Controlled remote access reviews of Optane SSD give qualified yes

But what about cost?


Analysis A burst of Optane memory reviews have come out, timed to coincide with Optane retail availability, but none of them answer the "Is it cost-effectively faster than flash?" question.

Optane is Intel's branded non-volatile 3D XPoint memory, which has lower latency access and higher endurance than NAND.

Earlier this month we saw reviews of the standalone 375GB P4800X Optane SSD, like one from PC Perspective which were based on remote access to an Optane SSD system in Intel's facilities, a server featuring a P4800X and a P3700 SSD for comparison. The PC Perspective reviewer notes: "It is worth pointing out that this testing method is not ideal and is not something we would have recommend or suggested to Intel."

The Anandtech P4800X review said: "3D XPoint memory has better endurance than NAND flash, but not enough to get away without wear levelling."

Interestingly the reviewer found: "3D XPoint memory does not have large multi-megabyte erase blocks, so a low-level format of the Optane SSD needs to directly write to the entire drive, which takes about as long as filling it sequentially. Thus, while a 2.4TB flash SSD can perform a low-level format in just over 13 seconds, the 375GB Optane SSD DC P4800X takes six minutes and 47 seconds. This is long enough that unsuspecting software tools or SSD reviewers will give up and assume that the drive has locked up."

The review points out that, "With limited capacity but the highest level of performance, this Optane SSD most closely fits the role of SLC NAND based SSDs," and says it's a fit for users needing consistently low latency, particularly with low queue depths. The endurance is not that great; "In terms of total petabytes written, the P4800X only has four-fifths the endurance of the SLC-based Micron P320h."

Prices for the P4800X look to be around $1,520, about $4/GB, more expensive than NAND GBs, but it's not yet available from etailers.

Anandtech's review concludes: "If your workload matches its strengths, the P4800X offers performance that cannot currently be provided by any other storage product. This means high throughput random access, as well as very strict latency requirements - the results Optane achieves for it's quality of service for latency on both reads and writes, especially in heavy environments with a mixed read/write workload, is a significant margin ahead of anything available on the market."

But ...

The Optane SSD is ultimately an expensive niche product. If you don't need high throughput random access with the strictest latency requirements, the Optane SSD DC P4800X may not be the best choice. It is very expensive compared to most flash-based SSDs.

It is a version one product and can be expected to improve as well as having more detailed information about its power consumption become available.

M.2 format Optane

Reviews such as those of PC Gamer and Ars Technica look at Intel's 16GB and 32GB Optane M.2 memory sticks and talk of $44 (16GB) and $77 (32GB) prices – more expensive than similar capacity NAND, less than similar capacity DRAM.

Such Optane memory is supported by Kaby Lake 200 series chipsets with Kaby Lake (7th generation Core) CPUs, as a cache for use in accelerating local disk drives; it is not a standalone SSD. The XPoint and disk form a single volume and data accessed via the cache has a dramatically lower latency than if it were accessed from disk, once the cache is loaded.

The reviewers were generally unable to do comparative tests of a similar function and cheaper NAND cache and disk, because the Kaby Lake B250 chipset used didn't support it. Although a comparison between a Samsung SSD and the Optane cache + HDD combo showed that the SSD was faster and more consistent, as it did not slow down whenever the cache had to be reloaded.

The Optane works as a write-back cache, with writes being cached in the Optane drive before being written, more slowly, to the paired disk drive.

Once Windows disk blocks were in the cache a Windows reboot took 20 seconds instead of the 56 seconds needed with a reboot from a 7,200rpm disk.

The reviewer said: "Random reads with short queue depths—the perfect workload for a cache drive—are clearly a strength of Optane relative to flash."

But a reboot from a Samsung 960 EVO SSD also took 20 seconds.

The reviewer's price thinking was revealing:

The 32GB Optane costs $77. The WD Black hard disk is $73 from Amazon right now. That's $150 in total. For $139, Amazon is selling a 250GB Samsung 960 EVO. Clearly, 250GB is not as big as 1TB. If you really need the space but you're really on a tight budget, maybe the hybrid is the way to go. But if 250GB is enough for your needs, the plain SSD is the better bet.

To be more explicit: "The 250GB SSD is going to provide a better experience (because it's always fast, rather than only sometimes fast), and it's going to do it at a lower cost."

Anandtech's reviewer cannot say that an XPoint-disk hybrid combo will be faster than a NAND-disk hybrid combo and suspects that it's not. The conclusion is that users will be better off using a full SSD rather than an Optane XPoint cache-spinning disk hybrid. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022