Intel showcased 96-layer QLC and previewed 144-layer QLC NAND, and is bringing Optane DIMMs to workstations, though research into PLC is unlikely to hit the mainstream.
Intel presented product roadmaps for enterprise storage products at a press event in Seoul on Thursday, announcing the availability of 144-layer QLC 3D NAND (and principally, SSDs that incorporate them), as well as providing more detail on second-generation Optane Data Center (DC) persistent memory, and research into 5-bit-per-cell (PLC) NAND.
SEE: Server virtualization: Best (and worst) practices (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
While AMD is focusing purely on CPU performance, Intel has heavily touted the benefits of Optane Memory (a marketing name for 3D XPoint, a Flash NAND alternative co-developed with Micron) for in-memory computing workloads, such as Redis, Cassandra, SAP HANA, and Oracle Exadata. Compared to traditional NAND Flash, the write endurance of Optane makes it suitable for packing in DIMMs to use alongside traditional DRAM, with Intel offering 5-year warranties for Optane DC persistent memory, claiming a 256 GB DIMM has a 353.72 PBW (Petabytes written) endurance.
Optane DIMMs coming to workstations
Intel is bringing the previously server-exclusive Optane DC Persistent Memory to Cooper Lake and Ice Lake Xeon CPUs, including workstation-class CPUs, allowing developers the flexibility of utilizing Optane on the same system they are developing on, with capacities up to 512 GB per module, totaling up to 3TB per CPU or 6TB per workstation, for dual-CPU systems.
When available, Optane DIMMs for workstations will be accessible in memory mode (similar to standard DRAM) or application direct mode (similar to persistent storage). Support for Optane DIMMs already exists in modern Linux distributions and Windows Server 2019, as well as "in the latest Windows 10 update," according to STH.
96-layer QLC NAND in Q4 2019, 144-layer in 2020
Intel is betting big on QLC SSDs, which offer high densities, but reduced read/write speeds and lower drive endurance. The (current-generation) Intel SSD 660p was demoed as supporting 1228 MB/s read and 1333 MB/s write, per screenshots taken by LegitReviews, with the new Intel SSD 665p using 96-layer QLC NAND clocking in at 1816 MB/s read and 1887 MB/s write. These speeds are nowhere near the performance found in a TLC-powered WD Black SN750 or Samsung SSD 970 Pro, though neither is the price—the Intel part has hovered around $100 for 1TB, while the WD and Samsung parts are roughly three times the cost.
Performance should likewise increase modestly with the 144-layer version, though with the advent of PCI Express 4.0 SSDs, the gulf between the abilities of premium TLC NAND SSDs and cheaper QLC NAND is likely to widen.
PLC won't be the saving grace of mass storage
Penta-level-cell (PLC) NAND is also coming, in theory—the technology is being investigated by Intel and Toshiba. PLC would offer increased storage densities, though at the severe detriment of write endurance. 3D TLC NAND—which is widely deployed in client SSDs—is rated for 1,000 to 3,000 cycles, while QLC NAND is only rated for 100 to 1000 write cycles.
PLC would necessarily follow this trend, making it useful for an extremely limited number of writes per cell—functionally more like a write once-read many (WORM) drive, without the implied immutability of WORM. There may be use cases for it, though these are relatively uncommon workloads that require mass amounts of long-lived data that must be accessible within 10ms. Seeing PLC in general-purpose business compute is unlikely, with consumer devices a virtual impossibility given the poor write endurance.
For more, check out "Hazelcast using Optane DIMMs to accelerate AI workloads" and "Dell EMC PowerMax adds NVMe over fabric, doubles down on dual port Intel Optane drives" at TechRepublic.
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