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Intel Kills Off All Optane-Only SSDs for Consumers, No Replacements Planned (Updated)

Update 01/17/2021 5:00pm PT: Intel's discontinuation notices are quite clear that the company will no longer offer Optane-only drives for desktop PCs, but we followed up for further clarity. Intel responded to our question, 'Does that mean Intel has effectively ended its Optane-only product lines for consumers?' 

"Your statement is technically correct, but consumers do benefit from Optane based-solutions like the Intel Optane Memory H20, since it is for mobile consumer." - Intel representative. 

As noted in the article below, the Optane Memory H20 is a Flash+Optane module that doesn't offer comparable performance to the Optane-only drives for the desktop PC. The H20 is only compatible with mobile 11th-gen Core U-series chips or later, and not with desktop PCs. Intel's statement also clarifies that those drives are destined for mobile applications, marking the end of Optane solutions for desktop PCs. 

Original Article:

In a surprising move with little fanfare, Intel announced that it is discontinuing all of its Optane-only SSDs for the consumer market. Surprisingly, the company says those drives aren't going to see Optane-only replacements, apparently marking the end of its enthusiast-geared Optane SSDs for desktop PCs.

Intel discontinued the Optane Memory M10, 800P, 900P, and 905P SSDs, representing the entirety of its Optane-only family for desktop PCs. Intel's 900P and 905P discontinuation notice states:

"Intel will not provide a new large capacity Optane Memory SSD as a transition product for the client market segment. Intel will focus on the new Optane Memory H20 with Solid State Storage for the client market segment."

The discontinuation notices for the M10 and 800P series also point Intel's customers to the Optane Memory H20 drives. The H20 drives come with Optane memory paired with QLC flash on the same device. These caching drives aren't nearly as fast as Optane-only drives (they aren't even in the same league) and are designed primarily for laptops and the OEM market. 

Intel's discontinuation period is incredibly brief, too, with all discontinued drives no longer offered as of the publication date of the notices, or a few days prior as we see with the 800P series: 

Discontinuation PostedLast Order DateLast Shipment Date
Intel Optane Memory 900 and 905P SeriesJanuary 15, 2021January 15, 2021February 26, 2021
Intel Optane Memory 800P SeriesJanuary 14, 2021January 11, 2021February 26, 2021
Intel Optane Memory M10 SeriesJanuary 13, 2021January 13, 2021February 26, 2021

The last orders will ship on February 26, 2021, for all models. All of Intel's discontinued consumer drives come with the first-gen Optane Memory (3D XPoint), but the company recently unveiled its new Optane SSD P5800X for servers. This new drive brings second-gen Optane to market for the first time, signaling that Intel remains committed to using the exotic memory for the enterprise market. For now, it doesn't appear that the second-gen Optane will come to the desktop PC. 

The list of discontinued drives spans all form factors and families for the desktop PC. Here's a list of the discontinued drives:

  • Optane Memory 900P and 905P - AIC - 280GB, 480GB, 960GB and 1.5TB
  • Optane Memory 900P and 905P - U.2 - 280GB, 480GB, 960GB, 1.5TB
  • Optane Memory 905P - M.2 - 380GB
  • Optane Memory M10 - M.2  - 16GB, 32GB, 64GB
  • Optane Memory 800P - M.2 - 58GB, 118GB

Intel is at the beginning of a multi-year journey to sell its NAND business to SK hynix, but it will retain its Optane memory business and IP. That isn't surprising given that the exotic underlying 3D XPoint technology is jointly-designed by Intel and Micron and not available to other memory producers, giving Intel a differentiated product for the high-margin enterprise market. 

Apparently, Intel's decision to reduce its exposure to the NAND storage market comes along with a new focus on the enterprise market for the Optane brand. Intel's Optane products for the data center also include its persistent memory DIMMs that can function as an adjunct to main memory - a capability that only Intel offers.

Intel's Optane Memory drives for the consumer market are hands-down the fastest SSDs on the planet, laying waste to competing NAND-based SSDs in nearly every conceivable metric - except cost and capacity. As we often see, 'cheap and good enough' tends to win in the market, and the pricing and capacity advantages of garden-variety TLC SSDs, paired with the good-enough performance for most consumers, relegated Intel's Optane drives to a niche category for either the most hardcore enthusiasts or the workstation market. However, despite those challenges, Intel's Optane remained the only 3D XPoint-powered SSDs on the market, giving the company a completely unique offering in the consumer storage market. 

Given the demise of the consumer-focused Optane drives, it appears that Intel will rely upon its enterprise-class Optane drives to address all professional segments, including the workstation market. Intel currently doesn't manufacture Optane memory in high volumes – it simply purchases the underlying 3D XPoint memory from Micron. As of yet, Micron doesn't have any 3D XPoint SSDs or DIMMs on the market.

There is an outside chance that Intel has future Optane SSDs in development for the consumer market and isn't ready to release them yet, but that would make the discontinuation an odd maneuver. Intel traditionally doesn't discontinue products until its new models are already shipping. We've followed up with Intel for more detail and will update as necessary.

Paul Alcorn

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.

