Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction and Specifications

Introduction

Intel-3D-Xpoint.png

XPoint. Optane. QuantX. We've been hearing these terms thrown around for two years now. A form of 3D stackable non-volatile memory that promised 10x the density of DRAM and 1000x the speed and endurance of NAND. These were bold statements, and over the following months, we would see them misunderstood and misconstrued by many in the industry. These misconceptions were further amplified by some poor demo choices on the part of Intel (fortunately countered by some better choices made by Micron). Fortunately cooler heads prevailed as Jim Handy and other industry analysts helped explain that a 1000x improvement at the die level does not translate to the same improvement at the device level, especially when the first round of devices must comply with what will soon become a legacy method of connecting a persistent storage device to a PC.

Did I just suggest that PCIe 3.0 and the NVMe protocol - developed just for high-speed storage, is already legacy tech? Well, sorta.

ss-142.png

That 'Future NVM' bar at the bottom of that chart there was a 2-year old prototype iteration of what is now Optane. Note that while NVMe was able to shrink down the yellow bar a bit, as you introduce faster and faster storage, the rest of the equation (meaning software, including the OS kernel) starts to have a larger and larger impact on limiting the ultimate speed of the device.

800px-Nand_flash_structure.svg_.png

NAND Flash simplified schematic (via Wikipedia)

Before getting into the first retail product to push all of these links in the storage chain to the limit, let's explain how XPoint works and what makes it faster. Taking random writes as an example, NAND Flash (above) must program cells in pages and erase cells in blocks. As modern flash has increased in capacity, the sizes of those pages and blocks have scaled up roughly proportionally. At present day we are at pages >4KB and block sizes in the megabytes. When it comes to randomly writing to an already full section of flash, simply changing the contents of one byte on one page requires the clearing and rewriting of the entire block. The difference between what you wanted to write and what the flash had to rewrite to accomplish that operation is called the write amplification factor. It's something that must be dealt with when it comes to flash memory management, but for XPoint it is a completely different story:

reading_bits_in_crosspoint_array.jpg

XPoint is bit addressible. The 'cross' structure means you can select very small groups of data via Wordlines, with the ultimate selection resolving down to a single bit.

ss-141.png

Since the programmed element effectively acts as a resistor, its output is read directly and quickly. Even better - none of that write amplification nonsense mentioned above applies here at all. There are no pages or blocks. If you want to write a byte, go ahead. Even better is that the bits can be changed regardless of their former state, meaning no erase or clear cycle must take place before writing - you just overwrite directly over what was previously stored. Is that 1000x faster / 1000x more write endurance than NAND thing starting to make more sense now?

Ok, with all of the background out of the way, let's get into the meat of the story. I present the P4800X:

P4800X.jpg

Read on for our full review of the P4800X!

Podcast #443 - Thermoelectric Coolers, Storage Reviews, and a StarCraft Remaster. oh my.

Subject: Editorial | March 30, 2017 - 10:40 AM |
Tagged: starcraft, Silverstone, Samsung, podcast, Phonoic, Optane, microSD, Lexar, HEX 2.0, drobo, CORSAIR ONE, ashes of the singularity, aida64, 5N2

PC Perspective Podcast #443 - 03/30/17

Join us for Thermoelectric Coolers, Tiny PSUs, Lots o' Storage, some trips down nostaglia lane, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:34:48

 

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Intel Officially Launches Optane Memory, Shows Performance

Subject: Storage | March 27, 2017 - 12:16 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, Optane Memory, Optane, M.2, Intel, cache, 3D XPoint

We are just about to hit two years since Intel and Micron jointly launched 3D XPoint, and there have certainly been a lot of stories about it since. Intel officially launched the P4800X last week, and this week they are officially launching Optane Memory. The base level information about Optane Memory is mostly unchanged, however, we do have a slide deck we are allowed to pick from to point out some of the things we can look forward to once the new tech starts hitting devices you can own.

Optane Memory-6.png

Alright, so this is Optane Memory in a nutshell. Put some XPoint memory on an M.2 form factor device, leverage Intel's SRT caching tech, and you get a 16GB or 32GB cache laid over your system's primary HDD.

Optane Memory-15.png

To help explain what good Optane can do for typical desktop workloads, first we need to dig into Queue Depths a bit. Above are some examples of the typical QD various desktop applications run at. This data is from direct IO trace captures of systems in actual use. Now that we've established that the majority of desktop workloads operate at very low Queue Depths (<= 4), lets see where Optane performance falls relative to other storage technologies:

Optane Memory-22.png

There's a bit to digest in this chart, but let me walk you through it. The ranges tapering off show the percentage of IOs falling at the various Queue Depths, while the green, red, and orange lines ramping up to higher IOPS (right axis) show relative SSD performance at those same Queue Depths. The key to Optane's performance benefit here is that it can ramp up to full performance at very low QD's, while the other NAND-based parts require significantly higher parallel requests to achieve full rated performance. This is what will ultimately lead to a much snappier responsiveness for, well, just about anything hitting the storage. Fun fact - there is actually a HDD on that chart. It's the yellow line that you might have mistook as the horizontal axis :).

