Intel's first hyper-fast 3D drive is meant for servers

by Edgar Hayes March 21, 2017, 0:33
Intel's first hyper-fast 3D drive is meant for servers

Intel said its new SSD based on Xpoint (pronounced "cross point") memory technology would help speed applications for faster caching and storage while allowing datacenter operators to deploy larger datasets analyzed using large memory pools.

When not used for that objective, the Optane SSD becomes a new tier in the memory structure, between extremely fast RAM and non-volatile storage.

Intel expects 3D XPoint to account for 10% of the memory division's revenue in 2017, "ramping much more into 2018", Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich told investors in January. Where NAND-based SSDs are often measured at a queue depth of 32 (SATA) or 128 (NVMe*) in order to showcase maximum throughput, the DC P4800X can reach as much as 500,000 IOPS, or ~2GB/s, at a queue depth of 11.1 This new technology is perfectly suited to accelerate enterprise applications to new, breakthrough levels of performance. The Optane SSD DC P4800X Series product is also capable of being employed as a memory extender. The company names them as the most responsive SSDs for data centers.

Intel claims the raw 3D XPoint technology is 1,000 times faster than the NAND flash commonly used in storage drives, though still about 1% the speed of temporary memory called DRAM, or dynamic random-access memory. By providing more - and more cost-effective - memory, the latest SSD can enable applications driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning, such as faster trading and better medical insights, Intel said.

The P4800X will initially be available in AIC form factor at a capacity of 375GB, albeit in limited quantities. Alibaba Group will use Optane 3D XPoint drives for fast internet searches, and Harvard University will use it for cloud computing.

Interestingly, the SSD can be configured to appear to an operating system as DRAM - in other words, a massive cache memory.

Intel also noted that no changes to the OS are required by Optane but that the new SSDs are (not surprisingly) only supported by Intel Xeon processors.

The official release mentions that the Optane is available as a 375GB SSD on a PCIe card for early customers, who're ready to shell out $1520 right away.

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