Intel seeks to boost high-end data center operations with its newly announced Optane SSD DC P4800X. The product is a 375 GB solid-state drive mounted on a PCIe expansion card.The drives are available today in limited quantities at a price point of $1,520.Intel says the drives will be widely available in the second half of the year.Higher-capacity PCIe and U.2 models up to 1.5 terabytes are expected by year-end.
The SSD is based on a new memory technology called 3D XPoint.Jointly devised by Intel and Micron, this memory operates substantially faster than NAND-based flash memory at a much lower cost than traditional RAM.
The comparison with RAM is significant, because under software control, the drive can also be used as RAM. Intel has released middleware called Memory Drive Technology that loads before the operating system.
The middleware creates a large pool of volatile memory out of installed DRAM and the SSD.The 3D XPoint form factor means that a two-socket Xeon system, for example, is limited to 3 terabytes of RAM, but it can hold 24 TB of Optane.Although the SSD responds slightly more slowly than DRAM in most cases, this promises to be an inexpensive way to boost RAM for applications that need it.
As a solid-state drive, the P4800X has sequential transfer rates of 2,400 MB/second reading and 2,000 MB/second writing – on par with NAND rates.What sets 3D XPoint technology apart is I/O.NAND-based drives top out at 400,000 I/O operations per second, but the P4800X can reach 550,000 read IOPS and 500,000 write IOPS – even at low queue depths.
In addition, the Optane drive is addressable at the byte level, unlike competing SSD technology, which requires reading and writing an entire block or page of data.
Intel also says that 3D XPoint writes are non-destructive, which means that the drive has substantially improved endurance compared to a NAND-based drive.Intel says Optane SSDs can be written 30 times per day, compared to the 0.5 to 10 full-drive write maximums associated with other solid-state drives.