This is one of a series of posts discussing the presenters at Storage Field Day 9, occurring 16th-18th March 2016 in Silicon Valley, at which I am an attending delegate.  See links at the end of this post to other presenting vendors.  Details of the event can be found on the Storage Field Day 9 page at techfieldday.com and on the dedicated events page on this site at Storage Field Day 9.

Most people probably think of processors and the x86 chipset when they think of Intel and historically that is the legacy of the company.  However Intel is much more than that, being responsible for the chipsets that drive our servers, PCs and other devices.  Intel’s NUC (Next Unit of Computing) are popular small-form factor PCs that can be used for a variety of purposes; many people use them for home labs in replacement of traditional servers.

Intel also offers a range of solid state devices, including SSDs and PCIe SSDs across the consumer, professional and enterprise/data centre classes.  I recently checked out Intel’s range of PCIe SSDs for a Computer Weekly article; the new DC P3608 devices scale up to 4TB with 5GB/s throughput and up to 850,000 read IOPS (although write IOPS are a little restricted at 50,000).  As a caching technology these types of devices (in conjunction with products like PernixData FVP) can transform the I/O profile of virtual workloads much more cost efficiently than moving to all-flash arrays.

IM Flash

Probably more interesting for our discussion about Tech Field Day is the Joint Venture formed between Intel and Micron, known as IM Flash Technologies, which was established in 2006.  This culmination of this co-operation is a product called 3D XPoint (pronounced Cross Point) that was announced in July 2015; a new non-volatile memory product that claims to be 1000 times faster than NAND flash, have 1000 times the endurance and be 10 times denser than conventional memory.  If Intel/Micron can deliver on these claims (at a reasonable cost) then they are set to revolutionise the storage industry.  Flash is set to kill the hard drive for all but archive requirements as products like Samsung’s new 16TB PM1633a (announced earlier this week) drop in price and become more affordable.  3D Xpoint provides that next layer up, bridging the gap between flash and DRAM.

The Architect’s View

There’s some debate about what technology is behind 3D XPoint (or more accurately the technology that Intel is calling Optane), however in a practical (rather than academic) sense, it doesn’t really matter; if Optane/3D XPoint delivers even half the claims they are making, we’re set for a sea change in the way data is managed in the enterprise.  Imagine taking this technology and putting it onto the DIMM form factor (like NVDIMM products) and using it in servers, within storage arrays or other devices.  The possibilities are endless and will probably require significant changes to programming methodologies to fully exploit.  However let’s not jump the gun too much at this stage, and just finish with the hope that Intel are going to give us an interesting presentation.

Further Reading

 

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Written by Chris Evans

With 30+ years in IT, Chris has worked on everything from mainframe to open platforms, Windows and more. During that time, he has focused on storage, developed software and even co-founded a music company in the late 1990s. These days it's all about analysis, advice and consultancy.