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Intel demos 144-layer QLC NAND for data centre SSDs

by Mark Tyson on 26 September 2019, 13:11

Tags: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaeeau

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Intel took part in a memory and storage summit in South Korea yesterday and made a number of important announcements with regard to its NAND and Optane technology plans. As well as talking about the technology milestones it has recently passed, Intel sketched out its investments and plans for next gen storage and memory products. A lot of the talk was framed as solutions for cloud, AI and network edge applications.

Intel's current SSD 660p QLC drives (64-layer NAND) are soon to be replaced by the 665p drives which feature 96-layer QLC NAND – claimed to be denser and faster. Following this, Intel intends to intro 144-layer QLC NAND based drives retaining the 3D floating gate memory cell design – touted as providing greater reliability than Charge Trap tech.

Moving on Intel hopes to push densities further by introducing 5 bit per cell NAND flash (AKA PLC or Penta-Level Cell). This increase in density is still under test in the lab and its release is contingent upon those results. Toshiba is also experimenting with PLC NAND implementations. Both the extra layers and PLC should provide a positive impact on end-user capacities and pricing per GB.

Intel's second generation of Optane DC persistent memory devices are codenamed 'Barlow Pass'. These devices are scheduled for release alongside Intel's next generation Cooper Lake 14nm and Ice Lake 10nm Xeon Scalable processors in 2020. As with the first generation Optane, the greatest utility value is said to reside between RAM and NAND: where "DRAM isn't large enough, and SSDs aren't fast enough".

Importantly for enthusiasts, in addition to this DIMM-based persistent memory hardware advancement, Intel is working with Microsoft to add support for the tech in client versions of Windows. However, we don't have a precise timescale for its introduction, it will be roughly another year or two.

Sources: Intel News Blog and PCWorld.

 


HEXUS Forums :: 15 Comments

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Stability, and Ultra fast large storage. Yes!
I take it, like Optane at the moment, this is going to have limited benefits for most of us?

I can't see how, for normal use, having Optane between RAM and SSD will make any major difference that can't be had from just adding more RAM at a substantially lower cost?

If there's a proper benefit to be had, I'd love to try it out but I don't want to waste money on stuff that is going to make zero difference for my rather mundane uses.
> in addition to this DIMM-based persistent memory hardware advancement,
> Intel is working with Microsoft to add support for the tech in client versions of Windows

I'd like to see what good system programmers would do with 4 DIMM slots in quad-channel mode, and 2 or 4 more DIMM slots populated with Optane DIMMs e.g. a bootable ramdisk appears feasible, with all the required changes to a BIOS/UEFI subsystem. With Optane DIMMs installed, a “Format RAM” option could be added to a BIOS menu, and chosen during a fresh OS install. Once a fresh OS install is finished, the BIOS would add that “ramdisk” to the list of bootable drives.
philehidiot
I take it, like Optane at the moment, this is going to have limited benefits for most of us?

I can't see how, for normal use, having Optane between RAM and SSD will make any major difference that can't be had from just adding more RAM at a substantially lower cost?

If there's a proper benefit to be had, I'd love to try it out but I don't want to waste money on stuff that is going to make zero difference for my rather mundane uses.

More layers drives down cost, so I'm sure consumer drives will see some benefit.

As for Optane, it is cheaper than RAM, but more expensive than flash.

OFC if Intel manage 5 bits per cell that is going to drive cost down but make performance way worse than current SSDs and probably decrease lifespan as well. That makes an Optane middle layer an easier sell, if it wasn't easier for SSD makers to just include a single level flash block in the SSD to give the boost there (which ISTR some already do).

But yes, for most of us the performance change won't be noticeable in the slightest.


MRFS
> in addition to this DIMM-based persistent memory hardware advancement,
> Intel is working with Microsoft to add support for the tech in client versions of Windows

I'd like to see what good system programmers would do with 4 DIMM slots in quad-channel mode, and 2 or 4 more DIMM slots populated with Optane DIMMs e.g. a bootable ramdisk appears feasible, with all the required changes to a BIOS/UEFI subsystem. With Optane DIMMs installed, a “Format RAM” option could be added to a BIOS menu, and chosen during a fresh OS install. Once a fresh OS install is finished, the BIOS would add that “ramdisk” to the list of bootable drives.

You've said that before, but PCs just don't work like that. The BIOS doesn't have an option to partition a normal disk, let alone format it which would involve knowing *how* to format the drive which changes across Windows versions before you start thinking about Linux and BSD users etc. That is just not the job of the BIOS.

Besides, Optane requires wear levelling, so if you drive it like a ramdisk your expensive Optane sticks would be dead in hours. So a good system programmer would drive it like an Optane disk knowing the properties of the silicon to make the best of the good properties and tip-toe around the bad ones. I believe that is what Intel have already done, so you can already boot from Optane (perhaps not in Windows yet, I wouldn't know) just not involving the BIOS because that would be wrong.
> The BIOS doesn't have an option to partition a normal disk, let alone format it

Correct: no current BIOS has that functionality (that we know of).
That's why we proposed adding that feature to a BIOS, by way of an experiment.
Also, UEFI subsystems are intended to add functionality which a BIOS lacks.
FYI, here's the provisional patent application which we wrote several years ago:

http://supremelaw.org/patents/bios.enhancements/provisional.application.1.htm


> if you drive it like a ramdisk your expensive Optane sticks would be dead in hours.

No.
The suggestion is to “drive it like a Windows C: partition”, otherwise transparent to the system.
The 4 x DDR4 DIMM slots in quad-channel model would also be available for a heavy-use ramdisk.

Because Optane is a third layer, tucked between DRAM and NAND, the system designer
has more choices for memory management, in general.

A good calculation is to compare the raw bandwidth of DDR4-3200 with x16 PCIe 4.0 in “4x4” mode.
You might be surprised with the results of that calculation.