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Intel Optane Technology

Intel Optane Technology

Intel’s latest evolution in storage technology is Optane which is based on their 3D Xpoint memory that was co-developed with Micron. 3D Xpoint is a new type of non-volatile memory that is 10 times faster as well as 1,000 times more durable than NAND and is 10 times more dense than DRAM.

3D Xpoint and 3D NAND is not the same thing. Although they both use a stack design, 3D NAND is simply a way of utilizing space more efficiently by adding layers of cells on top of each other through a better utilization of space. As you add more layers you increase the storage capacity of the silicon and ultimately lower the cost per gigabyte.
See how The University of Pisa reduced MRI times from 40 minutes to 2 minutes by using Intel Optane technology.

3D Xpoint is a radically different design from standard NAND.  NAND technology uses transistors or gates where the cells that contain the bit as being a 0 or 1 are arranged in blocks so if any cell needs to be changed the entire block must be re-written. 3D Xpoint is a transistor-less design where data is written at a bit level so each cells state can be changed from a 0 or 1 independently of the other cells. The cells can be changed to a high or low resistance state by applying different voltages that change the bit to a 0 or 1. Since the physical state of the cell material has changed they can hold their values indefinitely even without power. This more efficient design increases performance, improves durability, enhances capacity, and helps lower power consumption.

Intel utilizes 3D Xpoint memory in several different products under the Optane brand that includes Optane Memory which is a cache for boosting storage performance, Optane SSD which is a series of solid state drives that utilize 3D Xpoint in place of traditional NAND, Optane DC Persistent Memory for servers which brings higher memory capacity closer to the CPU through DRAM sockets, and Optane Memory H10 which is a SSD for client systems that combines QLC NAND storage with Optane Memory Cache on the same M.2 forma factor.


Intel Optane SSD
Intel Optane SSDs are available in three families designed for specific market applications. The Intel Optane 905P for workstations and high performance desktops, the Intel Optane 800P for client gaming, and the Intel Optane P4800X for enterprise use such as servers targeting high –performance storage environments, in transactional data applications, data analytics, cloud computing and scientific models.  The 905P and P4800X series come in both a 2.5” U.2 as well as AIC (Add in Card) form factor with the 905P also being available in an M2. 22110 configuration while the 800P is only available in M.2 2280. At the high-end, the 905P differs from the P4800X in that the endurance ratings are 1/3 that of the enterprise drives, and they are missing critical features such as SMBus but both versions are based on Intel’s 3D Xpoint memory. The P800 is an M.2 2280 only form factor and is also based on Intel’s 3D Xpoint memory. In terms of market focus, it is similar to Optane Memory for desktops except the 800P is a storage device and although it could be set up to function as cache it is targeted to be a boot drive.

Intel Optane SSD drives dramatically improve system performance brining new value to integrators, end clients and consumers. As an example of the performance benefits achieved through the implementation of Intel Optane SSD drives a study was done by the University of Pisa where they were able to reduce the time a patient spent getting an MRI from 40 minutes to 2 minutes.


Intel Optane Memory
Intel Optane Memory is a revolutionary class of memory that bridges the gap between DRAM and storage to boost the overall performance of client PCs which includes desktops, small form factor systems, AIOs, notebooks, and other mobile solutions.  Intel Optane memory is designed to act as a cache for the hard drive. Cache is not a new concept but Optane Memory offers several advantages over traditional cache technologies. Mainly previous cache technologies proved to have too small of capacity, the memory was volatile and too slow, as well as it was very costly. Intel Optane memory is a four lane M.2 PCIe 3.0 connection that utilizes 3D Xpoint Technology which is 10X faster than traditional NAND and is 10X denser than DRAM so when paired with a standard HDD system performance is improved by over 28%. The obvious benefit is that resellers can offer their clients PCs with Intel Optane Memory and spinning HDD to deliver a system that has near SSD performance at a lower cost as well as having the storage capacity of disk drives.

Since their launch Intel has introduced several iterations of Optane Memory. The original product was Intel Optane Memory offered in a 16GB or 32GB M.2 2280 PCIex2 module. The next generation released is Intel Optane Memory M10 which offers several advantages over the original Intel Optane Memory. Also based on the M.2 2280 PCIe x 2 form factor the M10 version brings an additional cache capacity so it is available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. In addition Intel Optane Memory M10 can cache a secondary data drive whereas the original could only cache the boot drive. Another advantage on the M10 is that it was designed for use in mobile devices as well as desktops so it has improved power management. Following the M10 is Intel Optane Memory M15 which is the same as M10 except M15 is a M.2 2280 M Key only so it uses a PCIex4 interface increasing the throughput capacity and improving performance. The note here is that Optane Memory M15 requires a motherboard with a PCIex4 M.2 connection. 

