For all the leaps that computing technology has made of late, data storage remains the bottleneck of performance and hasn’t evolved significantly of late. Sure, SSDs are faster than HDDs, but it seems we’re stuck on those. Two years ago, Intel and Micron said “not anymore”, and the first consumable fruits of that labor has finally landed. Introducing the Intel Optane SSD DC 4800X, the first commercially available “3D XPoint” SSD. Sadly, it’s not something you can buy off shelves, unless you happen to be a well-financed business.
There are two types of memory in computing (three actually, but L caches are different beasts). There’s volatile memory, more popularly known as RAM or DRAM in some cases. And then there’s the non-volatile or persistent ones, like HDDs and SDDs. Of the two, volatile memory is fast but expensive to make in large capacities. SSDs may be faster than HDDs, but they still don’t reach the same speeds as DRAM.
As you can probably imagine by now, that’s where the Intel Optane SSDs come in. Utilizing the still mysterious 3D XPoint technology, this new breed of SSDs promise the same read/write speeds as DRAM but at capacities near that of your standard data storage.
As you can also probably imagine, the Intel Optane SSDs aren’t targeted yet at regular consumers. Its primary beneficiaries are data centers and companies that require high-speed storage and store massive amounts of data. Those usually include activities like artificial intelligence and machine learning, medical records, search engines, and the like.
That also means that Intel Optane SSDs aren’t going to be cheap. In fact, the Intel Optane SSD DC 4800X series starts at $1,520, and that’s for only 375 GB of storage. 750 GB and 1 TB SSDs will also be made available soon, for also astronomical prices.