Rob Crooke, Intel VP for Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group (NSG), joined Ian Yang, President of Intel China, on stage to talk about Optane technology and perform the first public demonstration. Optane, also known as 3D XPoint, promises DRAM-like performance with flash-like data storage retention. Once implemented, Optane will turn your computer into an instant booting device like a tablet or cell phone. The technology will also increase random performance by a significant amount--some speculate up to 10 times performance increase with small block sizes.
This will increase the user experience to levels we cannot even imagine possible, yet. This is the most exciting memory product to come to market in over twenty years, and it promises to change computing as we know it.
To show the awesome power of 3D XPoint, Intel chose to demonstrate sequential performance over Thunderbolt 3. The world's most powerful (and potentially expensive) persistent memory was reduced to a consumer backup device for its first working public demonstration.
In the test, Intel used two computer systems. The first system utilized two Intel SATA SSDs to transfer a movie from the host machine to a Thunderbolt 3-connected device using another Intel SATA SSD. The transfer performance clearly shows a TLC-based SATA device--most likely the company's new SSD 540 or 5400 Series business-class drive. The second computer transferred the same movie file over Thunderbolt 3, but this time the host and destination media were based on Optane memory technology.
On the surface, the 2 GB/s transfer was impressive. The performance was consistent and didn't take much time. Upon closer inspection, though, this was the worst possible demonstration of Optane technology Intel could have shown. The company's own SSD 750 Series could have produced similar results.
The demonstration the world is waiting on involves random performance; it's the one area Optane changes storage for consumers. We won't see Optane technology in a data backup device for a decade or more, but a small amount of Optane to cache TLC NAND will go a long way in improving the user experience. If Intel doesn't arrange a public demonstration, we will have to wait until the second half of 2017 when we get our own Optane devices to run the tests ourselves.
At IDF 2015 in San Francisco Intel displayed a static image of Optane reading random data at 76,000 IOPS using queue depth 1. That is a full 7x improvement over the company's current NVMe-based consumer SSDs.
You can watch the full IDF 2016 keynote from Shenzhen, China here.