Intel Launches Optane SSD DC P4800X, Enters Revenue Quarter For 3D XPoint, Storage Roadmap Detailed

Usman Pirzada

Today, Intel unveiled the Intel® Optane™ SSD DC P4800X Series and Intel® Optane™ SSD DC P4800X Series with Intel® Memory Drive Technology, enabling new possibilities to transform storage and memory architectures for the data center.

The first Optane SSD is out, and yes you can also use it as RAM; Intel estimates less than 10% of Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group to be driven by 3D XPoint based products

Intel has previously revealed (in their quarterly earnings webcast) that they were shipping 3D NAND from our Fab 68 and had qualified the first 3D XPoint base Optane SSDs, which were expected to ship for revenue in the first quarter. The DX P4800X is the realization of this statement and means that indeed, Intel has entered the first revenue quarter for this platform. Intel has also previously stated that they expect less than 10% of their Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group to be driven by 3D XPoint products. In the same earnings call they had also mentioned that their 3D XPoint memory DIMM will be shipped as sample to data center customers at the same time, so we assume that that is something that has already happened as well.

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There is not much to report on apart from the specs so here they are:

Deployed as blazing fast storage or caching tier, Intel® Optane™ SSD DC P4800X breaks the confines of traditional storage to significantly increase scale per server and accelerate applications. When deployed as extended memory, this drive expands the system memory pool, creating bigger, more cost-effective memory to gain higher quality insights.

An industry-leading combination of high throughput, low latency, high quality of service and high endurance enable the creation of solutions that remove data bottlenecks, unleash CPU utilization and deliver unprecedented insights. Intel® Optane™ SSDs offer unrivaled performance at low queue depth, where the vast majority of applications generate storage workloads, which means CPUs are more active and more fully utilized. Intel® Optane™ SSDs for the data center let users do more work with the same servers, improving TCO or expanding capabilities. And because the drive is extremely responsive under any load, it is highly predictable and delivers ultra-fast service, consistently.

Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X Specifications
Capacity375 GB
Form FactorPCIe HHHL or 2.5" 15mm U.2
InterfacePCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe
Memory128Gb 20nm Intel 3D XPoint
Typical Latency (R/W)
Random Read (4 KB) IOPS (QD16)550k
Random Read 99.999% Latency (QD1)60µs
Random Read 99.999% Latency (QD16)150µs
Random Write (4 KB) IOPS (QD16)500k
Random Write 99.999% Latency (QD1)100µs
Random Write 99.999% Latency (QD16)200µs
Endurance30 DWPD
Warranty5 years
Release DateMarch 19 (HHHL)
Q2 2017 (U.2)

Intel Storage Roadmap Detailed: 3D NAND SSDs

It goes without saying that the Optane SSD platform is going to pose a serious business risk to existing players including Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix and Toshiba just to name a few. Once the technology matures, its price/performance characteristics should outstrip typical SSDs by a long shot. However, Intel can still have a piece of the pie by updating its current lineup with brand new products using 3D NANAD that are targetted alongside the Optane platform (expected to land in 2017).

First Quarter 2017

  • For February and March 2017, Intel's DC P4500/P4600/P4600 LP/P4500 LP will enter mass production and their end-of-life-cycle (EOL) is set for the first quarter of 2019.

Second Quarter 2017

  • Intel will add DC S4600/S4500-series and the entry-level DC S3110-series to its SATA-based SSD product line in the second quarter of next year.

Third Quarter 2017

  • For the consumer market, following the release of the 600p in September 2016, the CPU giant will release a BGA-version 600p and SATA-based 545s in the third quarter of 2017
  • For its PCI Express-based solid state drive (SSD) product line, following the releases of its DC D3700 and D3600-series NVMe SSDs in 2016, Intel will add a top-end series with a lot more storage space in the third quarter of 2017, featuring a 2.5-inch size, U.2 interface and storage options of 2TB, 4TB and 8TB.
  • For the embedded market, Intel has prepared the 5430S-series for April 2017 and an M.2 form factor-based version of the 5430S for July 2017.

Fourth Quarter 2017

  • For the professional market, Intel will launch PCIe/NVMe-based Pro 7600P and SATA-based Pro 5450s in the fourth quarter.
  • In the third quarter, Intel will release the 20nm MLC-based E 6500p, and existing E 5400s/5410-series will both enter EOL in the first quarter of 2018, while the E 6000p will stop supply in the third quarter of 2018.

Intel Optane Roadmap 2017: Arriving under Mansion Beach and Stoney Beach platform

The Intel Optane Memory 8000p will come in two categories: 16 GB and 32 GB. Since we are not talking about DIMMs here, I have to assume that they are referring to the block size which means that this is a significant increase over the current SSD standard and will result in large SSD sizes. PCI Gen 3.0 is supported as well as the M.2 2241 and 2280. The 32 GB variant is the superior one while as the 16 GB variant offers slightly lower performance numbers. Both, however, easily outstrip mainstream SSDs on the market right now (I took the liberty of adding a comparison table at the end).

