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Arrival of Intel’s XPoint-supporting Optane drives could be a game changer

Whether you are aware of XPoint technology or are just hearing about it for the first time, trust us, you’ll want to know when it lands. It has the potential to make the solid state drives (SSD) of today look like the hard drives of a decade past, and thanks to a leaked Intel slide, it looks like some of the first supporting drives will be arriving in early 2017.

The reason XPoint has everyone excited is because it is slated as being comparable in performance to DRAM — and yet is non-volatile, so can store data even when not powered on, like flash memory. It’s also said to be far more dense than DRAM, meaning it will easily outsize RAM disks, and it’s very durable, meaning you should be able to write to it for a long, long time before seeing performance degradation.

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Although much of this is theoretical until we see more of it, Intel has demonstrated a file transfer as fast as 2GB per second.

So the fact that we now know that the first product from that Optane (XPoint) storage line could be arriving in Q1 2017 — well, that’s very exciting.

The slide gives us a little more detail too, giving us the code name of the new drives as “Mansion Beach” and “Brighton Beach.” They are both Optane SSDs that utilize PCIExpress 3 x4 and x2 ports, respectively. As part of the “Enthusiast workstation” range, we would expect prices on those drives to be quite steep initially, much like the Intel SSD 750 series.

What may be more exciting for those of us without thousands of dollars to throw at new hardware, though, is the Stony Beach “system acceleration” that the slide also details. It claims to use “Intel Optane Memory,” and uses the PCIExpress 3 x2 (or M.2.) ports. PCPer has speculated that this could act a little like a caching drive for today’s SSDs, much in the way those same drives can cache for hard drives in hybrid storage solutions.

That may be the way most of us get our first taste of XPoint, and if it works in a similar manner to the hybrid drives we have now, it should give everyone a much more affordable taste of what sort of speed Optane drives can offer.

Moving further along the slide, we can see that once we move beyond the Kaby Lake platform that Intel is still currently working on, we have refreshes of the Mansion and Carson Beach hardware as they ultimately improve over time.

Although undated, we will also see second generations of 3DNand storage for PCIEexpress and SATA connections sometime in the future.

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