Intel announces new wave of Optane and 3D NAND SSDs

Today Intel is announcing updates for most of their SSD product lines. Their 3D NAND-based products are being updated to use Intel’s 144-layer QLC and TLC NAND. On the Optane side of the business, we have detailed specifications for the first product to use second-generation 3D XPoint memory, and an updated Optane Memory caching solution for client PCs. Intel has also revealed the codename for their third-generation Optane persistent memory modules, which will be launched with Sapphire Rapids Xeon processors.

  • SSD D7-P5510 – Datacenter NVMe, 144L TLC
  • SSD D5-P5316 – Datacenter NVMe, 144L QLC
  • SSD 670p – Customer / consumer NVMe, 144L QLC
  • Optane SSD P5800X – Datacenter NVMe, second generation 3D XPoint
  • Optane memory H20 – Customer NVMe, 144L QLC + 3D XPoint
  • Optane Persistent Memory 300 Series: Crow Pass – 3D XPoint DIMMs

Some of these products have already started shipping and will be officially launched this month, while others are only announced today and will launch in 2021, with full specifications and pricing announced closer to launch.

144L 3D NAND for Datacenter SSDs

The first two SSD announcements are updates for Intel’s data center SSDs with 3D NAND. The new D7-P5510 uses 144L 3D TLC NAND and is the successor to the D7-P5500 which uses 96L TLC. Since the P5500 was an OEM product and not widespread through the channel, the P5510 will also serve as the successor to the P4510 for the portion of the customer base. Intel has not announced a 144L replacement for the D7-P5600, the higher-overprovisioning counterpart of the P5500.

Utilizing Intel’s 144L QLC NAND, the new D5-P5316 SSDs are 15.36 TB and 30.72 TB capacities in U.2 or E1.L form factors. The E1.L version allows Intel to achieve the original purpose of the “Ruler” form factor by enabling 1PB of storage in a 1U server. As the P5316 replaces the older P4326 (64L QLC and PCIe gen3), it is a much more substantial upgrade than its predecessor than the TLC-based P5510. Aside from introducing Intel’s third-generation NVMe SSD controller for enterprise into their QLC product line, the major change brought by the P5316 is a major shift in the way the Flash Translation Layer works. The P5316 enables a 16x reduction in DRAM by modifying the Flash translation layer of the SSD to operate at 64 KB instead of 4K granularity. We’ve seen a few other business SSDs make these kinds of changes, like Western Digital’s Ultrastar DC SN340, which uses 32kB FTL granularity. The DRAM savings of a more coarse-grained FTL help make high-capacity SSDs more affordable, but this comes at the expense of performance and increasing write gain for small block size random writes. The general trend in the industry is to use NVMe Zoned Namespaces for such drives, completely avoiding arbitrary writes rather than relying on host software to be careful about issuing small-block IOs. However, Intel doesn’t seem ready to take this approach just yet.

Both the TLC-based P5510 and QLC-based P5316 use the same controller platform as Intel’s other P5000 series SSDs announced earlier this year. Those drives introduced Intel’s third-generation business NVMe SSD controller, their first supporting PCIe 4.0. The new 144L drives don’t really push the performance or feature set any further, but will be more widely available and should be cheaper than the 96L drives. The TLC-based P5510 has already been customer tested for qualification and will ship for revenue by the end of this year. The QLC-based P5316 is sampling and will be available in the first half of 2021.

SSD 670p: 144L Consumer QLC

Intel continues with the consumer SSD business, introducing the 670p QLC NVMe SSD in the first quarter of 2021. This follows in the footsteps of the 660p and 665p with a new update to newer 3D QLC NAND, and also brings an SSD. controller update. on this product line. However, it is still only a PCIe gen3 product. Intel will reintroduce the 512 GB capacity that was missing in the 665p, but they are not adding more than 2 TB yet. Detailed performance specs and pricing will be shared closer to the launch of the 670p.

Intel is tweaking the behavior of dynamic SLC caching with the new 670p. While the maximum and minimum SLC cache size do not change, Intel has managed to improve the cache size that will be available for a partially filled drive: a half-full 670p still has nearly the maximum available SLC cache size, and the cache size is not reached until the disc is more than 85% full. This probably won’t change for simple benchmarks that write continuously until the cache runs out and performance diminishes, but it will help real-world use where writes come in bursts.

Optane SSD P5800X: Alder Stream arrives

Intel’s highly anticipated second-generation Optane Enterprise SSD, codenamed Alder Stream, finally ships as the P5800X. This is the first product to use second generation 3D XPoint memory, and it also has an updated controller to support PCIe 4.0. The P5800X pushes the boundaries of the performance available through a PCIe 4.0 x4 interface with sequential read, random read, and random write, all supported at more or less line speed, and sequential write only a bit slower at 6.2 GB / s . And while 1.5M IOPS for random read or random write is already very impressive, the P5800X can even get 1.8M IOPS on a 70/30 mix – only possible because PCIe is a full-duplex interface. Intel has also made optimizations for single sector 512-byte random reads, which can reach 4.6 million IOPS. (Flash-based SSDs are usually unable to provide higher IOPS for 512B reads than 4kB reads, and many even have significantly lower performance for small block IO.)

The first generation Optane DC P4800X was launched with a write time of 30 DWPD, later increased to 60 DWPD. The new P5800X further increases the write time to 100 DWPD. The capacities vary from 400 GB to 3.2 TB.

Optane memory H20

The customer / consumer-facing portion of Intel’s Optane product family has shrunk significantly. They no longer do Optane M.2 SSDs for use as primary storage or cache drives, and no mention has yet been made of an enthusiastically oriented derivative of the P5800X to replace the Optane SSD 900P and 905P (if Intel has such a product, they probably won’t announce this until they deliver a desktop platform that supports PCIe 4.0). The only customer Optane product Intel has been talking about lately is the Optane Memory H10 hybrid drive which consists of a QLC NVMe SSD and an Optane SSD on the same M.2 card. A successor is now on its way: the Optane Memory H20 is scheduled for Q2 2021, with updates on the QLC side likely to reflect the updates from the 670p, and a new controller on the Optane half of the drive. The H20 will still be a PCIe gen3 solution, so we’ll likely continue to see performance on the NAND side limited by only having access to two of the four PCIe lanes. Intel is also increasing the platform requirements: an 11th generation Core U series mobile processor and 500 series chipset, and Intel RST driver version 18.1 or higher. When the H10 launched, Intel had laid the groundwork for support on their desktop platforms, but this effort was discontinued when the H10 became an OEM product. The H20 has been a mobile OEM part from the outset, so platform compatibility requirements aren’t as important as for a retail SSD.

The Optane Memory H20 will be available with 512 GB or 1 TB QLC NAND flash memory, each combined with 32 GB 3D XPoint memory.

Optane Persistent Memory 300 Series: Crow Pass

Intel’s Optane Persistent Memory products (3D XPoint in a DIMM form factor) are currently on the second generation 200 Series Barlow Pass, supported by Cooper Lake and upcoming Ice Lake Xeon platforms. The 200 series Optane Persistent Memory modules still use first generation 3D XPoint memory. Intel has now revealed that the next generation on the roadmap is code-named Crow Pass, which will likely be branded as the 300 series. The Crow Pass modules are launched for use with Intel’s Sapphire Rapids Xeon processors. Those are expected to use DDR5 memory, so Crow Pass will be a major update to the Optane Persistent Memory interface. Crow Pass should also bring second-generation 3D XPoint memory to the DIMM form factor, so all in all, this is likely a much more significant update than the relatively minor enhancements made by the 200 series.

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