Meet Optane: Intel Releases First SSDs With 3D XPoint Memory Tech

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Intel on Sunday unveiled new flash storage devices based on its Optane memory technology designed to bridge the gap between high-performance DRAM and lower-cost NAND memory.

The first commercially-available application of Optane technology, the Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X, is scheduled for broad availability starting sometime in the second half of 2017.

It is a technology that Intel has had in development for about a decade, said James Myers, the vendor's director of NVM (non-volatile memory) solutions architecture.

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"It's the most responsive data center technology in the world," Myers said.

Optane technology stems from the joint development of the 3D XPoint memory technology by Intel and partner Micron Technology. 3D XPoint memory is a non-volatile memory that fits between higher-performance but expensive DRAM memory and the lower-cost ubiquitous NAND technologies common in SSDs and all-flash storage systems.

The Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X will be available in both AIC (add-in card) and U.2 form factors. The first unit will be a 375GB AIC drive, which is available in limited quantities. Intel in the second quarter plans to release 750GB AIC and 375GB U.2 models, followed by 1.5TB AIC and 750-GB and 1.5TB U.2 models in the second half of the year.

Meyers said Optane offers five to eight times the performance of NAND SSDs at low queue depths, with up to 60 times better latency a 99 percent quality of service. Optane also has a response time of up to 40 times faster than NAN under random write workloads, and a consistent sub-30-microsecond response time under load, he said.

On the endurance front, Optane is rated for 30 drive writes per day, or about 2.8 times the number of terabytes compared to NAND-based SSDs, Meyers said. "We believe that should meet all the endurance requirements for storage and memory," he said.

Intel sees two primary use cases for Optane memory-based SSDs.

The first is as fast storage and cache storage. Meyers said customers can Optane SSDs as extra high-performance primary storage or use one or more Optane SSDs as a high-performance cache in front of NAND SSDs.

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