Intel's Optane H10 marries 3D XPoint with NAND flash

Hybrid storage is nothing new. Back in the early years of SSDs going mainstream, some companies started to make drives and systems that sought to combine the blazing speeds of NAND flash with the cheap capacity of good old magnetic storage. There are basically two ways to go about this. The first is to just shove some NAND into an HDD and develop a controller smart enough to coordinate access between the flash and the rust, as Seagate did with its SSHD line. The second is to use physically distinct SSD and HDD devices, but present them as a single logical volume with some kind of software running the show. This is how Apple's Fusion Drive tech works.

At CES, Intel announced a newfangled breed of storage chimaera, the "Intel Optane Memory H10 with Solid State Storage." The H10 ups the hybrid ante by using QLC 3D NAND as the large, slow portion and 3D XPoint as the fast cache, all on a standard M.2 2280 gumstick. It's not clear which of the two strategies Intel's bringing to bear in the H10, but the mockup of the drive appears to include both a flash controller and an Optane controller. The presence of these two distinct chips may be an indication that Intel's going to take care of the bit-wrangling in software. After all, such software already exists for use with the company's low-capacity Optane Memory storage accelerators.

Details are scarce for the time being, but Intel promises that the H10 will be making its debut inside of ultrabooks, all-in-ones, and small-form-factor PCs in the second quarter of this year. It will come in three varieties: 16 GB Optane with 256 GB flash, 32 GB with 512 GB, and 32 GB with 1 TB.

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