Intel shows off 3D XPoint Memory in SSD-DIMM Form Factor

Intel and Micron announce 3D XPoint Memory - 1000x Faster Than NAND

Intel shows off 3D XPoint Memory in SSD-DIMM Form Factor


Last month Intel Micron Micron unveiled 3D XPoint technology, a non-volatile memory technology that has the potential to revolutionize memory devices, applications and services that benefits from fast access to large sets of data.

Intel’s 3D XPoint technology is a major breakthrough in memory process technology and the first new memory category since the introduction of NAND flash in 1989, bringing to the market a Non-Volatile memory which sits almost exactly in between existing NAND and DRAM technologies with the benefits of both.   

Today Intel announced that this new memory technology will be making it’s way into consumer SSDs in 2016 and will offer up to 5.5x the speed of Intel’s NAND based DC P3700 NVMe SSDS under most workloads and up to 7x faster when under a que depth of 1, which has traditionally been where traditional SSDs are at their weakest.


Intel and Micron announce 3D XPoint Memory - 1000x Faster Than NAND


“For decades, the industry has searched for ways to reduce the lag time between the processor and data to allow much faster analysis,” said Rob Crooke, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group. “This new class of non-volatile memory achieves this goal and brings game-changing performance to memory and storage solutions.”

“One of the most significant hurdles in modern computing is the time it takes the processor to reach data on long-term storage,” said Mark Adams, president of Micron. “This new class of non-volatile memory is a revolutionary technology that allows for quick access to enormous data sets and enables entirely new applications.”


The performance benefits of 3D XPoint technology can be used to greatly enhance the PC experience, allowing consumers to enjoy faster interactive social media and collaboration as well as more immersive gaming experiences since this storage medium has offers both faster speeds and lower latency than traditional NAND based SSDs.  The non-volatile nature of the technology also makes it a great choice for a variety of low-latency storage applications since data is not erased when the device is powered off.

This new type of memory could also be used instead of DRAM for certain devices, with the potential for storage and system memory to be available from the same memory pool.



One of the key things about Intel’s 3D XPOINT memory is that it can be used as both a DRAM like bit-addressable device or as a block storage device like traditional NAND based SSDs, which opens up a lot of options for this type of storage.

Below you can see benchmarks from Intel which shows how fast Intel say that their 3D XPoint memory is when compared to NVMe NAND based SSDs (left) and how fast that they were found to be using Oracle Software on an enterprise grade Linux distribution. With over 4.42x the IOPS performance and 6.44X the latency performance we can see that this form of SSD is vastly superior to traditional storage devices, even modern NVMe storage devices. 

      “This is a huge performance improvement,” “I think all of us, for any kind of I/O operations, that could see a 5X to 8X improvement in speed – that’s what we have been looking for. It is an improvement in both performance and latency. But there is really more to this technology. Intel Optane SSDs provide about 200X less variability, and that is an additional benefit that you can count on for your datacenter.” 


Intel shows off 3D XPoint Memory in SSD-DIMM Form Factor  Intel shows off 3D XPoint Memory in SSD-DIMM Form Factor  


One thing that was also shown was that this type of memory was producible in a SSD-DIMM form factor, which will allow PC users to have storage solutions which are directly addressable by the CPU, giving a storage device performance which approaches that of DRAM, without the volatility. 

It will certainly be very interesting to see how this type of memory compares to existing DDR4 memory, as the price/GB 3D XPoint DIMMS are expected to be cheaper, though with lower performance. In servers this new memory type opens up the option to have servers with Terabytes of addressable memory, which opens up a lot of options.  


Intel shows off 3D XPoint Memory in SSD-DIMM Form Factor



When it comes to SSDs we know that NAND memory has it’s own advantages and disadvantages, yes it is fast, but when compared to DRAM it simply doesn’t compete in terms of speed, however DRAM have it’s own disadvantages, it is volatile, which means that it loses all of it’s stored data when powered off and it is a lot more expensive than NAND when it comes to cost/GB.

Intel and Micron have just announced 3D XPoint memory, a whole new memory architecture that is seemingly the best of both worlds, if not better, with 10x the storage density of DRAM and over 1000x the speed and 1000x the endurance of NAND. 

This opens up a wide range of possibilities, like using XPoint memory as a CPUs memory pool and a PCs storage space at the same time or simply creating a Storage drive with RAMDISK like speeds without the volatility.

Manufacturing costs for this new type of memory is going to be between that of traditional NAND and DRAM chips. Remember that today DDR3 DRAM chips are over 10x the price of NAND chips per GB, so NAND still has the price/ capacity lead by a significant margin.

With storage capable memory that is this fast on the horizon, it is unsurprising that Intel have been trying so hard to get others to adopt the ultra fast NVMe standard, as simply put 3D XPoint memory will need all of the speed that the NVMe standard can provide. 

When we see this new memory type become available in SSDs we will no doubt see record breaking performance, though the price of this new memory technology will have to decrease to become more competetive with traditional NAND and upcoming 3D vNAND based SSD storage.   


You can join the discussion on Intel and Micron’s Ultra fast 3D XPoint Memory and upcoming Optane SSD-DIMMS on the OC3D Forums.