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.

Comments closed
    • HERETIC
    • 10 months ago

    Been waiting for this-Could be what saves QLC from the dive in the race to the bottom
    silicon hell.
    How this is priced, will be very important-If we could get close to TLC3d that would be great.

    • chuckula
    • 10 months ago

    Intel needs to step up Optane or else AMD won’t bother to buy it for pennies on the dollar at the liquidation sale.

      • blastdoor
      • 10 months ago

      I’m sure this is a clever snark at AMD, but I’m not getting the reference. Did I miss a news cycle?

        • chuckula
        • 10 months ago

        Su is hard launching Zen 2 in a matter of hours today! There won’t be an Intel in a matter of days. The best Intel can hope to do is make itself look good for the liquidation sale.

        As for Nvidia, they’ll fold before Su even gets to the Navi hard launch.

          • floodo1
          • 10 months ago

          Sounds legit :thumbsup:

    • Chrispy_
    • 10 months ago

    It’ll need to beat current TLC drives in terms of $/GB simply because current drives mostly implement SLC/RAM cacheing of their TLC NAND already. Xpoint is fast, but so is DDR RAM.

      • Thresher
      • 10 months ago

      Might be good for QLC though.

      • Beahmont
      • 10 months ago

      In theory Xpoint is cheaper per equivalent size DRAM and in theory the DRAM is so much faster than the NAND output and the PCIe bus input involved a TLC NAND SSD that the NAND and interface are still bottle necking the performance of the SSD, the DRAM just covers up the user’s perception of this bottle necking by smoothing out the differences between the input speed and the NAND write speed.

      Now even though DRAM is faster than Xpoint, it’s rarely running all out and the Xpoint would just have to run faster than the input from the PCIe bus and write speed of the QLC NAND with sufficient capacity to keep the NAND writing but not backed up. DRAM has always been overkill for this task, but it was really the only thing available before.

      In theory this means this could be a very good idea to cut out the overkill DRAM with something fast enough but ‘cheaper’ to server the same function. But in practice it will come down to the real world implementation.

    • mdkathon
    • 10 months ago

    Oh, I do hope this is a holy grail ‘mainstream’ product. This looks pretty sweet, along with QLC NAND which isn’t so bad itself if this is a drop in for my daily driver laptop and the 1TB is priced aggressively this could be fun. Possibly even give a bit of a shock to Samsung’s EVO leadership?

    • stdRaichu
    • 10 months ago

    Well I’m glad someone finally got around to integrating some 3d x-point into an SSD… just a shame it had to be a QLC one. And I’m willing to bet the optane tag will push the price on this far beyond regular TLC or even MLC SSDs.

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