3D Xpoint – pronounced “3D cross point” – was introduced in 2015 with the promise of delivering a 1000 times boost in performance and durability compared to NAND flash, and a density that 10 times better than DRAM. The next year, expectations were lowered quite a bit, when Intel presented a comparison between a high performance “NAND” SSD and a 3X point SSD prototype showing 7.23 times higher IOPS performance. The company has now launched its first 3D Xpoint product with Optane SSD DC P4800X with 375GB capacity.
Optane SSD DC P4800X specifications:
Capacity – 375GB
Interface – PCIe 3.0 x4, NVMe
Form Factor – Add-in-Card (AIC); Half-height, Half-length, Low-profile
Latency (typical) R/W – <10μs
Quality of Service (QoS) 99.999%
4kB 5 Random Queue Depth 1, R/W: <60/100 μs
4kB Random Queue Depth 16, R/W: <150/200 μs
IOPS Random 4kB R/W – Up to 550/500k
IOPS Random 4kB 70/30 Mixed R/W – Up to 500k
30 Drive Writes per day (JESD219 workload)
12.3 Petabytes Written (PBW)
Intel did not mention sequential throughput, that’s because Optane SSD are designed for specific datacenter applications where the important performance metrics are random I/Os, latency, QoS, and endurance. It’s also possible to get the SSD with “Intel Memory Drive Technology” that integrates the drive into the memory subsystem and presents the SSD as DRAM to the operating system and applications.
Intel did not mention the price in the press release, but Anandtech reports the 375 GB model is selling for $1,520, which goes up to $1951 with Memory Drive support, and 750GB and 1.5 GB models are coming in respectively Q2 & H2 2017. All models with come with a 5-year warranty. More information should be available on Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X Series product page.
Last month, Intel and Micron unveiled 3D XPoint technology – pronounced 3D Crosspoint – promising over 1,000 times the performance and durability of NAND flash, and 10 times the density of DRAM for non-volatile memory. Intel has now showcased some of the first products to use that technology with an Optane SSD.
At IDF 2015, Intel compared the performance of their high-end P3700 SSD delivering 10,600 IOPS against an early 3D Xpoint “Optane” SSD prototype that could deliver 76,600 IOPS or 7.23 times more I/O per seconds, while according to Anandtech some other tests still ran 5 times faster on 3D Xpoint compared the NAND based SSD.
Intel plans to release 3D XPoint SSD in 2016, as well as 3D Xpoint DIMM modules for the datacenters. These are exciting developments, but it will probably take a few more years before it comes affordable for consumer devices, as a 400GB P3700 SSD already costs close to $900.
Non-volatile memory is usually the bottleneck in electronics systems and computers, as it takes much longer to move data from storage than in RAM or cache, so any improvement may yield great benefits, especially when your application requires lots of I/Os. Micron and Intel claim to have developed a new category of memory, and announced 3D XPoint (Read “3D cross-point”) memory as the first break through since the launch of NAND Flash in 1989.
There’s great variability between different NAND flash chips, but the companies announced that 3D XPoint is 1,000 times faster and endurant (write cycles) than NAND flash, and 10 times denser than conventional DRAM. The technology would mainly benefit most applications, but especially more demanding ones such as high resolution gaming (4K/8K), real-time pattern recognition, and genomics.
Based on the presentation video below, it even seems 3D XPoint memory can be used to replace RAM and NAND chips by a single chip. 3D Xpoint would still be slightly slower than current DRAM, but latency is comparable, and you would not need to load data from storage to RAM, since 3D Xpoint would be both system and storage memory.
3D XPoint technology will sample later this year with select customers, and Intel and Micron are currently developing products based on the technology, so I assume we might start to see the first products featuring 3D XPoint memory sometimes in 2016.