Optane Memory-11.png

As you can see, we have a few integrators on board already. Official support requires a 270 series motherboard and Kaby Lake CPU, but it is possible that motherboard makers could backport the required NVMe v1.1 and Intel RST 15.5 requirements into older systems.

Optane Memory-7.png

For those curious, if caching is the only way power users will be able to go with Optane, that's not the case. Atop that pyramid there sits an 'Intel Optane SSD', which should basically be a consumer version of the P4800X. It is sure to be an incredibly fast SSD, but that performance will most definitely come at a price!

We should be testing Optane Memory shortly and will finally have some publishable results of this new tech as soon as we can!

Source: Intel

Podcast #442 - ARM DynamIQ, Optane Launch, Gigabit LTE, Vulkan

Subject: Editorial | March 23, 2017 - 12:26 PM |
Tagged: Yoga Book, vulkan, topre, snapdragon 835, SC17, qualcomm, podcast, Optane, LG 32UD99, Lenovo, Gigabit LTE, evga, DynamIQ, arm

PC Perspective Podcast #442 - 03/23/17

Join us for Topre and CORSAIR Keyboards, ARM DynamIQ, Optane Launch, EVGA 4K gaming laptop, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano, Ken Addison

Program length: 1:35:25

 

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Intel Officially Kicks Off Optane Launch with SSD DC P4800X

Subject: Storage | March 19, 2017 - 12:21 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, SSD DC P4800X, Optane Memory, Optane, Intel, client, 750GB, 3D XPoint, 375GB, 1.5TB

Intel brought us out to their Folsom campus last week for some in-depth product briefings. Much of our briefing is still under embargo, but the portion that officially lifts this morning is the SSD DC P4800X:

Intel_SSD_4800_FlatFront_OnWhite_RGB_Small.jpg

optane-4.png

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MSRP for the 375GB model is estimated at $1520 ($4/GB), which is rather spendy, but given that the product has shown it can effectively displace RAM in servers, we should be comparing the cost/GB with DRAM and not NAND. It should also be noted this is also nearly half the cost/GB of the X25-M at its launch. Capacities will go all the way up to 1.5TB, and U.2 form factor versions are also on the way.

For those wanting a bit more technical info, the P4800X uses a 7-channel controller, with the 375GB model having 4 dies per channel (28 total). Overprovisioning does not do for Optane what it did for NAND flash, as XPoint can be rewritten at the byte level and does not need to be programmed in (KB) pages and erased in larger (MB) blocks. The only extra space on Optane SSDs is for ECC, firmware, and a small spare area to map out any failed cells.

Those with a keen eye (and calculator) might have noted that the early TBW values only put the P4800X at 30 DWPD for a 3-year period. At the event, Intel confirmed that they anticipate the P4800X to qualify at that same 30 DWPD for a 5-year period by the time volume shipment occurs.

Read on for more about the SSD DC P4800X (and other upcoming products!)

Intel Details Optane Memory System Requirements

Subject: General Tech, Storage | February 21, 2017 - 07:14 PM |
Tagged: Optane, kaby lake, Intel, 3D XPoint

Intel has announced that its Optane memory will require an Intel Kaby Lake processor to function. While previous demonstrations of the technology used an Intel Skylake processor, it appears this configuration will not be possible on the consumer versions of the technology.

Intel Optane App Accelerator.jpg

Further, the consumer application accelerator drives will also require a 200-series chipset motherboard, and either a M.2 2280-S1-B-M or M.2 2242-S1-B-M connector with two or four PCI-E lanes. Motherboards will have to support NVMe v1.1 and Intel RST (Rapid Storage Technology) 15.5 or newer.

It is not clear why Intel is locking Optane technology to Kaby Lake and whether it is due to technical limitations that they were not able to resolve to keep Skylake compatible or if it is just a matter of not wanting to support the older platform and focus on its new Kaby Lake processors. As such, Kaby Lake is now required if you want UHD Blu Ray playback and Optane 3D XPoint SSDs.

What are your thoughts on this latest bit of Optane news? Has Intel sweetened the pot enough to encourage upgrade hold outs?

Also Read: 

 

Source: Bit-Tech

Podcast #437 - EVGA iCX, Zen Architecture, Optane, and more!

Subject: Editorial | February 16, 2017 - 01:36 PM |
Tagged: Zen, Z170, webkit, webgpu, podcast, Optane, nvidia, Intel, icx, evga, ECS, crucial, Blender, anidees, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #437 - 02/16/17

Join us for EVGA iCX, Zen Architechure, Intel Optane, new NVIDIA and AMD driver releases, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Allyn Malventano, Ken Addison, Josh Walrath, Jermey Hellstrom

Program length: 1:32:21

Source:

Intel Quietly Launches Official Optane Memory Site

Subject: Storage | February 15, 2017 - 08:58 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, ssd, Optane, memory, Intel, cache

We've been hearing a lot about Intel's upcoming Optane memory over the past two years, but the information had all been in the form of press announcements and leaked roadmap slides.

