Earlier this year Intel released Optane, their new type of system memory. To understand better let’s see the basic types of memory/storage. The closer to the processor unit is the DRAM, what is a fast, low latency and volatile memory. It is the fastest type of data storage, but it losts all stored data when it’s powered down. It’s generally used for storing data for opened applications and the running OS. The problem nowadays is the high price for DRAM memory, due to the short of supply from the manufacturers. DRAM is about 7 times slower than the registers in the processor.
The next storage type is the NAND based storage, the SSD. It is significantly faster than it’s predecessor, the HDD, because it doesn’t have any moving parts to operate, but it’s speed falls short of the DRAM. NAND is considered about 10,000 times slower than the registers and thanks to it’s non-volatile nature, it keep the data stored when powered down. SSDs are now widely spread in personal, workstation PCs and servers alike. Usually you store the OS and the most frequently used application on an SSD and keep your data on the much bigger capacity HDD.
The slowest in the line is the good old HDD that is storing our data for decades. This is the most affordable, have the bigger capacity and the biggest in size due to the moving components. It is considered about 13,000,000 times slower than registers. HDD is also non-volatile, so you can safely store your data on this and don’t have to fear loosing it after powering down you system.
Intel’s Optane is in between the DRAM and the NAND storage. It’s speed is between the SSD’s and the DRAM, but it is non-volatile. You will experience much lower latency than using an SSD. They used a new method called 3D XPoint Memory Media, what enables a more dense and transistor less version of the DRAM.
Optane is also more affordable than DRAM. This is the first big advancement in memory technology for decades. This technology is a unique combination of 3D XPoint memory media, Intel Memory and Storage Controllers, Intel Interconnect IP and Intel software. Optane is compatible from 7th generation of Intel CPUs and up.
As for the usage, it is suggested to use it as a cache for your HDD to get SSD like speed. Using Intel’s software, the Optane module learns what data do you use the most and helps with loading speeds.
You won’t notice any significant differences at the first use, but at second and third time it really breaks the old loading times. However using Optane to boost your SSD speed will not bring any significant differences. Due to its great pricing it is a really nice option to have in datacenters to boost the HDD storage’s performance without changing the whole storage to SSD.