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derFunkenstein
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Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 11:48 am

I was killing some time at WalMart on Sunday and so I was perusing their electronics section. I don't buy anything there, but I wanted to see what the rest of the world might be into.

Anyway, when viewing their laptop selection, something stuck out to me. several HP systems were equipped with either 4 our 8 GB of RAM and 16 GB of Optane to go with their 1 TB hard drives. Pretty standard fare, but then I looked at the labels on the machines, it said they came with "20 GB" or "24 GB" of memory. In small print was the breakdown. That seemed really kind of sleazy.

And it's not just WalMart, either. Amazon has a boatload of these configs being sold as "24 GB of memory" machines. Same with Newegg.

I'm just aghast. It's probably been going on for a year, but I just noticed it. Anyway, I thought it was worth pointing out in case you have somebody you need to warn. There's a huge difference between actual system RAM and the hard drive cache.
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 11:52 am

I have also seen this, and it really is annoying because the companies making this claim are obviously misleading consumers intentionally.
 
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:06 pm

Geez this is bad- of the few that had reviews, the fan noise was the biggest complaint, second was the lame performance. NewEgg isn't as transparent as Amazon (not a huge sample taken) on a few laptops, however this is very shady marketing. Considering that AMD has a class action still in the courts for the Bulldozer "Core" issue, this seems far more deceiving, storage cache is NOT system memory!
 
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:26 pm

This starts to get into grey areas of colloquial use of terms vs. technical definition. RAM is colloquially known as "memory" among computer users, power users, enthusiasts, I.T. professionals, etc. However, RAM is not the only type of "memory" in any modern computer architecture. It would be more appropriate to use the term memory hierarchy, and refer to each "level" of memory by the proper term, e.g. register, cache (level), RAM, storage. Optane is intended to fit in between RAM and storage, in the traditional memory hierarchy, creating a new level within the hierarchy. If we're going to mix terms and call anything above the storage level "memory", it is not therefore wholly inappropriate to refer to Optane as "memory".
 
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:43 pm

techguy wrote:
This starts to get into grey areas of colloquial use of terms vs. technical definition. RAM is colloquially known as "memory" among computer users, power users, enthusiasts, I.T. professionals, etc. However, RAM is not the only type of "memory" in any modern computer architecture. It would be more appropriate to use the term memory hierarchy, and refer to each "level" of memory by the proper term, e.g. register, cache (level), RAM, storage. Optane is intended to fit in between RAM and storage, in the traditional memory hierarchy, creating a new level within the hierarchy. If we're going to mix terms and call anything above the storage level "memory", it is not therefore wholly inappropriate to refer to Optane as "memory".

Agreed on the technical terms, but the common use of the term does not include storage caching. It's deliberately misleading.

Unless you want them totaling up DRAM caches in SSDs, turbo write buffers on SSDs, HDD caches, controller caches, etc...it's just not worth the confusion. It's a storage cache, explicitly.
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:50 pm

Waco wrote:
techguy wrote:
This starts to get into grey areas of colloquial use of terms vs. technical definition. RAM is colloquially known as "memory" among computer users, power users, enthusiasts, I.T. professionals, etc. However, RAM is not the only type of "memory" in any modern computer architecture. It would be more appropriate to use the term memory hierarchy, and refer to each "level" of memory by the proper term, e.g. register, cache (level), RAM, storage. Optane is intended to fit in between RAM and storage, in the traditional memory hierarchy, creating a new level within the hierarchy. If we're going to mix terms and call anything above the storage level "memory", it is not therefore wholly inappropriate to refer to Optane as "memory".

Agreed on the technical terms, but the common use of the term does not include storage caching. It's deliberately misleading.

Unless you want them totaling up DRAM caches in SSDs, turbo write buffers on SSDs, HDD caches, controller caches, etc...it's just not worth the confusion. It's a storage cache, explicitly.


We don't need to create a cumulative total that includes disparate caches of storage devices, as those caches aren't visible to any other segment of the hierarchy or system client. One could indeed apply the argument to the various levels of CPU $ however. It just wouldn't affect the total in any meaningful way. What's another few MB in a system of GB (or even TB), after all?

I do agree the move is confusing to consumers though. I'm not sure how else one should market such a feature though - past efforts such as the infamous Vista "Readyboost" feature resulted in abject failure. Marketing departments have an obligation to avoid both confusing language and association with past failed products.
 
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 1:39 pm

No worse than AMD proclaiming the FX 8150/8350 is a eight core CPU when in reality it was a quad core with 8 threads. But those last four threads did have dedicated hardware unlike SMT that soaks up under utilized resources in the core.
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 1:50 pm

Yuck, really shady, but good business at the low end.

