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Coming in 2016: Intel Optane SSDs based on 3D Xpoint memory

Scott Wasson Former Editor-in-Chief Author expertise
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IDF — During the opening keynote of the Intel Developer Forum today, Intel announced that it will be shipping SSDs based on its very promising 3D Xpoint memory, co-developed with Micron, which is a replacement for NAND flash. Intel has claimed that 3D Xpoint has 1000x the speed and endurance of existing flash storage.

One question about 3D Xpoint has been when it would reach consumers in products—and in what form. Intel answered that question today when CEO Brian Krzanich announced a new brand for 3D Xpoint-based storage products: Optane. The Optane brand will describe products based on a combination of 3D Xpoint memory, storage controllers, and a software stack from Intel.

Here's the exciting bit: Optane SSDs are coming next year to a variety of markets, from the data center to laptops. That presumably includes form factors like M.2 and perhaps 2.5" SATA drives. In other words, the performance of 3D Xpoint memory should be coming to consumer storage in 2016.

To illustrate the performance benefits of Optane drives, the firm showed off a demo of an Optane SSD running IOMeter next to one of the fastest PCIe SSDs currently available, Intel's DC P3700. The Optane outperformed the P3700 by factors of roughly five to seven, depending on the queue depth of the workload under test.

We don't yet know how much Optane-based drives will cost or anything of that sort, but given the density advantages Intel is claiming for it, it's possible 3D Xpoint storage could reach parity with the cost of NAND fairly soon.

Interestingly, Krzanich introduced Optane by first talking about the need for computer architectures to change from their current, familiar hierarchical setup in order to take advantage of faster memory technologies. He later noted briefly that Optane-branded products will include a series of DIMMs for Xeon server systems based on 3D Xpoint memory. We don't yet have any details about those DIMMs and how exactly they will operate, but I expect they'll be sold for specific applications like "big data" analysis, at least to start.

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Scott Wasson Former Editor-in-Chief

Scott Wasson Former Editor-in-Chief

Scott Wasson is a veteran in the tech industry and the former Editor-in-Chief at Tech Report. With a laser focus on tech product reviews, Wasson's expertise shines in evaluating CPUs and graphics cards, and much more.