At IDF Shenzhen, Intel talked more about 3D XPoint (spoken cross-point). Initially launched in July of last year, 3D XPoint is essentially a form of phase change memory which has speeds closer to that of DRAM.
It can be addressed at the byte level, unlike flash which transfers in pages (~8KB) and erases in blocks (~6MB). There have been a few demos since the initial launch, and this morning there was another:
It is great to see XPoint / Optane technology being demonstrated again, but as far as demos go, this was not the best / fairest example that Intel could have put together. First of all, the 'NAND SSD' they are using is a Thunderbolt 3 connected external, which was clearly bottlenecked badly somewhere else in the chain (when was the last time you saw a 6 Gbit SATA SSD limited to only 283 MB/s?). Also, using SATA for the NAND example while using PCIe x4 NVMe for the Optane example seems a bit extreme to me.
The Optane side of the demo is seen going 1.94 GB/s. That is an impressive figure for sure, but it is important to note that a faster Intel 'NAND SSD' product has already been shipping for over a year:
Yes, the P3700 (reviewed by us here), can reach the speeds seen in this demo, as evidenced by this ATTO run on one of our 1.6TB samples:
Looking at the P3700 specs, we can see that the 2TB model performs even better and would likely beat the Optane SSD used in today's demo:
Further, in the IDF 2015 demo (where they launched the Optane brand), Intel showed off Optane's random IO performance:
This demo showed 464,300 4K random IOPS, and if you do the math, that works out to 1.9 GB/s *worth of random IO*, which is far more impressive than sequentials that basically match that of the current generation NVMe product of the same form factor and interface.
I'm still happy to see these demos happen, as it means we are absolutely going to see 3D XPoint in our hands sooner than later. That said, I'd also like to see demos that better demonstrate the strengths of the technology, because if today's demo was comparing apples to apples, it would have shown a P3700 matching the speed of Optane, which does not make the previously stated 1000x speed improvement nearly as obvious as it should be presented.