Obviously it's been enabled as a marketing trick by the capacity being of the approximate same size as that of the actual RAM which is now in the much more expensive machines (unlike with SRT back in the SB days), but I wonder if they're hoping to avoid a lawsuit through the idea that the peak bandwiidth of this is about that of early DDR?
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 2:01 pm

techguy wrote:
I'm not sure how else one should market such a feature though - past efforts such as the infamous Vista "Readyboost" feature resulted in abject failure. Marketing departments have an obligation to avoid both confusing language and association with past failed products.


I would much rather see Optane become another anonymous bullet point that fades away into obscurity than see it being used in a way that's deliberately misleading.

biffzinker wrote:
No worse than AMD proclaiming the FX 8150/8350 is a eight core CPU when in reality it was a quad core with 8 threads. But those last four threads did have dedicated hardware unlike SMT that soaks up under utilized resources in the core.


The difference there is you're still talking about the capabilities of a single device rather than grouping together bits of otherwise unrelated storage under the same label as if it's all the same thing. If Bulldozer and it's derivatives hadn't sucked in general, then I doubt people would have made such a big deal out of that.
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 2:49 pm

Redocbew wrote:
techguy wrote:
I'm not sure how else one should market such a feature though - past efforts such as the infamous Vista "Readyboost" feature resulted in abject failure. Marketing departments have an obligation to avoid both confusing language and association with past failed products.


I would much rather see Optane become another anonymous bullet point that fades away into obscurity than see it being used in a way that's deliberately misleading.

biffzinker wrote:
No worse than AMD proclaiming the FX 8150/8350 is a eight core CPU when in reality it was a quad core with 8 threads. But those last four threads did have dedicated hardware unlike SMT that soaks up under utilized resources in the core.


The difference there is you're still talking about the capabilities of a single device rather than grouping together bits of otherwise unrelated storage under the same label as if it's all the same thing. If Bulldozer and it's derivatives hadn't sucked in general, then I doubt people would have made such a big deal out of that.


"Memory" is a catch-all term. I've elaborated this point in my previous post.
 
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 2:53 pm

I agree that it is difficult, however I also don't know a better way to state it. When I saw it it was very painfully obvious what was going on. You can assume 20 = 4 RAM + 16 Optane.
Also, a 20GB of memory machine is going to perform much much better than a 4GB one. Especially when they are stuck with a crappy SSD. What I fail to understand is the economics where optane + platter drive is cheaper than just an ssd. OEM's must be getting really good pricing from Intel.
 
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 3:12 pm

Usacomp2k3 wrote:
OEM's must be getting really good pricing from Intel.

I'd bet more on them getting good deals on crappy low-RPM spinning hard drives. 1TB has been the standard for cheap laptops for ages.
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 3:18 pm

techguy wrote:
"Memory" is a catch-all term. I've elaborated this point in my previous post.


I suppose so is "storage", and if didn't matter where your stuff was being written, then yeah sure why not lump everything together. The fact that it does matter is kind of the whole point. If it matters less with Optane, and if nobody buying a machine from Walmart or Best Buy is going to notice the difference that doesn't make it any better.

Usacomp2k3 wrote:
What I fail to understand is the economics where optane + platter drive is cheaper than just an ssd. OEM's must be getting really good pricing from Intel.


Obviously these machines don't need Optane caches, but they're getting them anyway, so it's got to be something like that. If it's so difficult to find a way to market this without being sneaky, then maybe that's just another indication of cart before horse.
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 3:21 pm

Redocbew wrote:
Usacomp2k3 wrote:
What I fail to understand is the economics where optane + platter drive is cheaper than just an ssd. OEM's must be getting really good pricing from Intel.


Obviously these machines don't need Optane caches, but they're getting them anyway, so it's got to be something like that. If it's so difficult to find a way to market this without being sneaky, then maybe that's just another indication of cart before horse.

Why so negative against Optane? These are exactly the machines hat would benefit from it, so I have no problem with them being outfitted as such.
 
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 3:31 pm

I'm an engineer. Complaining about sales and management is part of what I do. :P

I'm not negative against Optane. It's nifty stuff, but the biggest benefits it brings are persistence, byte-level addressing, and consistently low latency. Two of those three have no impact when being used as a storage cache, and the low latency isn't much to get excited about in a machine that spends most of it's time at a queue depth of 1. If you want to use it in place of an SSD to help prop up a low end PC I don't have any problem with that per say, but Optane isn't really bringing anything new to the table there either. For an "average PC" it's a solution in search of a problem which is probably a big part of why tricks like this are required in order to market it.
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 3:43 pm

You and I must have read completely different reviews. The average PC is exactly where this shines with current software.
 
