Intel® Optane™ Technology: Modern Storage Technology for the Modern Data Center

Enterprises must embrace data as a modern form of currency to stay ahead in today’s fast-moving global markets. Capturing information about customer purchase habits informs more nimble business decisions, provides insights about market growth and identifying untapped revenue streams. To remain competitive, organizations must consider their data and storage strategy as a cornerstone to a larger IT transformation.

IT managers benefit from different storage media for cold, warm, and hot data. Slow, inexpensive solutions like tape backups can serve business needs for infrequently accessed information. However, applications and services requiring warm and hot data require accelerated storage technologies. Commodity solid state drives provide a good alternative to spinning disks, but they are no match for DRAM’s access speed.

On the other hand, DRAM has its own set of challenges. First, extensive amounts of DRAM represent a significant capital expense. Secondly, if an unexpected power outage occurs, memory’s inherent volatility can result in data loss. Finally, DRAM’s storage architecture necessitates a transistor for each memory cell. Therefore, DRAM’s capacity does not keep pace with that of silicon-based components, which double in density roughly every two years. Alternately, while NAND-based flash memory used by most SSDs has the advantages of both density and non-volatility, its performance remains lackluster in comparison to DRAM.

Bridging the gap between these storage media is Intel® Optane™ technology, which offers stellar performance characteristics at a cost significantly lower than DRAM. Intel® Optane™ technology represents an innovative approach to address modern storage requirements because it is designed from the ground up to deliver all three requirements—low latency, high density, and non-volatility—to the modern data center.

At its heart, Intel® Optane™ technology’s effectiveness results from an innovation called Intel® 3D XPoint™ technology. This is a new storage and memory medium, and it achieves much greater density than legacy memory solutions by eliminating the need for transistors attached to each memory cell. Instead, Intel’s new approach chops up memory blocks into sub-microscopic “columns” comprised of two elements—a memory cell and a selector. In turn, these columns connect through groups of wires. The wires, resting atop the columns, run parallel to one another. Below the columns, another set of wires run perpendicular to those wires on top.

In this configuration, each memory cell has an “address” mapped by a wire above and below it. By making tiny variances in voltage through the wires, each column’s selector can write to, or read from, its accompanying memory cell. Since each cell preserves its content even during power outages, volatility becomes a non-issue. Additionally, since multiple grid structures can stack atop of one another, greater memory density remains inherent to the Intel® Optane™ technology design.

Extending the benefits of Intel® 3D XPoint™ memory, other improvements delivered by the technology derive from Intel’s storage controllers, software enhancements, and interface hardware. The resulting architecture gives Intel® Optane™ SSDs greater speed than NAND SSDs and greater space efficiency than DRAM. Because of these strengths, Intel® Optane™ SSDs can function as part of an extended memory pool to speed read/write performance in warm or hot data usage scenarios.

With all these technological advances, Intel® Optane™ technology provides a modern solution for today and tomorrow’s high-performance, scalable computing scenarios, including artificial intelligence, design simulations, and advanced analytics. We are excited to see our technology empower companies, scientists, and researchers around the world realize breakthrough discoveries.

Learn more by reading the whitepaper, Data Data Everywhere, Storage on the Brink?