Intel Sees VDI, vSAN Driving Optane Memory, Storage Sales

'We have a number of partner wins already with Optane, which is pretty exciting. And we just look forward to growing more of those as we go forward into 2020 and 2021,' Intel Vice President Laura Crone told CRN of the chipmaker's push to accelerate Optane memory solutions across the data center and client markets.

Intel executive Laura Crone said a growing need for virtualized desktop infrastructure and virtualized storage solutions is driving demand for its storage and memory products in the data center.

Crone, vice president of sales for Intel's Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group, told CRN that the need to improve and accelerate storage and memory capabilities for the two application types has come in response to the large number of workers who moved to home offices and an increase in the use of digital resources that have been prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

[Related: Intel To Partners: Embrace 'Cloudification' In The Data Center ]

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While Crone (pictured above) oversees sales for all of Intel's non-volatile memory and storage solutions, she said she is spending a lot of her time working with partners to accelerate demand for the company's Optane memory products, both for the data center and PCs — a push that was made evident in comments she made at the virtual Intel Partner Connect conference last week.

Intel debuted Intel Optane DC persistent memory last year, alongside the launch of the second-generation Xeon Scalable processors, promising a new kind of memory offering that combines performance akin to DRAM with the persistent qualities of hard drive storage. The company's Optane memory solutions for PCs, on the other hand, have been available since 2017.

With products for both markets, it's about bringing more data closer to the CPU as the amount of data that needs to be processed and analyzed increases — a trend Crone sees continuing, even in the face of current disruptions in the economy being caused by the pandemic.

"We're spending more time helping people understand how Optane can help their data center infrastructure or on the client side where Optane can help accelerate and improve their infrastructure," she said. "So from a partner perspective, I think that the opportunity is all around this exploding data, and the need for memory and storage is greater than it's ever been."

With virtualized desktop infrastructure, or VDI, Intel is seeing increased use of Optane DC persistent memory to improve efficiency, Crone said. In a report by Principled Technologies, the firm found that Optane DC increased virtual desktop users by 87 percent compared to a configuration only using DRAM.

The company is also seeing an acceleration in demand for its memory and storage products across other VMware solutions, such as the EXSI hypervisor with Optane DC and the chipmaker's Optane SSD products with VMware's VSAN storage solutions.

"It's all about the number of people that are working remotely and how do you service that demand," she said, citing banking as one area that has seen an increased need for digital infrastructure.

Intel's Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group saw first-quarter revenue grow 46 percent year-over-year to $1.3 billion, Crone said, and the channel is a key part of driving that growth.

With that, Intel recently launched an Optane specialty program within the channel organization that provides partners with various benefits, including samples, sales rebates, marketing incentives and training, according to Crone. To date, 15 partners have joined the program.

"We have a number of partner wins already with Optane, which is pretty exciting," Crone said. "And we just look forward to growing more of those as we go forward into 2020 and 2021."

Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at ASI, a Fremont, Calif.-based Intel distributor, said partners are mobilizing to come up with creative ways to sell Optane memory products as awareness increases.

"We definitely see where Optane can help improve the utilization of your processor by being able to make sure that there's enough data that's able to get into the processors, and that ultimately allows you to have more virtual machines," he said.

The company's SSD products have already been a strong point for Intel, where Tibbils said there has been a lot of growth as servers transition from SATA to NVMe storage types. Intel's SSDs have also been driving growth on the client side of the business, he added.

"They'll have other solutions coming as they continue to improve the density of those drives, which brings down the price, which is perfect for the client side of the business," Tibbils said. "So we saw a lot of growth in client that previously maybe had not existed because price points weren't quite there."