Intel client SSD solutions are based on three primary characteristics which include the use of Intel QLC NAND, integration on an M.2 form factor, and the use of the PCIe interface. QLC NAND allows for increased capacity at lower cost per gigabyte. The M.2 form factor allows for easy integration in a wide range of system styles and the PCIe interface delivers superior bandwidth over legacy SATA which is the traditional storage connection used in most client systems, primarily desktop. Today, the Intel client segment is made up of the Intel 660p which is a QLC NAND based, M.2 SSD and the Intel Optane Memory H10 which combines and Intel 660p with Intel Optane Memory as cache on one M.2 form factor.
Intel SSD 660p/665p SSD Introduction
When Intel introduced the Intel 660p SSD, it was the first M.2 PCIe Gen 3 x 4 SSD to utilize QLC, or Quad Level Cell NAND. QLC is a NAND technology that increases the density of the NAND module by adding an additional data bit to each memory cell, which lowers the cost per gigabyte, bringing SSDs ever closer to the pricing for HDDs. Following the 660p, Intel introduced the first 96 layer QLC SSD with the release of the Intel 665p.
The Intel 660p is available in capacities of 512GB, 1TB and 2TB while the 665p is available in 1TB and 2TB. These storage drives have several features that make them a unique solution for the client market which allow resellers to differentiate their systems, as well as provide more value to their customers. Aside from incorporating higher density 3D 64 and 96 layer QLC NAND, these drives are M.2 PCIe SSD, so they deliver the full throughput capability of PCIe, avoiding the bottleneck limitations of SATA. Since they are an M.2 form factor, resellers don’t need any special cables or adapters, making integration into a desktop system an easy process.
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.
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.
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.