In brief: Intel has shared a progress update on its Optane and NAND product portfolio, announcing a transition to denser 144-layer QLC tech on all its consumer SSDs by 2021 and a next-gen upgrade to Optane drives that will feature four stacked memory layers for increased storage capacity and PCIe 4.0 support for greater bandwidth.

Intel is seemingly on track with its memory and storage product roadmap as it looks forward to launching the 144-layer 3D NAND QLC flash storage - codenamed Keystone Harbor - later this year. While the new denser 4th-gen modules would initially be available across limited capacities, the company is planning a complete transition to this tech (internally called Arbordale+) for all its consumer SSDs by next year.

Rob Crook, head of Intel's Non-volatile Memory Solutions Group (NSG), also revealed that the "tremendous momentum" of this technology had enabled it to surpass 10 million shipments of QLC SSDs, and that development on its 5 bits per cell PLC storage is still underway.

Intel also shared an update on its Alder Stream Optane SSDs, which use the company's 2nd-gen 3D XPoint technology and will ship in single port form later this year, followed by a dual port version in 2021.

These SSDs are expected to deliver at least a 50 percent performance increase over current-gen Optane drives, thanks to a faster controller and PCIe 4.0 compliance. Storage capacities, however, are yet to be finalized, but doubling the memory stack of Intel's current DC P4800X to four layers should theoretically result in a 3TB version for the top-end version.

Intel will reveal more Optane details in an official event slated for next month, where we can also expect to see next-gen DC Persistent Memory with higher speed and capacities than the current-gen 512GB maxed out DIMMs. What's confirmed, however, is that the company won't be expanding Optane to portable drives and will keep its focus on the three market segments it originally targeted for this tech.