optane-memory-marquee-16x9.png.rendition.intel_.web_.1072.603.png

We now have an actual Optane landing page on the Intel site that discusses the first iteration of 'Intel Optane Memory', which appears to be the 8000p Series that we covered last October and saw as an option on some upcoming Lenovo laptops. The site does not cover the upcoming enterprise parts like the 375GB P4800X, but instead, focuses on the far smaller 16GB and 32GB 'System Accelerator' M.2 modules.

intel-optane-memory-8000p.jpg

Despite using only two lanes of PCIe 3.0, these modules turn in some impressive performance, but the capacities when using only one or two (16GB each) XPoint dies preclude an OS install. Instead, these will be used, presumably in combination with a newer form of Intel's Rapid Storage Technology driver, as a caching layer meant as an HDD accelerator:

While the random write performance and endurance of these parts blow any NAND-based SSD out of the water, the 2-lane bottleneck holds them back compared to high-end NVMe NAND SSDs, so we will likely see this first consumer iteration of Intel Optane Memory in OEM systems equipped with hard disks as their primary storage. A very quick 32GB caching layer should help speed things up considerably for the majority of typical buyers of these types of mobile and desktop systems, while still keeping the total cost below that for a decent capacity NAND SSD as primary storage. Hey, if you can't get every vendor to switch to pure SSD, at least you can speed up that spinning rust a bit, right?

Source: Intel

A Closer Look at Intel's Optane SSD DC P4800X Enterprise SSD Performance

Subject: Storage | February 10, 2017 - 04:22 PM |
Tagged: Optane, XPoint, P4800X, 375GB

Over the past few hours, we have seen another Intel Optane SSD leak rise to the surface. While we previously saw a roadmap and specs for a mobile storage accelerator platform, this time we have some specs for an enterprise part:

optane-leak.png

The specs are certainly impressive. While they don't match the maximum theoretical figures we heard at the initial XPoint announcement, we do see an endurance rating of 30 DWPD (drive writes per day), which is impressive given competing NAND products typically run in the single digits for that same metric. The 12.3 PetaBytes Written (PBW) rating is even more impressive given the capacity point that rating is based on is only 375GB (compare with 2000+ GB of enterprise parts that still do not match that figure).

Now I could rattle off the rest of the performance figures, but those are just numbers, and fortunately we have ways of showing these specs in a more practical manner:

rnd.png

Assuming the P4800X at least meets its stated specifications (very likely given Intel's track record there), and also with the understanding that XPoint products typically reach their maximum IOPS at Queue Depths far below 16, we can compare the theoretical figures for this new Optane part to the measured results from the two most recent NAND-based enterprise launches. To say the random performance makes leaves those parts in the dust is an understatement. 500,000+ IOPS is one thing, but doing so at lower QD's (where actual real-world enterprise usage actually sits) just makes this more of an embarrassment to NAND parts. The added latency of NAND translates to far higher/impractical QD's (256+) to reach their maximum ratings.

server workload QD.png

Intel research on typical Queue Depths seen in various enterprise workloads. Note that a lower latency device running the same workload will further 'shallow the queue', meaning even lower QD.

Another big deal in the enterprise is QoS. High IOPS and low latency are great, but where the rubber meets the road here is consistency. Enterprise tests measure this in varying degrees of "9's", which exponentially approach 100% of all IO latencies seen during a test run. The plot method used below acts to 'zoom in' on the tail latency of these devices. While a given SSD might have very good average latency and IOPS, it's the outliers that lead to timeouts in time-critical applications, making tail latency an important item to detail.

qos-r.png

qos-w.png

I've taken some liberties in my approximations below the 99.999% point in these plots. Note that the spec sheet does claim typical latencies "<10us", which falls off to the left of the scale. Not only are the potential latencies great with Optane, the claimed consistency gains are even better. Translating what you see above, the highest percentile latency IOs of the P4800X should be 10x-100x (log scale above) faster than Intel's own SSD DC P3520. The P4800X should also easily beat the Micron 9100 MAX, even despite its IOPS being 5x higher than the P3520 at QD16. These lower latencies also mean we will have to add another decade to the low end of our Latency Percentile plots when we test these new products.

Well, there you have it. The cost/GB will naturally be higher for these new XPoint parts, but the expected performance improvements should make it well worth the additional cost for those who need blistering fast yet persistent storage.

Podcast #436 - ECS Mini-STX, NVIDIA Quadro, AMD Zen Arch, Optane, GDDR6 and more!

Subject: Editorial | February 9, 2017 - 10:50 AM |
Tagged: podcast, Zen, Windows 10 Game Mode, webcam, ryzen, quadro, Optane, nvidia, mini-stx, humble bundle, gddr6, evga, ECS, atom, amd, 4k

PC Perspective Podcast #436 - 02/09/17

Join us for ECS Mini-STX, NVIDIA Quadro, AMD Zen Arch, Optane, GDDR6 and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Ken Addison, Josh Walrath, Jermey Hellstrom

Program length: 1:32:21

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. 1:14:00 Zen Price Points Leaked
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro
 
 

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