Remember 3D XPoint Optane? It’s that memory technology Intel said would make computers faster. Intel and partner Micron just announced that PCs with 3D XPoint Optane drives will be available as soon as the end of this year.
3D XPoint Optane Tech at a Glance
3D XPoint Optane is a faster and better tech for high-performing intermediate memory in computers. It’s basically a way of bridging the gap between the RAM drive in computers, which is quite fast, and the memory storage, which is quite slow.
Earlier this year, at a conference in China, Intel demonstrated an Optane SSD drive that transferred a file at 2GB per second. That’s an impressively speedy file transfer. Intel announced 3D XPoint as a non-volatile memory technology that has better endurance and latency than the NAND tech currently used in standard SSD and flash drives in computers.
Compared to NAND, 3D XPoint Optane is 1,000 times faster and more durable, according to Intel. It’s also 10 times denser than DRAM (the memory usually used by the CPU to execute code). Intel says data in 3D XPoint Optane can stay intact even if the computer suddenly loses power. That would make rebooting and file recovery after a sudden shut down easy.
During a demonstration, an Optane drive copied 26GB of data in about 15 seconds. That certainly indicates an incredible reduction in file transfer and loading times, which will make computers perform faster and eliminate lag during peak performance times.
In addition to being fast, 3D XPoint Optane drives are also smaller and cheaper. That’s because of the design, which does not require transistors like in NAND drives. According to Intel, each cell in a 3D XPoint Optane drive stores a bit of data. Then these cells are stacked over each other in a three dimensional manner. The cells are written and read using voltage sent to a selector, so transistors are not needed. Because of that, 3D XPoint Optane drives can be manufactured more cheaply.
Who will Benefit?
The higher file transfer rates of 3D XPoint Optane drives offer benefits to many industries. Mainly, devices that handle large amounts of data, like big data cloud applications powered by machine learning, will benefit the most. 3D XPoint Optane drives will be available in both enterprise and consumer SSDs.
If you just use your PC to browse the net and type, you may not see an immediate benefit with 3D XPoint Optane drives. However, gamers can certainly benefit from computers with these Optane drives. Gaming puts extra strain on the SSD drives of computers, a problem 3D XPoint Optane drives will be able to solve. This means that consumers will be able to buy five to 10 times faster gaming laptops without paying extra.
The Optane drives being released this year will only work with new CPUs and Kaby Lake. Intel is extending support to 64-bit Windows 7, 8, and 10 operating systems.
Finally Good News for Intel?
Intel’s once thriving memory business has slowed down to dangerous levels in recent times. In 2015, the revenue from memory business was down by 20 percent, according to the company’s financial reports disclosed earlier this year. Intel is hoping that 3D XPoint Optane can save the company’s memory business.
Intel has gradually released information regarding the tech to build anticipation. The demonstration in China was quite impressive and raised hopes for 3D XPoint Optane. Intel has indicated that Optane drives will be rolled out in 16GB and 32GB versions using two PCIe 3.0 lanes. The 16GB version will read at 1.4GB/s to 128KP rate and write at 300MB/s. The 32GB version will read at 1.6GB/s and write at a 500MB/s rate.