Multiple leaks in Chinese-language media apparently outline the performance specifications of Intel's forthcoming Optane P4800X Series Cold Stream PCIe Add-In-Card, which is the company's first 3D XPoint-powered SSD. If Intel follows its trend of releasing enthusiast variants of its enterprise SSDs, we could see the NVMe DC P4800X head to the desktop soon. We treat any leak with suspicion, but in this case we also found a declaration of conformity certificate on Intel's site. The document confirms the name of the device and that it uses 3D XPoint, thus lending some credibility to the leak. We also found a reference to an unreleased DC P4500 Cliffdale SSD series.
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Intel has Optane SSDs coming to the desktop for the Kaby Lake series, but it chose to use the introductory devices for caching purposes. Caching increases performance over a standard hard drive, but in many cases, we suspect using a normal SSD as the primary storage device will be a better overall solution. Intel hasn't indicated when it will bring standard Optane drives, which you can use as a normal boot volume, to the consumer market. The initial revisions of 3D XPoint devices will carry a higher-than-SSD price tag, which likely led to Intel's decision to bring only low-capacity caching volumes to the consumer market--at least for now.
The enterprise isn't as sensitive to high prices if the value proposition is compelling enough, and as such, Intel's 375GB Cold Stream Optane DC P4800X is destined for the data center. The SSD features the standard PCIe 3.0 x4 connection and offers up to 2,400/2,000 MB/s of sequential read/write throughput over the NVMe interface. Cold Stream also blows in with up to 550,000/500,000 random read/write IOPS. The performance figures, while impressive, do not entirely encompass the benefits of using 3D XPoint. The new speedy media offers amazing performance at low queue depths and unwavering mixed workload performance, which are the most important metrics for actual applications. We cover some of the finer points of the 3D XPoint performance profile in our 3D XPoint Guide.
The DC P4800X purportedly offers up to 30 DWPD (Drive Writes Per Day) of endurance, which measures how many times you can fill the drive per day over the warranty period. 30 DWPD is unheard of for NAND-based SSDs; the most endurant modern SSDs top out at 10 DWPD. The DWPD metric can be muddy due to differing capacities, but overall, the DC P4800X can absorb up to 12.3PB of data during its service life. Intel's 450GB DC P3520 SSD, which is NAND-based, can withstand only 590TB, so apparently, 3D XPoint offers almost 21x more endurance than NAND.
Latency and performance consistency are also two key attributes, and Cold Stream doesn't fail to impress--it provides sub-10 microsecond read/write latency and a sub-.150/.200 milliseconds 99.999% Quality of Service (QoS) read/write measurement at QD16. By comparison, Intel's fastest 450GB SSD (the DC P3520) offers 130/50 microseconds of read/write latency and a 99.99% read/write latency of 1.976/6.752 milliseconds at QD16 (per our lab results). In other words, the DC P4800X has an almost magical latency profile.
The unconfirmed product specification document also noted that the drive uses an Intel controller and firmware, which are the keys to vertical integration, and it comes in the standard AIC (Add-In Card) form factor. We suspect 2.5" U.2 variants are also in the works. The drive also features the industry-standard 1017 UBER rating, but the document doesn't outline the length of the warranty. The SSD will come with the SSDPED1K375GA model number. Interestingly, the SSD requires only 100LFM (Linear Feet per Minute) of airflow at 35C, while the 450GB DC P3520 series requires 300LFM. The airflow requirement suggests that 3D XPoint runs relatively cool.
Technobabble aside, Intel's Cold Stream is fast, and if the company releases an enthusiast variant, it would unquestionably be the fastest SSD ever. The price tag might be a bit shocking, but we await further details. We've already seen Intel's Optane-series SSDs pop up on the UNH-IOL Integrator's list, so we know they are very close to market.
Intel also recently announced that it's shipping 3D XPoint-powered Optane memory DIMMs, so it's clear the era of next-generation memory is almost upon us. Intel also has its investor conference today, and with documentation already popping up on the official site, we suspect it might be the venue for the formal announcement.