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Intel Shares New Optical and 3D NAND Roadmaps



At a press conference today in South Korea (?!), Intel shared plans for many of its next range of storage products, including Optane's second generation corporate SSDs and Optane DC permanent memory modules. They also announced that their next generation 3D NAND flash memory will use 144 layers and will launch first with QLC-based SSDs, which will be followed later by TLC-based SSDs.

It appears that the new Optane products are still using first generation 3D XPoint memory, although Intel does not currently confirm this. The Intel-Micron partnership that produces 3D XPoint memory and many generations of NAND flash memory is already over, but Intel has announced no plans to produce large volumes of 3D XPoint outside the Utah-based IMFT plant that Intel supports in the divorce, Intel says " 3D XPoint Technology Line at a facility in Rio Rancho, NM, but so far this is only considered as an R&D location, not a large-scale manufacturing center. Last we heard, the long-term plan was to move 3D XPoint production to China.

Official Electron Microscopic Imaging of 3D XPoint Dual-Axis Memory

Intel's Optane DC Permanent Memory that connects directly to the memory controllers of server processors using DIMM form factor came a little late arriving on the market with the current generation Cascade Lake-SP instead of the Skylake-SP as originally planned. These first generation Optane DCPMs are also known as the Apache Pass code. Their receiver will be the Barlow Pass modules, which are scheduled to coincide with Cooper Lake (14 nm) and Ice Lake (10 nm) server processors, scheduled for 2020. Additionally, Intel's roadmap expands for at least two more generations unnamed DCPM modules to be paired with Sapphire Rapids processors and their receivers (s), respectively. Based on previous statements from Intel, Sapphire Rapids and third generation Optane DCPM modules should use the DDR5 interface. In the near future, current Apache Pass Optane DCPMs will soon arrive on the market for high-end workstations, along with Cascade Lake. In the long run, Intel is working with Microsoft to lay the foundation for ongoing memory support in Windows client editions, but Intel is not ready to make specific promises to provide ongoing memory support on consumer hardware platforms.

Optane "Alder Stream" SSD vs. Optane DC P4800X and SSD DC P4610

By NVMe SSD, Intel will unveil the second generation of corporate Optane SSD in 2020. The original Optane SSD DC P4800X (with codenamed Coldstream) will be replaced by Alder Stream next year. Intel promises big improvements in performance, but is trying to see how big a leap we can expect; they provided a graph that cuts off the end of the Alder Stream curve, but states that it should at least come close to doubling the random IO results. (Intel's graphics are for 70/30 mixed 4kB arbitrary IO.) It wouldn't be surprising to see PCIe 4.0 support given the longevity of Intel's new Optane SSD controller, but the performance data Intel has shared so far, I no longer require more than the current generation PCIe 3 x4 interface. Following Alder Stream, it is reasonable to expect that enthusiast makers will replace the Optane SSD 900P and 905P and possibly replace the dual-port Optane SSD DC D4800X, but Intel has not yet mentioned them.

Notably missing from the Intel Presentation is something new for Optane based users. They are still promoting the Optane Memory H10 two-in-one SSD, but the second generation of custom Optane M.2 devices (Optane Memory M15 and Optane SSD 815P) have been officially canceled. The 815P is dead because the 118GB is just too small to be a stand-alone SSD competitive, and the M15 is dead because there aren't yet enough systems that come with mechanical hard drives to support another generation of cache drives. The current Optane Memory M10 and Optane SSD 800P are still ongoing.

3D NAND Development

As for flash based SSDs, Intel's presentation focuses mainly on QLC NAND. Intel's SSD 660p is the most successful consumer QLC drive to date and will soon be replaced by 665p, which will move to 96-layer QLC from the current 64-layer QLC NAND. This is not a complete product listing with specifications or exact release date, but we anticipate that it will not result in major performance changes and will arrive by the end of the year.

The next generation of 3D NAND after 96 Intel layers will be 144 layers. This will be the first generation of QLCs, retaining the same 1Tb array capacity as their 96 and 64 layer QLCs. Intel is still committed to the design of floating-door cells with 3D floating doors, which they claim provides superior data retention for the charging flash design used by most of its competitors. Intel has not stated whether they are taking over the construction of strings across the two decks, but it looks likely they reach 144 layers with something like 72 + 72 layer design rather than 48 + 48 + 48.

Intel followed in the steps to some of their competitors by outputting the object 5 bits per cell NAND flash to push a density above QLC (4 bits per cell) NAND flash. Their report is similar to what Toshiba said during a flash memory summit: they work in a lab, but have not determined whether it is possible for real products.

The next round of SSDs based on Intel corporate data centers / data centers will arrive in 2020, including the 144L QLC SSD. We still don't have model numbers, just code names. Arbordale + is tricky to speculate because the original Arbordale code name was only used internally and did not lead to any delivery products, so all we know is that it will be a 144L QLC product. The Cliffdale-R will be a 96L TLC upgrade of the current Cliffdale SSD DC P46xx / 45xx family. This probably means that 144L TLC corporate SSDs will not arrive in 2020 and their 144L node will be QLC for just a long time. Cliffdale-R should be the first SSDs in the new Intel naming scheme to occupy the SS7 D7 stack. Related Reading


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