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 6:47 pm

Compared to what? Yeah of course just about anything will be an upgrade from a bargain basement spinning drive that's all alone. A hybrid drive with an onboard solid state cache would also be better, but using that to compare SSD vs Optane doesn't work very well since the solid state cache is usually so much smaller than a full drive would be and has much less parallelism to be exploited. We've known for quite some time that if you've already got an SSD(pretty much any SSD) in your desktop PC, then you won't be getting much from Optane.

I don't expect OEMs to be marketing it that way(hey guize, this stuff is indistinguishable from what we offered last year, but would be awesome if you had a completely different machine and did things you'll never be doing with it), and it's not a bad idea, but for an average PC I wouldn't say it's a better idea than using some kind of SSD cache.
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 7:31 pm

4gb ram +16gb optane + 1 tb 4200rpm is much closer to the performance of a 4gb ram+1 tb ssd for general use than 4gb ram +1tb 4200k spinner.

Edit: look at PC Mark results:
https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/in ... 032-4.html
 
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:05 pm

techguy wrote:
"Memory" is a catch-all term. I've elaborated this point in my previous post.


I understand why you'd say that, but I respectfully choose to disagree. I think it's just a bit more contextual. In chip fabrication it might be used as a pretty broad term referring to any chip or part of a chip that stores data, but in the context of system specifications for a computer it pretty solidly equates to "RAM" or it has up to this point.

To demonstrate please look at amazon link derFunkenstein originally posted and checkout the first item. The actual product page includes a comparison chart that lists "RAM Size" as "24GB" and in the technical specifications it shows "RAM" as "24 GB DDR4". That's not misleading at all. It's outright false. A mistake almost certainly, but it's because in this context "memory" is supposed to mean "RAM". At least that's what Amazon seems to be expecting here.

As for my own take, these 16GB Optane drives are m.2 drives that communicate over PCIe using the NVME protocol exactly the same as any other pcie ssd on the market. They are SSDs by any definition I'd use. If they look like storage, connect like storage, and communicate like storage, are they not storage? It shouldn't matter if they store data using xpoint, magnetic tape, or rainbows and pixie dust, it should only matter how the computer classifies and uses it and in this case it's storage. These should be marketed as "Storage: 1TB Hard Drive + 16GB Optane cache" or something like that.
 
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 9:08 pm

Redocbew wrote:
techguy wrote:
"Memory" is a catch-all term. I've elaborated this point in my previous post.


I suppose so is "storage", and if didn't matter where your stuff was being written, then yeah sure why not lump everything together. The fact that it does matter is kind of the whole point. If it matters less with Optane, and if nobody buying a machine from Walmart or Best Buy is going to notice the difference that doesn't make it any better.


Tell me if you agree with the following:

Persistence, or the lack thereof, is perhaps the single largest differentiating factor when comparing/contrasting "memory" with "storage".
 
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 9:10 pm

Xolore wrote:
techguy wrote:
"Memory" is a catch-all term. I've elaborated this point in my previous post.


I understand why you'd say that, but I respectfully choose to disagree. I think it's just a bit more contextual. In chip fabrication it might be used as a pretty broad term referring to any chip or part of a chip that stores data, but in the context of system specifications for a computer it pretty solidly equates to "RAM" or it has up to this point.

To demonstrate please look at amazon link derFunkenstein originally posted and checkout the first item. The actual product page includes a comparison chart that lists "RAM Size" as "24GB" and in the technical specifications it shows "RAM" as "24 GB DDR4". That's not misleading at all. It's outright false. A mistake almost certainly, but it's because in this context "memory" is supposed to mean "RAM". At least that's what Amazon seems to be expecting here.


If you're going to dispute this point I would ask that you do so against the aforementioned previous post, in which I elucidated the point in greater detail. The comment to which you have responded is meant to be viewed in that context.
 
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Wed Jan 23, 2019 9:15 pm

techguy wrote:
Tell me if you agree with the following:

Persistence, or the lack thereof, is perhaps the single largest differentiating factor when comparing/contrasting "memory" with "storage".


Dude, call it a pirate-ninja if you like. I don't care. The point is that different components of the system have different capabilities and run at different speeds. Would you be advocating for some moniker that implies cloud storage having the same performance as local storage? I hope not, but that's basically the same thing as is happening here just to a lesser degree. Call me crazy, and don't get me wrong, I think Optane is cool and all, but after seeing Intel launch it like eight times until they eventually released an actual product a little over a year ago I'm not really expecting it to set the world on fire.

I do think it'll see widespread usage eventually, but at least on the desktop that probably won't be for purely technological reasons.
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Thu Jan 24, 2019 9:27 am

I suppose the biggest question is: Is 4gb ram + 16gb of optane cache + 1tb hdd cheaper than 8gb of ram + 256gb ssd?
If the first configuration is 10% cheaper than the second then laptop makers are are guaranteed to go that route especially if the PERCEIVED performance of the machine is within seconds of each other for what the average person does with their machine.

