Intel Pits Optane SSDs Against NAND SSDs

Intel's Optane PyramidOnly a week after announcing its Optane Enterprise SSDs Intel has launched m.2-format Optane SSDs for end users.  It appears that we are at the onset of an Optane surge.

These SSDs communicate over the PCIe bus bringing more of the 3D XPoint’s performance to the user than would a SATA interface.

Pricing is $44 for a 16GB module and $77 for 32GB.  That’s $2.75 and $2.40 (respectively) per gigabyte, or about half the price of DRAM.  Intel says that these products will ship on April 24.

What’s most interesting about Intel’s Optane pitch is that the company appears to be telling the world that SSDs are no longer important with its use of the slogan: “Get the speed, keep the capacity.” This message is designed to directly address the quandary that faces PC buyers when considering an SSD: Do they want an SSD’s speed so much that they are willing to accept either lower storage capacity or a higher price than an HDD-based system?  So far the majority of new PC buyers continue to steer clear of SSDs, opting for the higher capacity and lower price of an HDD.

This behavior is nothing new.  Objective Analysis has monitored this trend for at least seven years, and has witnessed a very gradual migration towards SSDs, but nothing at all similar to the overnight conversion that SSD makers were anticipating almost a decade ago.  Thanks to our deep understanding of this space our clients know why this migration is so slow.  Surprisingly enough, few others grasp this concept.

The Optane roll-out doesn’t make much mention of SSDs, as this post’s graphic illustrates.  Note that only one of the call-outs, at the very top of the midrange systems, mentions SSDs.  In fact, the benchmarks Intel used this week to tout Optane’s performance compares systems with Optane SSDs against systems with no SSDs at all.  We’ll discuss these benchmarks in some depth in a later post.

The SSD Guy has been puzzled about Intel’s Optane campaign since the company embarked on it a few months ago.  I would think that Intel’s NAND SSD team would be complaining loudly since the Optane crew is disparaging their product.

Over time the entire industry will come to the understanding that both NAND and Optane fit into the memory/storage hierarchy and can be used together to provide the best performance at the lowest price.  For the  time being, though, it looks as if Intel plans to pit Optane against other potentially complementary technologies as the company works to establish a market for this new and different memory type.

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