In terms of performance the best solution is the Intel Optane Memory M15 because it is supported by the higher throughput of PCIex4 compared to PCIex2 used on the original Intel Optane Memory and the M10. The M10 demonstrates higher performance ratings due to the comparison of the larger 64GB cache. Similar cache sizes should perform the same between Optane Memory and Optane Memory M10.

All Intel Optane Memory versions require an Intel 7th Generation or newer processor and the installation of Intel Rapid Storage Technology software so although this performance boosting option is not available to users with older PCs it is an excellent value add for any new system.

Model

Optane Memory M15

Optane Memory M10

Optane Memory

Form Factor

M.2 2280 M key

M.2 2280 B+M key

M.2 2280 B+M key

Interface

PCIe 3.0 x4

PCIe 3.0 x2

PCIe 3.0 x2

Capacities

16 GB, 32 GB, 64 GB

16 GB, 32 GB, 64 GB

16 GB, 32 GB

Memory

128Gb 20nm Intel 3D XPoint

128Gb 20nm Intel 3D XPoint

128Gb 20nm Intel 3D XPoint

Sequential Read

Up to 2,000 MB/s

Up to 1,450 MB/s

Up to 1,350 MB/s

Sequential Write

Up to 900 MB/s

Up to 640 MB/s

Up to 290 MB/s

Random Read (QD4)

Up to 450k IOPS

Up to 250k IOPS

Up to 240k IOPS

Random Write (QD4)

Up to 220k IOPS

Up to 140k IOPS

Up to 65k IOPS

Endurance

365 TB

365 TB

182.5 TB

Warranty

5 years

5 years

5 Years

Performance Comparisons are based on largest capacity.
 

Intel Optane Memory H10
Intel Optane Memory H10 is essentially a hybrid SSD product that fuses two Intel Technologies on to one M.2 PCIe x 4 device. The SSD solution includes Intel Optane Memory functioning as cache combined with the Intel 660P SSD functioning as storage. The benefit of combining these products together is that consumers can now further improve the performance of their SSD through the addition of 3D Xpoint memory which Intel brands as Optane. The storage and caching combination is available in several flavors with the cache being either 16GB or 32GB and the storage being 256GB, 512GB or 1TB.

With this concept Intel is essentially combining two PCIe x 2 products on to one M.2 form factor so the device internally bifurcates the PCIe x4 lane into two PCIe x 2 lanes, one for the Intel Optane Memory cache and the other for the Intel 660P.  Managing this setup makes integrating the H10 more complex than simply adding the module to a system. There are differing considerations that include chipset compatibility, MB compatibility, proper M.2 slot configuration, proper BIOS, proper Windows drivers, proper MB firmware, as well as the correct Intel RST driver and of course proper setup of the entire configuration. It is for these reasons that the H10 is not intended to be sold as a standalone device and is intended to be integrated by the reseller or by ASI.

Reseller Advantage
For VARs that are building and branding their own PC, the Intel Optane Memory H10 solution can offer several advantages. First and foremost, integrating the H10 requires knowledge and expertise which cannot be delivered by simply purchasing the H10 online or as a standalone device. This product must be integrated as part of a new PC. Additionally MNCs are primarily using the technology in performance series notebooks so making the solution available in a desktop is a clear advantage that VARs can deliver.  Lastly, VARs can provide their customer with another solution that will further boost the performance of their PC for everyday computing which ultimately adds another level of differentiation to distinguishes their brand.

Customer Benefit
Although Intel Optane Memory was originally introduced as a solution to improve the performance of systems that used spinning disks, it also offers benefits to systems that use SSD particularly in real-world usage scenarios where users are typically engaged in performing mixed reads and multitasking at low que depth. In other words, the most common tasks performed by typical users involve 70% read and 30% write. as well as include opening up to 62 applications a day which may run in the background. Such low que depth applications include word, excel, Acrobat, Outlook, Photoshop Elements, and Power Point. With such high use of read functions, utilizing cache will have a profound impact on the performance of the system. 


Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory
Intel Optane DC Persistent memory is the combination of Intel 3D Xpoint memory and the DDR4 memory bus bringing about a new type of memory for servers based on Intel’s 2nd Generation Xeon Scalable processor. As previously mentioned, 3D Xpoint has greater density, and lower cost per gigabyte compared to DRAM and is non-volatile making it possible to increase system memory using 3D Xpoint DIMMS sold under the Optane brand. This has significant benefits for overcoming bottlenecks in high end server applications particularly around big data where more memory can enable the analysis of larger pools of data.

Intel Optane DC Persistent memory will not 100% replace DRAM as the configuration requires a 4:1 ration of PIMM to DRAM but utilizing Optane DC Persistent memory does allow for up to 4.5TB of memory per CPU socket or up to 36TB of system level memory in an eight socket server. In addition to adding capacity, Intel Optane DC Persistent memory brings large pools of data into memory that is closer to the processor providing for much faster access to that data.