The Optane Memory 8000p series will feature random read in the range of 285000 to 300000 IOPs which is an almost three times increase over conventional SSDs. Random write on the other hand is ranged between 75000 to 120000 IOPs and the lower value is about the same as conventional SSDs while the top end is slightly more.The 8000p series features a sequential read speed of 1400 MB/s to 1600 MB/s and is roughly 2.5-3 times greater than the sequential read of mainstream SSDs. Something very interesting, however, is the sequential write speed, which ranges between 300 MB/s and 500 MB/s and is exactly what you would expect from any decent SSD.

Since Mansion Beach and Stoney Beach are set to arrive first, it would be a fair bet that 8000p series is part of them. Logic would dictate that the 8000p is part of the Stoney Beach series of SSD. Both platforms are supported under Kaby Lake and we expect them to hit the market once KBL gets market-wide availability. We don't have any news on pricing at the moment although its a safe assumption that they will be more expensive than high end ssds in the beginning. Micron is also working on their own 3D XPoint based memory solutions and calls them QuantX memory.

We already know that:

  • The Intel Optane technology platform will have the nomenclature ending with the word “Beach”.
  • There will be two types of products at launch (SSD and Memory), however only one will be available to enthusiasts initially (SSD).
  • The roadmap of Optane based SSDs and Memory has been aligned with the overarching architecture that will be in play at the given time. This means that we are going to see Optane for the first time sometime near the end of 2016 (or early 2017 if Intel faces any delays).

At the end of this year, Intel Optane is going to debut for the mainstream side of things with the Mansion Beach platform under the overarching roadmap of Kaby lake. The Mansion Beach platform will be for the very first mainstream SSDs based on Optane tech and supporting the NVMe PCIe Gen 3 x4 configuration (4 lanes support).

Mansion beach will also have a relatively lower end variant: the PCIe 3.0 x2 variant by the name of Brighton Beach. All other specifications will remains the same, only the amount of PCI lanes the SSD can access will change. Mansion Beach will remain as is all through Kaby Lake (and Q1 2017) and will be refreshed when the time comes in 2018 and on wards under Cannonlake architecture.

Brighton beach however, will be succeeded by Carson Beach platform that introduces PCI 3.0 x4, the M.2 as well as BGA configuration support. At about the same time, Stony Beach is going to debut for the enterprise side of things with the very first Intel Optane powered memory tech designed to be used as 'system accelerators'.

The Stony Beach platform will be configured as PCIe Gen 3 x2 (along with support for the M.2 controller). Interestingly, the roadmap also specifies "System Acceleration Generation 1.0" which appears to be a brand new standard as far as the platform is concerned. Stony beach will be succeeded by Carson Beach with pretty much the same specifications as the Enthusiast side of the platform with the added benefit of System Acceleration Generation 2.0.

That's not it either, the roadmap also reveals Intel's plans for its usual 3D NAND platform. The Pro 600p and 600p SSDs with PCIe 3.0 x4 (M.2) support will be in cycle till the first half of 2017. At which point, production will stop for the remaining half year. Intel will debut its 2nd Generation 3D NAND based SSDs under the Cannonlake architecture (approximately in 2018) with configurations in the PCIe and SATA flavors.

Intel Optane SSDs and 3D XPoint Overview

Intel has previously talked about its 3D XPoint memory and Optane based SSDs as well as released benchmarks of the same – both of which aim to be part of its framework in the future. The 3D XPoint memory technology has 1000x the endurance of NAND flash and is 10 times denser and in some cases upto 1000x faster as well. The 3D XPoint memory will be available in market during next year and will revolutionize the tech industry with the latest 3D XPoint based Optane SSDs and DIMMs.

  • The Optane SSD was able to achieve 7.2x times more IOPS at low queue depth and upto 5.21 times the IOPs of conventional SSDs at high queue depths. Optane SSDs also provide 8.11x times lower latency than conventional NAND solutions.
  • An Optane Technology based SSD has 10x times the density of conventional SSD drives.
  • The marketing material also claims it is 1000x faster than the competition available on the market but it isn’t clear to what exactly they are referring to.
  • Optane SSDs will have 1000x the endurance – which, if true, should mean the device has virtually unlimited life span for practical purposes.

All Optane based devices will feature a cross point array structure, which consists of perpendicular connectors connecting around 128 Billion memory cells (16 Gigabytes per chip). This “3D” method is the reason why Optane based devices have 10x times the density of conventional solutions. Like DRAM, Optane memory is stackable in nature. One of the biggest changes in this technology, however, is that it eliminates the need for transistors – accessing the memory cells by varying the voltage sent to the particular sector. Basically, using the bulk of the material itself.

Intel Optane Memory 8000p Series Comparison

Specification Intel Optane Memory 8000p Series 16 GBIntel Optane Memory 8000p Series 32 GBSamsung 850 Evo SSD
Random 4KB2 Read (up to)285000 IOPs300000 IOPs94000 IOPs
Random 4KB2 Write70000 IOPs120000 IOPs88000 IOPs
Sequential 128KB Read31400 MB/s1600 MB/s540 MB/s
Sequential 128KB Write3300 MB/s500 MB/s520 MB/s
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