, that is no longer the case.

Saving the planet one bit at a time

By now it’s clear the revolutionary benefits our latest automotive SSD brings. What we’re even more excited about, though, is the macro benefits we’ll reap from the shift to centralized architectures. According to a Vicor Power study, due to the decreased weight of simplified wiring, zonal architectures can increase range up to 4,000 miles per year for electric vehicles, compared to traditional architectures, while reducing vehicle weight by up to 40 pounds. For fuel-powered vehicles, this will mean better fuel efficiency (and cost savings on gas for drivers), which will help slash carbon emissions as global warming accelerates. Amidst dire climate change, any energy saved counts, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the ecosystem leverages 4150AT in its architectures to build lighter, more streamlined and greener vehicles.

Future-proofing vehicles for a new era

New problems require new solutions, and that’s why we reimagined automotive storage from the ground-up to deliver the world’s first-quad port SSD, the Micron 4150AT. Its multiple ports and SR-IOV virtualization bring the ecosystem an unprecedented level of flexibility and power that can finally match the growing complexity of automotive data workloads, which will only rise in volume and sophistication as generative AI and full autonomy become ubiquitous in future vehicles. By enabling centralized architectures, this SSD empowers the automotive ecosystem to better future-proof vehicles for these disruptive technologies in a scalable, sustainable way. The 4150AT is just a small but mighty building block in carmakers’ toolkits, and so the possibilities are endless in terms of how the ecosystem uses it to reimagine and redesign the cars of the future. We’re just at the beginning of this exciting transformation, and as they say, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

Sr. Director, NVM Product Management

Puneet Sharma

Puneet Sharma is the senior director of non-volatile memory (NVM) product management in the Embedded Business Unit at Micron Technology. He manages the NVM portfolio, including UFS, eMMC and SSD products for the automotive, industrial and consumer markets. He has been working in the industry for 18 years and has experience in NAND design, fab integration and application engineering. He currently holds 18 U.S. and international patents.