Storage on steroids: Intel bets on PCIe SSDs, and Optane storage as quick as RAM
April 13, 2016 - Picnic Time
Intel’s storage potentate has a thing or dual to contend about a destiny of expostulate technology, naturally, yet it’s not all celebration line. PCWorld recently sat down with Bill Leszinske, who heads Intel’s NVM (non-volatile memory) Solutions Group, to get his take on interfaces, tough drives vs. solid-state drives, and when storage and RAM will merge.
SATA Express who?
Remember a SATA Express port? It arose in 2013, dictated as an expansion of a slower SATA interface. While some systems began ancillary a interface, however, drives for it never appeared—at slightest nothing we’ve ever seen. SSD opening also quick eclipsed a capabilities of SATA Express.
SATA Express competence never strictly have been announced dead, yet to Intel’s expostulate division, during least, it is. “I’m not formulation to offer SSDs in SATA Express,” Leszinske pronounced of a neglected interface. “I don’t need another form cause or interface. It only complicates a product line.”
Die, tough drive, die!
Much has also been expected about when SSDs would succeed tough drives, yet when we demeanour during a $50, 1TB tough expostulate contra a $250, 1TB SSD, it doesn’t seem like we’re remotely close. Despite that gap, Leszinske pronounced he believes an rhythm indicate is imminent.
“There are some people who wish immeasurable drives and will continue to buy them,” Leszinske said. On a other hand, he forked to investigate display that a immeasurable infancy of people use reduction than 40 percent of their drive’s capacity.
Hard drives will continue to be cheaper per GB than SSDs, yet Leszinske thinks SSD prices will tumble adequate to cgange some-more people. “When we can get a 256GB SSD that costs a same as a tough drive, call that $40-ish U.S. dollars, we consider it’s done.”
Leszinske thinks many users will give adult ability for speed. “I consider it only transitions since it’s good adequate storage, it’s adequate capacity,” he said. “Are we within a year of that? Probably.”
Leszinske admits his bias—“I’m an SSD guy”—but he’s not distant off-trend. A spot-check of prices on a Internet puts many name-brand 256GB SSDs in a $75 range, so $40-“ish” is within sight.
Even some-more assertive is Leszinske’s faith that SATA SSDs will shortly be passe. He believes many consumers building or shopping desktops will shortly pierce to PCIe-based drives. Leszinske expected a cost separator would tumble quickly. “As we conduct into a after tools of 2017, PCIe and SATA pricing get most closer,” he said.
Performance plays a role, too. Today’s SATA-based SSDs are singular to information throughput of 600Mbps. Moving to PCIe, M.2, or U.2 (formerly SFF-8639) removes a shackles and could quadruple that interface speed, or better.
Of course, Intel has a vested seductiveness in this outcome. “Moving storage to PCIe in customer and information core helps keep incomparable amounts of information closer to a CPU, that means people get a improved experience, that means they buy higher-end processors, that is good for Intel’s altogether business,” Leszinske explained.
Optane will work with your PC
Leszinske also summarized how Intel’s Optane, or 3D XPoint, record could be used when introduced. It’s a small tough to hang your mind around Optane, yet it’s radically a storage device with embankment opening that’s 1,000 times faster (according to Intel and Micron) than today’s NAND.
Leszinske dispelled rumors that users would be forced to buy new systems to run Optane—such as in purportedly leaked slides of Intel’s arriving Kaby Lake processor, that uncover “support for Optane.” He pronounced Optane drives will initial be offering in PCIe, so flattering most anyone with a container and complement bandwidth to gangling should be means to run it.
Perhaps some-more intriguing, though, is Optane in a DDR4 memory slot. Remember, Optane is “storage,” yet it’s so quick that it approaches a speed of RAM. Intel even announced during IDF final year that it was formulation to supplement extensions to an arriving Xeon so it could directly work with Optane drives by a system’s DDR4. That set off concerns in a attention that Intel was going to flog off another memory standards war.
While we didn’t plead a domestic battles, Leszinske did residence since a CPU needs a change to work with Optane in a RAM slot. “We had to cgange a DDR4 electrical interface since we have to be means to promulgate that [the drive] is a determined device contra existent things [e.g, RAM],” he said.
Leszinske combined that it was no cruise to build in a new capabilities. ”It took a lot of work to build 3DXpoint. Build a controller, build a DIMM, cgange a interface so that it knew it was persistent, to a memory controller in a CPU, to instructions that we had to add. It’s been a multi-year routine to get that going.”
Still, there is rather of a competing customary already in place already called NVDIMM, or Non-Volatile DIMM—essentially determined memory inclination that don’t remove information when energy is cut off. HP Enterprise recently announced its initial product with NVDIMMs.
Leszinke’s welfare wasn’t a surprise. ”I consider NVDIMM will solve certain workloads, yet they’re not a good resolution in a clarity that it’s customarily a combo DRAM-plus-NAND thing,” he said, continuing: “It’s battery backed-up, that creates it expensive. It’s not as, I’ll call it, an superb solution.”
Even some-more engaging about Optane are a implications for a recent technology. Today, your PC competence have 8GB or 16GB of memory. What if we had a 2TB or 4TB Optane device in a DDR4 container that was 1,000 times a speed of an SSD?
Leszinske looked forward to a time when storage and RAM would merge. “The fact that we have something called memory and a fact that we have something called storage is unequivocally an artifact of a technology,” Leszinske said. “Ideally you’d only have a large pool of your stuff.” It’s still too shortly to know how this some-more stretchable prophesy of storage will impact destiny PCs, yet Leszinske expected knows some-more than he was peaceful to say. “There’s a lot of intelligent people doing a lot of reimagining what a mechanism can demeanour like.”