  • thestryker
    I was hoping that with the double density we'd see some drives hit the consumer space with a more reasonable price point. If this is the way they end up going for the future it's very disappointing as they weren't crippled by the nature of the tech like nand is (mixed/random io).
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    thestryker said:
    I was hoping that with the double density we'd see some drives hit the consumer space with a more reasonable price point. If this is the way they end up going for the future it's very disappointing as they weren't crippled by the nature of the tech like nand is (mixed/random io).
    Completely agree. Was hoping the new generation would bring more reasonable pricing. This is really disappointing.
    Reply
  • CerianK
    As with any potentially disruptive technology, you have to look to see who stands to be affected in both the short and long-term (both positively and negatively). At that point you can speculate what the future might hold.

    For example, one could speculate that if a major producer of a status quo technology (e.g. Samsung flash) would be negatively affected by a new superior competitive technology (e.g. Intel Optane), they might be willing to assist their competitor in other areas (e.g. CPU production) that they don't necessarily directly compete in (e.g. phones vs PCs), in exchange for a relaxation of the introduction of said disruptive technology in the directly competitive space. (e.g. This might also have an effect of how fast Intel decides to proceed on transfer of their flash business to SK Hynix, a flash competitor of Samsung).

    Such alliances, when they actually exist (i.e. not pure speculation, as in the above example), do not always benefit consumers in the short-term, but often these technologies get cross-licensed at some point so that they become more pervasive and cheaper at the consumer level where we all can benefit. Optane is some good stuff, so I hope that is sooner than later.
    Reply
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    Very disappointed! Intel is burning what little goodwill I had left for them, consumer-wise.

    Now I can only hope that Micron will actually stop sitting on their hands and release some 2nd gen 3DXpoint products. Sadly, they didn't get into consumer-space much with 1st gen, so my hope is barely a flicker.
    Reply
  • TechLurker
    2Be_or_Not2Be said:
    Now I can only hope that Micron will actually stop sitting on their hands and release some 2nd gen 3DXpoint products. Sadly, they didn't get into consumer-space much with 1st gen, so my hope is barely a flicker.

    Last I recall, they were only interested in licensing it; but one can hope they start putting out a few drives (and RAM) themselves to fill this niche, and encourage greater adoption (esp. by AMD and ARM), as well as getting a reliable partner to make their own versions. Crucial maybe? Competing with themselves in effect? Or at least Western Digital? Maybe Kioxia (ex-Toshiba), they could use a new high-end product to get back in the game.
    Reply
  • Mandark
    Give it some time I’m sure this is not the last time we will see 3-D xpoint memory
    Reply
  • Jim90
    Very expensive technology, way out of the price bracket for the average consumer, though yes, QD1 speeds certainly a welcome step in the right direction. I wish more research was done on improving low QD speeds and random speeds rather than all those marketing sequential bullcrap headlines....again, the average consumer, unfortunately, won't be set up to see these e.g. source/dest imbalance.
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    CerianK said:
    As with any potentially disruptive technology, you have to look to see who stands to be affected in both the short and long-term (both positively and negatively). At that point you can speculate what the future might hold.

    For example, one could speculate that if a major producer of a status quo technology (e.g. Samsung flash) would be negatively affected by a new superior competitive technology (e.g. Intel Optane), they might be willing to assist their competitor in other areas (e.g. CPU production) that they don't necessarily directly compete in (e.g. phones vs PCs), in exchange for a relaxation of the introduction of said disruptive technology in the directly competitive space. (e.g. This might also have an effect of how fast Intel decides to proceed on transfer of their flash business to SK Hynix, a flash competitor of Samsung).

    Such alliances, when they actually exist (i.e. not pure speculation, as in the above example), do not always benefit consumers in the short-term, but often these technologies get cross-licensed at some point so that they become more pervasive and cheaper at the consumer level where we all can benefit. Optane is some good stuff, so I hope that is sooner than later.
    My guess would be that intel saw DirectStorage and nvidia/AMD direct memory access and just figured that optane wouldn't be enough to compete against that for much longer which is why they keep the fab for a few years still, with intel's own XE graphics and their CPU cores getting more load and store instructions they will probably get close enough to optane speeds.
    https://devblogs.microsoft.com/directx/directstorage-is-coming-to-pc/
    Reply
  • CerianK
    TerryLaze said:
    My guess would be that intel saw DirectStorage and nvidia/AMD direct memory access...
    I was specifically referring to 3D XPoint based Optane SSDs as replacement for NAND flash (which Intel is selling off) SSDs in terms of speed and endurance. They will still have the option to open the door back up for consumer Optane SSDs in the future, if they choose.

    Optane DRAM is a different story, but I don't think Intel has any plans to enter the consumer mass-market soon. That would be a shame, as we might guess that someone like Apple wouldn't mind fitting it into a cost-no-object, instant-on, zero-power hibernate design, for example. I haven't researched it to see if anyone has announced anything similar.
    Reply
  • GenericUser
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought Intel sold off the part of their business that handles producing these a few months ago? If so, wasn't this a predictable side effect?
    Reply