Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Is Optane + HDD a good thing? A great thing?

Intel (and PC OEMs) recently announced that sometime in Q2 we can use a 16GB or 32GB Optane NVMe Module with a HDD to achieve SSD like results. Optane module is connected by M.2 to PCIe bus. It is not a DIMM and it does not act like DRAM memory.

Is this a good thing? Is this a great thing? A Couple questions have been raised

1) This is caching again. In a perfect world, caching would make it so that 95% of storage access would be the cache speed. As a person who runs SSDs, hybrid HDDs, HDDs with a SSD cache, I can say this about caching: "its is real fast some of the time" and "it is HDD slow more of the time than I would expect".  Will this version work better? If so, we will have the blazing SSD like performance 90% of the time. What will the benchmarks and boot time say?

2) What will it cost? I have detailed models for how much that M.2 Module will cost including controllers, PCB, BOM components and the 3DXP memory.... we will save that exact cost for later (Call me!)... but what will the price to consumers be? There are two possible options:

    a) It will be marked up a ton to account for it being new, rare, and desire to differentiate. I will go with a $160 adder prediction for the 32GB version option.
    b) It will be subsidized with a price to push people to convert to the new architecture and help  Intel sell processors. I will go with a $50 adder for 32GB option

3) Am I better just buying more DRAM? Today, the PC OEM is charging >$130 to go from 8GB to 16GB of memory. This is about 4x what you should pay... oh well. But if it were reasonably priced, 8G to 16G for $35 or 16G to 32G for $75 is going to make a big difference in performance. If subsidized price, go with Optane.... else go with more DRAM. More DRAM is the gift that never goes out of style.

5) When can I but this option? According to Intel, it is Optane ready today (but without Optane???).

For actual working, non vaporware Optane, Lenovo says April ... others say June.... others say "later". If Intel doesn't delay it again, and it sells in April, I will be buying that Lenovo PC with 32GB just to say I have been Optaned (or is it Optanized?).

Optane Cache .... April 2017.... Finally !!

Mark Webb