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3D XPoint™ Technology Shall Bring the Storage Memory to a New Era

April 20th, 2016 by DVDFab_Malcolm 12,910 views

Last week, at the Intel Developers Forum 2016 in Shenzhen, China, Intel demonstrated Optane Solid State Drive technology, its new breakthrough in the storage memory field. During the showcase time, Intel’s senior vice president and general manager of the Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group Rob Crooke performed to transfer a file with an amazingly speed of approximately 2GB per second, which successfully wowed the audience. The Optane SSDs Intel showed at the Forum was based on a breakthrough technology named 3D XPoint technology, which was jointly developed by Intel and Micron and first announced back in July 2015.


According to Crooke, 3D XPoint technology performs 1000X faster and 1000X more durable than the conventional NAND, and it can provide up to 10 times more density than traditional DRAM memory products. However, unlike DRAM, 3D XPoint is non-volatile which means, all the data are kept safe and intact even when the device is powered off. Another great advantage of 3D XPoint is that it differentiates itself from the NAND technology by ditching the transistors, and allowing people to access small bytes of information instead of large blocks of information. These distinct pros make it possible for the 3D XPoint to be used even as the system memory, as well as a solution for high-performance storage as seen in Intel’s Optane SSDs.



During the demonstration, Mr. Crooke set up two desktop computers with one carrying a traditional NAND-based SSD and connected via a Thunderbolt 3 cord, and the other housing Intel’s own Optane SSD and an extra external Optane SSD connected via a Thunderbolt 3 cord. It is quite obvious that the major and only difference between the two configurations is that the former uses the conventional NAND technology and the latter uses the newest 3D XPoint technology. Guess the results will be plain and simple and the turnout also proves such an assumption. The sample file used in the showcase contains 26GB of data, and it showed that from the internal hard drive to the external hard drive, it copied at an astonishingly high speed of 1.94GB per second on the latter PC, which is quite close the theoretical 2GB/s and it only took less than 20 seconds to complete the transfer of that 26GB data, while on the NAND based PC, the transmission speed averages at somewhere about 287MB per second. The gap was huge.


“Now with the growing size of data today, we can see dramatic reductions in file transfer times and loading times. This technology will be essential for any time-critical application,” Mr. Crooke commented after the demonstration. He also noted that the Optane SSD used in the demonstration computer is still an earlier sample of Intel’s Optane prototype, suggesting that the transmission speed with the final version could be a lot faster than 2GB per second. If this is true, it could be a real revolution to the storage and memory industry and if successfully used in the mass production in the near future, Intel and Micron shall top the leadership in this field, leaving other competitors like Toshiba, Western Digital, SanDisk, Seagate and the likes far behind.



In general, the pros of the 3D XPoint technology can be summarized as fast, inexpensive and non-volatile, according to the explained details from Intel’s website, low latency is the key when it comes to memory performance, as we already know, NAND latency is measured in tens of microseconds, while 3D XPoint™ technology is measured in tens of nanoseconds; and to make the 3D XPoint™ technology less expensive and affordable to the mass consumers, Intel packs lots of capacity into a tiny footprint, by slicing submicroscopic layers of materials into columns each containing a memory cell and selector, then connecting them with an innovative cross point structure of perpendicular wires; computer memory will soon enter the next era, the Non-volatile memory (NVM), which is capable of retrieving stored data even in cases like a power outage, and 3D XPoint has that covered.


When it finally comes to point of putting the theory into practice, Intel says it will not be long before consumers see computers or even mobile devices shipped with Optane SSDs based on the 3D XPoint technology enter the markets. Actually, it was Intel’s initial plan to make its Optane SSDs available in the early 2016, and now they’ve made it. As to how long it still needs to mass produce those Optane SSDs, detailed are still not available for now. Good news is that Apple might be interested in putting the Optane SSDs in its forthcoming Macbooks, maybe even in the new iterations of iPads in the near future when Intel makes it possible to bring the 3D XPoint technology to the tablet computing sector. Speaking of iPad, if you want to watch your DVDs, Blu-rays and other videos on your iPad, remember the DVD ripper software, Blu-ray ripper software and video converter software from DVDFab can help you on that target.


Considering that the 3D XPoint technology is the first true revolution in the storage memory world in more than 25 years since the introduction of the NAND technology back in 1989, it’s quite understandable that Intel wants to make sure everything is worked out before pushing a premature technology when the market is not ready for it yet, until then, it’s okay for us consumers to be a little bit more patience, and we are just a few months away from welcoming a brand new era!