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Intel Optane Memory Plus Low-Cost NVMe QLC Will Rock The Boat

Here at Computex 2018 we've spoken to numerous companies about emerging storage technologies, seen the road maps, and identified a few key emerging trends. One key takeaway from the show has been just how cheap SSDs will become. Walmart recently dropped the price of Samsung's 860 EVO 1TB to $150 for a few hours before adjusting it to $250, a $50 drop from the day before. Then came government subsidized flash on display in the form of 32-layer TLC at the Maxiotek booth. Still, no matter how cheap storage gets, it's hard to compete with "free."

That's exactly how Intel plans to establish its new storage products. Some companies have already bundled Intel's Optane Memory with their motherboards to increase awareness about the technology. Early reports appear positive in user reviews as many see first-hand just how good the technology really is. And this is just the first step designed to remove hard disk drives, and their latency, from the user experience altogether.

The next shoe to drop could involve adding QLC-based SSDs to a bundle with next generation chipset components that allow Optane Memory to cache NVMe devices. The rumored Intel 660p QLC NVMe SSD looks like the leading candidate for this to bear fruit. The leaked deck shows capacities between 512GB and 2TB but QLC, will need a nudge to gain acceptance due to reliability and endurance concerns.

Sitting behind high-endurance Optane Memory (cache) will remove any immediate concerns regarding QLC's endurance. A bundle that gives users a free or very low cost 512GB boot drive will be difficult to pass over even for the most adamant Optane and QLC naysayers.

We've asked Intel several times about using Optane Memory in front of very low cost SSDs to increase system performance and received the same "no comment" answer as we get with any rumor fact checking subject. The difference in this case is the inability to hide the ear-to-ear grin that inadvertently tells us that has been the plan for Optane Memory all along.

  • popatim
    So if Optaine plus QLC is good, is Optaine plus MLC even better?
    Reply
  • hannibal
    The speed difference between optaine and 1”- is bigger than between optaine and MLC. Yep, the later combination would be better, but it would be much more expensive and not so much faster.
    Reply
  • popatim
    I already have 960gb Sandisk Pro ssd's and would like to re-use them in the next build. :)
    Reply
  • Giroro
    QLC has only a 33% increase in capacity, compared to a ~90% decrease in endurance and a ~25% decrease in write speed. It's not worth it.
    Should current SLC buffers be replaced with 3d x-point? absolutely.
    But Optane isn't going to solve the fact that a consumer SSD with QLC would need so much over-provisioning that you may actually end up losing more capacity than you gain.
    Reply
  • popatim
    Why do you believe they need even more overprovisioning? Aside from allowing space for a fixed SLC buffer that is. Really 100gb buffer is plenty IMO even for a 2tb drive. How often are you doing to write files of that size?
    Reply
  • pelegbn
    Nobody's gonna say something about that gorgeous girl?? I'm sorry, but - Optane what now?! is Optane whatever board is convering the perfection holding it! damn...
    Reply
  • zodiacfml
    Ain't gonna fly if it is at least 32GB. I want the the Optane to be a boot drive (not cache) with some often used programs
    Reply
  • Giroro
    21035071 said:
    Why do you believe they need even more overprovisioning? Aside from allowing space for a fixed SLC buffer that is. Really 100gb buffer is plenty IMO even for a 2tb drive. How often are you doing to write files of that size?
    A consumer drive would need more over-provisioning because normal desktop users would not be happy if they had to start replacing their drives every 6 months instead of every 5+ years. QLC will not make drives so cheap that they would be disposable in that way.
    SLC buffers are there primarily to increase speed, and replacing that buffer with 3D-Xpoint will definitely be a good thing for performance. The buffers do help with endurance, but they don't solve the underlying issue.
    Current drives don't wear out because of their SLC buffers, it's because of the MLC/TLC flash that those buffers are dumping into, which is why they need to be over provisioned in the first place. So, I don't think a higher-endurance buffer is going to fix that. If everything else is the same in a drive you replace 3D TLC NAND rated for 3k Program/Erase cycles with QLC rated for 300, then the QLC drive is going to fail in one tenth of the time. I don't see a way for them to solve that issue, except for with more over-provisioning.

    The endurance problem is the reason QLC is being marketed to Write-Once Read-Many enterprise workloads and not consumer SSDs.
    Reply
  • CRamseyer
    The Optane drive can absorb all of the random writes if set up to do so. It used to be called Maximized Mode in RST Cache configurations. With all of the random writes going to Optane and then passed to the QLC as sequential data (that barely impact endurance compared to random data over the long term), the drive will last as long as what we have now.

    I'm hearing the QLC endurance is actually much better than what most of us (the people commenting here and that actually care about technology) think it has. Part of that is due to stronger LDPC, but some of it is also due to a higher than expected number of PE cycles.
    Reply
  • CRamseyer
    "The endurance problem is the reason QLC is being marketed to Write-Once Read-Many enterprise workloads and not consumer SSDs."

    Give me a few hours and I'll toss that right out of the window.
    Reply