Intel Details Its Next Gen Optane & 144-Layer 3D NAND SSDs – Finally Upgrading To PCIe 4.0

Intel’s Non-volatile Memory Solutions Group has provided a first look at what is to come for the next generation of NAND and the 2nd generation of Optane memory. The 2nd generation Optane will be PCIe 4.0 compliant and more will be announced in June. This was stated by Rob Crooke, the director of Intel NSG, who announced that Keystone Harbor will ship out this year.

Intel: 3D XPoint Media Leading The Way For Optane, Also Upgrading To PCIe 4.0 For The Next Generation

Keystone Harbor is Intel's latest SSD featuring 144-layer 3D NAND, QLC SSD. Intel also said that they will be transferring all SSDs to 144-layer NAND in 2021. Intel announced that QLC SSD shipments have surpassed 10 million units, but PLC, 5 bits per cell, technology is still under development. Intel will ship the Alder Stream Optane SSD in a single port form this year and dual-port form in 2021.

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The Alder Stream Optane SSD uses the second generation of 3D XPoint media which provides many performance advantages. The advantages include 4 layers over the previous generation's single layer. It has a new controller ASIC with new firmware to be compatible with the leap to PCIe 4.0. Crooke mentioned that the facility being used for the development of the 3D XPoint media is the Rio Rancho, New Mexico facility.

Intel Optane Memory & 144 Layer 3D Nand Flash SSDs
Image Credits: BlocksandFiles

It was said that they have multiple facilities capable of developing the chips, but have not decided on where and the quantity. During this time, they also have a chip supply agreement with Micron. Capacities for these drives are still being planned, but the DC P4800X dual-port drive is available with 375GB, 750GB, and 1.5TB capacities. If we do some quick math, doubling the capacity because the layer count doubling will get us to 3TB for the maximum capacity.

Intel mentioned that Optane has been getting traction and according to Kristie Mann, Intel senior director for Optane DC persistent memory products, over 200 of the Fortune 500 companies are Optane customers. 3D XPoint media is used in the H10 drive in combination with QLC NAND, Optane SSDs, and Optane Persistent Memory. She confirmed a gen 2 3D XPoint DIMM with the codename Burlow Pass. She also said that additional information will be released in June on it. The current generation DIMM capacities are 128GB, 256GB and 512GB.

They expressed that Optane will not be expanding to portable drives which are disappointing, but reasonable. The potential for an announcement of a 1TB Dimm may come at the launch event as well. This sneak peek allows us to get some information on the future of storage and it is bright and exciting.

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