Intel servers to hit 4.5TB of memory per socket

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Intel servers to hit 4.5TB of memory per socket

Intel is making a greater push into the data centre storage business with new storage and memory devices the company claims will speed software.

The company's push relies on a dual-port version of its Optane storage module and a new member of its “ruler” family of high-density flash storage modules that complies with the Enterprise & Data Center SSD Form Factor (EDSFF) standard.

The vendor complemented those with the introduction of its new Optane Data Centre Persistent Memory, a new module that provides performance approaching that of DRAM but that will not lose memory if the module loses power.

The new storage and memory offerings are targeted at the same mission-critical applications that Intel is targeting with its new second-generation Xeon Scalable processor, said Navin Shenoy, executive vice president and general manager of Intel's Data Centre Group.

The first new storage product, the Optane Data Center SSD, is a dual-port version of the Optane storage module already in the market, Shenoy said. The Optane DC SSD is aimed at mission-critical applications.

The second is a new version of Intel's “ruler” series of flash storage drives. The new ruler features QLC NAND flash memory, and brings a petabyte of capacity into a very small form factor, he said. Intel also introduced its Optane Data Centre Persistent Memory to go with Intel's newly-released second-generation Xeon Scalable processor.  

In its largest configuration, the Optane DC Persistent Memory module contains 512 GBs of memory, which Shenoy called the largest-capacity memory module in the world. "We expect server system capacity to scale to 4.5 terabytes per socket, or 36 TBs in an 8-socket system. … And this larger capacity allows us to unlock performance to reduce those bottlenecks."

The Optane DC Persistent Memory module, together with the new second-generation Xeon scalable processor, is aimed at disrupting memory economics, said Jennifer Huffstetler, vice president and general manager of Intel's data centre product management team.

Performance-wise, the Optane DC Persistent Memory modules sit between high-performance SSDs and extremely low-latency DRAM, but without the DRAM disadvantage of losing memory if the power is lost, Huffstetler told CRN USA.

"We see customers struggle to scale because DRAM is so expensive," she said. "The first large use case for it is to provide a big and affordable way to deliver a greater than 1.2-X performance increase per dollar of total cost of ownership. The second use case is infrastructure consolidation. With large, affordable memory, we're seeing customers consolidate workloads, getting more virtual machines per server and using fewer servers."

Alper Ilkbahar, vice president and general manager for Intel's data centre memory and storage solutions, told CRN USA that the Optane DC Persistent Memory modules provide performance about 1,000 times that of the NAND memory used to make SSDs.

The Optane DC Persistent Memory comes with two modes of operation, Ilkbahar said.

The first is memory mode, which when paired with the new Cascade Lake second-generation Xeon Scalable processors, allows it to use the server's DRAM as a high-speed cache which automatically moves data not immediately needed to the Optane modules.

"The software is unaware of what's going on," he said. The processor seamlessly manages the memory tiers. There's no changes needed to the applications."

The second is the App Direct mode in which software applications that have been optimised for Optane DC Persistent Memory can automatically tier the data between the Optane modules and DRAM, Ilkbahar said.

"The software decides which data goes where," he said. "This offers full performance. The only drawback is that the software applications must be optimised."

Intel is working with ISVs whose applications work at the data access layer to make the optimisation possible, Ilkbahar said. The first to make the change are operating system and providers and developers of hypervisors including VMware, Microsoft, and KVM, he said.

Other applications which take advantage of in-server memory, including SAP HANA, Redis, Arrow Spike, Apache Spark, and NetApp's new MAX Data have already done so as well, he said.

The Cascade Lake processors are required to use the Optane DC Persistent Memory, Ilkbahar said. Each processor has six channel, each of which has two slots. Only one of the two slots can be used for the Optane module, while the other is used for DDR4 DRAM, he said.  

The Optane DC Persistent Memory modules are available in 128-GB, 256-GB, and 512-GB versions, he said.

This article originally appeared at

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