Two senior Intel strategists explain how pairing Intel® Optane™ memory with a BarraCuda hard drive transforms system speed and opens up growth.
Once a decade, an innovation comes along that radically changes the technology landscape. Intel® Optane™ memory is one such breakthrough and Seagate has been working closely with Intel to bring this revolutionary new solution to market.
The message that is trying to be spread for PC system integrators is to understand how to benefit from Optane. Seagate has reached out to Chris Tobias, Director of the Intel Optane Technology Acceleration Team, and Avinash Shetty, Senior Strategic Planner for Intel, to share their insight and explain the revenue and growth opportunities that are opening up for fast-moving system builders, right now.
It makes critical reading for anyone seeking to build differentiated systems that are able to cost-effectively handle today’s increasingly data intensive applications, delivering a great performance improvement by pairing Intel Optane memory with a large capacity BarraCuda hard drive.
What exactly is Intel Optane memory?
Chris: It’s basically a system acceleration solution, designed for the new 7th Generation and later Intel Core™ processor platforms. By bringing Intel’s new 3D XPoint™ memory media together with the Rapid Storage Technology driver, Intel Optane memory delivers extraordinary new levels of system responsiveness to gamers, creative pros and mainstream PC users, at an affordable price. The accelerator sits between a system’s processor and SATA-based storage device, storing frequently used data and applications close to the processor. As a result, applications can launch and run faster without added storage cost. Essentially, users can have it all.
How is Optane different to previous solutions?
Avinash: Intel has focused in-depth research and development energy on 3D XPoint technology for over a decade, trying to reimagine the long-standing storage and memory hierarchy. Think about the way typical PC architecture is set up today, you have your CPU, your L1, L2, L3 cache and then your DRAM and storage solution, usually a hard drive. The further away from your CPU you operate, the more performance you lose. The pay-off for increasing storage density is that your latency also increases and everything is volatile, so needs to be flushed at reboot, which really slows performance down.
Intel Optane technology, built with 3D XPoint memory media, bridges the gap between DRAM and today’s NAND technologies. It’s a completely new architecture built from the ground up for the data-intensive world: still stackable, that’s the 3D part, but delivering an extremely low latency. It’s non-volatile, so when you reboot a power cycle, everything stays as it is. It’s also smart and adaptive. All the most critical system files are automatically moved over to Intel Optane memory, including system files, boot files and any Microsoft OS critical files. But a new kind of file-aware caching also optimizes itself around the user, moving the most used apps and files across so they are easily accessible, while evicting files that aren’t touched. With each subsequent boot, the system will learn more about a user’s behavior and move across those files and apps that are being regularly accessed: Outlook, Excel, Word. It’s Intel Optane technology innovation that makes all this possible.
Just to give you a couple of data points, 3D-TLC NAND SSDs tend to have a latency of around 100 microseconds. Intel Optane technology with 3D XPoint memory media starts at 6 microseconds: that’s over 16 times faster than any 3D-TLC NAND SSD out there. This really is a ground-breaking new architectural approach.
Is Intel Optane memory a specialist or mass-market technology?
Avinash: Intel has put easy adoptability at the heart of our strategy. We spent a lot of time surveying the market and working out where we could deliver the greatest impact and enjoy the best uptake. Intel Optane memory is perfectly tuned for mass market M.2 desktops. We currently have two available SKUs: 16GB and 32GB. Either one is compatible with a standard M.2, one of the most prevalent form factors of mobile and desktop PCs today. Simply install it in any Intel Optane ready system using the Intel® Rapid Storage Technology driver alongside our storage controller and Intel Optane memory will pair up with the hard drive and present to the Microsoft OS as one volume.
Why did Intel partner with Seagate to demonstrate Intel Optane memory’s credentials?
Chris: Seagate is the industry leader in hard drives, so it was a natural fit. We’ve previously worked together to deliver big industry transitions, such as from the PATA to SATA interface. Seagate was right by our side then and we’ve always had a really close and productive partnership, collaborating together to move the industry into exciting new territory. I guess PCs are common ground for us and we’re both constantly looking for new ways to refine the user experience and deliver more of what the customer needs, for less. Our corporate visions truly align.
What makes the Seagate BarraCuda such a good fit for Intel Optane memory?
Avinash: Intel Optane memory is a platform solution for Intel, part of our 7th generation processor desktop story. Whenever we release a new platform, we literally have hundreds of engineers around the world testing and validating, undertaking quality and reliability checks. The Seagate BarraCuda hard drive was used as one of the main vehicles for testing because our two companies have such a close relationship. We were able to work together through the inevitable debugging process to get the solution out to market faster. At this point, we know that the Seagate BarraCuda has gone through thousands of cycles of inter-validation and the teams at Seagate have also independently conducted thorough ongoing validation. That’s why Intel feels so confident in recommending that customers pair either of our 16GB or 32GB Intel Optane memory modules with a BarraCuda hard drive. For smaller workloads and mainstream uses, the 16GB Intel Optane memory module is the right option. For more intensive gaming or creative, media-intensive applications, our 32GB module is the ideal choice.
Is Optane a future opportunity, or should system builders focus on it right now?
Chris: Building systems that accelerate performance without compromising capacity or cost will obviously help to drive PC refresh cycles and generate new upsell opportunities. The fact is that the desktop market continues to massively favor hard drive. A lot of mainstream PC buyers have also missed out on storage acceleration to date. This new pairing makes it easy for small integration shops to add a ton of value for these lucrative mainstream users.
Do you have any last thoughts to leave with us?
Avinash: Intel Optane memory delivers a responsiveness and performance boost you can literally see. Put two systems side by side and a stand-alone hard drive simply cannot keep up with an Intel Optane enhanced system. Add that to the continued popularity of hard drives and the BarraCuda also becomes a game-changing integration choice.
As you’d expect with Intel, we have a whole roadmap and are building a portfolio of Intel Optane technology-based solutions for both the desktops that we’ve talked about today, and the data center. Intel Optane SSDs for data centers are available in AIC and U.2 form factors and we expect this technology will revolutionize the data center in the way that Intel Optane memory is transforming the desktop. It will help accelerate applications, and deliver fast storage and expanded memory. This is only
Chris: Agreed. As data growth explodes, this really is an exciting time to be in the memory and storage business. Memory and storage are key accelerants to data growth which means that Intel, along with trusted storage partners like Seagate, are perfectly placed to deliver the solutions that your customers need.
Many thanks to Chris and Avinash for sharing their invaluable inside view. Courtesy of Seagate Technologies, LLC.
Paulsen, John. “Intel Optane: Two Intel Strategists Explain the Technology Opportunity.” December 2017 Published: https://blog.seagate.com/business/intel-optane-two-intel-strategists-explain-technology-opportunity/. Seagate Blog. 03 2018.
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