Something to look forward to: Intel's Optane technology has been mostly confined to data centers, but now those advancements are trickling down to workstations, which means we're closer to seeing persistent memory solutions in mainstream PCs. In the meantime, the silicon giant is giving consumers faster QLC SSDs that they can afford.
Intel held a press event in South Korea this week for its Memory and Storage day, where it made a series of announcements and revealed plans for future storage products that will go in data centers and consumer electronics.
The company reiterated the importance of filling the gaps in the memory and storage hierarchy by bringing processors and data closer together.
The main focus of the event was Intel's Optane technology, which comes in several form factors, such as a memory module, SSD cache, and a high capacity QLC SSD, which is the least costly of the three. Intel currently dominates the persistent memory market, so it's nice to see them innovate despite the lack of serious competition.
To that end, Intel says it will operate a new "technology development line" in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The company is already working on the second generation Optane DC Persistent Memory, codenamed "Barlow Pass" that's supposed to be better in every way when compared to the current generation, Apache Pass that launched earlier this year.
Intel didn't offer specific numbers, but we know that its Optane DC products typically bridge the gap between RAM and NAND. They come as DIMM modules that can be installed in DDR4 slots and addressed as both RAM and storage, with capacities of up to 512GB per stick. In other words, Optane DC is like a slower, higher capacity DRAM that doesn't lose data in the event of power loss.
The 3D Xpoint technology behind Optane has so far proven too expensive to be integrated in consumer devices, but Intel has managed to bring it to the workstation market. The company says persistent DIMMs will eventually reach mainstream desktop PCs, but didn't offer a strict timeline of when we'll be able to buy sticks of 512 GB of memory for our gaming rigs. Intel is partnering with Microsoft to make that a reality, so at least we know that it's in the cards.
Intel does have something in the works for consumers in the form of a successor to its popular 660p SSD which uses 64-layer QLC flash to achieve great storage density at an affordable price point.
The 665p will come with 96-layer QLC flash that is both denser and faster. Both pricing and a release date are still pending, but we can probably expect to see it in laptops later this year or in early 2020.
To top it off, the silicon giant is also working on 144-layer QLC flash and storage solutions with 5 bits per cell, but that still doesn't hold nearly as much potential as the Optane DC Persistent Memory for client devices.