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Intel offers more insight on its 3D memory

The company is promising to close the performance gap between memory, CPU, and networking.


While the news of Oracle's new M7 Sparc processors got the lion's share of attention at last week's Oracle OpenWorld, Intel made some pretty big news of its own that a lot of people missed.

Intel and Micron Technology announced 3D XPoint memory, a 3D stacked memory with extremely high-speed interconnects that can be used like DRAM and like flash storage. When they first announced the new memory last summer, they promised about 1,000 times the performance of NAND flash, 1,000 times the endurance of NAND flash, and about 10 times the density of DRAM.

At OpenWorld, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich disclosed a little more information on the new memory, which Intel will sell under the Optane brand, and The Next Platform, which specializes in deep technical dives, was there.

As systems are currently architected, memory is something of a bottleneck and CPUs are left to wait. Granted we're talking milliseconds but you get the point. Krzanich said Optane would help speed things up so processors are no longer waiting for data to arrive from memory or storage, in this case flash drives.

Krzanich did a demo on a pair of matching servers running two Oracle benchmarks. One server had Intel's P3700 NAND PCI Express SSD, which is no slouch of a drive. It can perform up to 250,000 IOPS per second. The other was a prototype Optane SSD. The Optane SSD outperformed the P3700 by 4.4 times in IOPS with 6.4 times less latency.

In a second, undisclosed test, Optane was 7.13 times faster than the current tech with 8.11x the latency performance. It doesn't help your cause when you don't disclose the hardware or software used in the test, though.

Krzanich said Optane is coming next year and will "transform how we think about data and memory and storage." The company will also come out with Optane DIMMs later this year for early testers, which will combine the performance of DRAM with the capacity and cost of flash. That means a two-socket server with Optane DIMMS will have a total of 6 TB of addressable memory, "virtually eliminating paging between memory and storage, taking performance truly to a whole new level."

I hope they can deliver on that. I know I won't mourn the loss of a swap file.

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