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.

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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?

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Source: Bit-Tech

February 21, 2017 | 07:40 PM - Posted by SuperJ (not verified)

Looks like a desperate move against AMDs Rhyzen platform more than anything. Intel has to come up with something to justify processors giving the same performance for 3x the price. :-).

Or maybe it's just Intel up to their old tricks like the continual socket changes of the last 10years to artificially obsolete platforms.

February 22, 2017 | 03:06 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Do not worry. Optane will be as popular as SLC drives are these days.

February 22, 2017 | 02:07 PM - Posted by Maurice Troute (not verified)

totally, my Compaq Presario should be able to use it!!!

February 21, 2017 | 08:21 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Is this limitation only for Optane on a DIMM or will it also include any XPoint/Optane that may be used for a NVM's/SSD's Cache under the control of the drive's controller?

SuperJ apparently has not done his homework and must think that XPoint memory is totally an Intel creation! But in fact XPoint was an Intel/Micron project and Micron has its XPoint "QuantX" brand that AMD may choose to use instead of Intel's Optane!

I think for at least the next year all XPoint articles should include a note to the readers that there are 2 developers of the XPoint(Micron and Intel) IP and not only one! So Daft folks become aware of the XPoint options that will be available once Micron's QuantX brand is also to market to compete with Intel's Optane.

Posts like SuperJ's will continue unless readers are informed of the co-creators of the XPoint IP! There will be competition in the XPoint market place and Intel is not the only game in town!

February 22, 2017 | 12:02 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

I'm not sure if the Kaby Lake only requirement will apply to the DIMM versions as well, The DIMM prototypes they have are currently aimed at server/enterprise market and we don't have Kaby Lake-E/xeons yet so I don't see why they would be but who knows :-).

February 22, 2017 | 11:01 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

One would think that some controller could be placed on any DIMM DRAM/XPoint combo SKU that could through a back-plane BUS on the DIMM manage the DRAM to NVM/XPoint transfers and keep the CPU to DRAM main channel/s open for CPU to DIMM/DRAM traffic mostly. That way the CPU can be kept processing with no interventions needed on the part of the CPU and It's Memory controller for the most part with the on DIMM controller acting like tired storage processor that manages all the DIMM's DRAM to NVM transfer work in the background with the OS paging/other transfers managed by the DRAM/XPOINT combo DIMM controller at the OS's command. It would be very easy to memory map the DIMM's Controller managed command buffer on the DIMM and not require any specialized motherboard SKU to allow such a system to function.

If Intel is needing a specialized chipset and motherboard then maybe it's time to set up a new motherboard standard to allow for DRAM and NVM/XPoint DIMM combo usage to be part of a new DIMM standard for all motherboard/chipsets to support.

February 22, 2017 | 11:15 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

I think two podcasts ago Allyn talked about what was needed to supoort th Optane DIMMs.

February 21, 2017 | 10:52 PM - Posted by Plasma (not verified)

Just wait for Coffee Lake because Optain will be expensive and most people wont care about 4k BR and even less movies will release in that format. Not a lot of incentive in picking up a Kaby Lake cpu.

February 22, 2017 | 12:54 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

If I build a Ryzen based system, then their isn't going to be any reason to consider Kaby Lake or Coffee Lake. I suspect that initial Optane consumer devices aren't really going to be that competitive with just adding more DRAM and sticking with a fast SSD. Although, I don't even think m.2 PCI-e SSDs are really worth the extra cost yet for most applications.

February 22, 2017 | 12:44 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

So they are going to make an m.2 device that will only work with Kaby Lake? If that is the case, then it isn't really an m.2 device. I could imagine it only working as a transparent cache (Intel RST) with Kaby Lake, although that seems a bit questionable also. It sounds like a completely artificial limitation. If they only sell small 16 or 32 GB modules in the consumer market, then they aren't going to be that much use if they can't be used as a transparent cache device for a hard drive or a larger SSD. You could use it as swap space but that is about it. For most consumers it would be better to just buy more DRAM instead. Might be resonable to use in mobile or other SFF devices, where you don't have 4 memory slots. For larger systems with enough memory slots, just get more DRAM. I work with machines that have up to 256 GB of memory. Some stuff runs very fast when everything is in disk cache.

February 22, 2017 | 03:33 AM - Posted by Lurf (not verified)

I just upgraded to Skylake so bad news as far as I'm concerned. I agree with the first poster that this seems like a way to sell more CPU's that aren't really that innovative. The 'fact' that Intel CPU's aren't innovating all that much makes the argument that "there is a technical limitation to Skylake" less compelling for me.
But what I'm more interested in is what Optane could actually do for me. Moving from an HDD to and SSD was a major jump in the overall PC experience back then. Sure, some things can be faster but will it really rock the world of personal computing? And if so what will the actual practical implications be? Will my computer boot in 1s instead of 30? Will my games load in 1s instead of 30? As a consumer, that's pretty much all I can think of since in general PC usage everything is already pretty much instant. So somehow I'm having a hard time getting excited about Optane. Am I missing something here?

February 22, 2017 | 07:43 AM - Posted by Spunjji

Nope, you're not. This product is basically irrelevant for the vast majority of consumer workloads.

February 22, 2017 | 09:38 AM - Posted by Eyüp Öztürk (not verified)

Intel never learns. This extremely clever idea of "let's build a product that sits between expensive RAM and slow HDD" was pushed to the all Intel "partners" in the form of Robson "technology".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Turbo_Memory
http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/robson-technology-overview/

It was a failure in the past, it will be a failure in future.

Big companies do things like this. Even if the product fails, it stays in the minds of upper management, despite the fact the upsides are only wishful thinking and market is non-existent. And man... the sunk cost makes it unforgettable. So, whenever the need for a "new product" is required, these zombies are recalled from the cold storage.

February 22, 2017 | 01:48 PM - Posted by razor512

For the m.2 modules, there doesn't seem to be anything that would impact compatibility with older z170 platforms, at a technical level. Instead, it seems to be more of just a software restriction.

February 23, 2017 | 11:56 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

intel is so great