I still surprise people who bring me recent laptops that are only a year old with a complaint that Windows sucks and the machine is slow and all I do is stick another 4gb of ram and a 256gb ssd in it. The performance difference is astounding! They suddenly go from a crappy machine to one that is pretty good!

Manufacturers simply DON'T CARE about the users experience with the crap they are selling they only want to make a sale.

I love buying 3 year old business machines off of ebay upgrading the ram and sticking an ssd in it for someone. They always come back and say the machine blows away their friend's machine they they bought brand new from walmart or staples for more money.
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Thu Jan 24, 2019 9:59 am

Is the optane "memory" byte addressable? No? Then stop calling it memory. It's storage.
 
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Thu Jan 24, 2019 10:13 am

techguy wrote:
"Memory" is a catch-all term. I've elaborated this point in my previous post.

Then why aren't they advertising these machines as having 1TB of memory? Catch-all surely includes all tiers of the storage hierarchy.

I don't think anybody can successfully make the argument that including Optane as "memory" but not the hard drive is valid. And including the hard drive would be ridiculous. The Optane is used to cache the hard drive. For that reason, it doesn't belong in the "memory" count, as most people are familiar with it being marketed.
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Thu Jan 24, 2019 10:22 am

The problem is we have 3 tiers of memory/storage now when previously there were only 2. The options are:
*Call out each of the 3 individually - most technically accurate, least consumer-understandable
*Show it as RAM - not technically accurate, more consumer-understandable, most marketable
*Show it as storage - not technically accurate, more consumer-understandable, not really marketable

Personally, the performance is closer to RAM than storage, so I don't have a problem with it being included in that as long as it is very clearly 4+16 on the label.
 
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Thu Jan 24, 2019 10:28 am

"4GB of system RAM, 1TB hard drive with 16GB Optane disk accelerator cache" does not seem all that difficult.

edit: surely this makes it look like more premium systems with 16GB of RAM and non-Optane'd SSDs have less "memory" than the cheaper ones that have Optane caches. Why would companies want to market the low-margin bottom end of the market and make their high-end systems that have a higher margin look less desirable?
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Thu Jan 24, 2019 10:59 am

NTMBK wrote:
Is the optane "memory" byte addressable? No? Then stop calling it memory. It's storage.

Actually, the underlying 3D XPoint tech is byte addressable. Whether or not it is in this particular application, I do not know. (But I kind of doubt it.)
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:03 am

Aranarth wrote:
I suppose the biggest question is: Is 4gb ram + 16gb of optane cache + 1tb hdd cheaper than 8gb of ram + 256gb ssd?
If the first configuration is 10% cheaper than the second then laptop makers are are guaranteed to go that route especially if the PERCEIVED performance of the machine is within seconds of each other for what the average person does with their machine.

I still surprise people who bring me recent laptops that are only a year old with a complaint that Windows sucks and the machine is slow and all I do is stick another 4gb of ram and a 256gb ssd in it. The performance difference is astounding! They suddenly go from a crappy machine to one that is pretty good!

Manufacturers simply DON'T CARE about the users experience with the crap they are selling they only want to make a sale.

I love buying 3 year old business machines off of ebay upgrading the ram and sticking an ssd in it for someone. They always come back and say the machine blows away their friend's machine they they bought brand new from walmart or staples for more money.

Spot on.

Obviously it's not about the pricing for build options, it's the pricing for perception: probably correctly, they know that users in this market segment who see "1 TB" will be impressed in a way that those who see "240 GB" won't -- that this will hook the user.

Putting in 8 GB of RAM would be reasonable, but with the 16 GB Optane costing the same as a 4 GB SO-DIMM there's a case to be made for going from a 1 TB mechanical and 8 GB RAM to that same storage but 4 GB RAM and a 16 GB Optane device, it begins to look plausibly technically viable ...

Imagine being the engineer selling this internally, though, you might even let the marketing droid run with their dumbass idea of it being "20 GB memory" if your tesing showed that for some typical workloads the machine could be better than the HDD and 8 GB RAM version.
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Re: Annoying marketing trend

Thu Jan 24, 2019 1:42 pm

Usacomp2k3 wrote:
The problem is we have 3 tiers of memory/storage now when previously there were only 2.


Having three tiers instead of two is nothing new. We've seen that before with other types of storage caches. The average consumer isn't going to have any idea what Optane is, so they're not going to be confused at all by seeing one more bullet point about it. The only things they're looking for is:

1. Lots of gigahertz
2. Lots of RAMs
3. A "big" hard drive.

Anything else probably isn't really going to register, and if I had to guess I'd say this change in marketing has nothing to do with performance.
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