XPoint Storage Accelerator arrives in Kaby Lake ThinkPads in early 2017 as a really fast 16GB NVMe cache for its Intel RST RAID volume

Posted by Paul Braren on Dec 29 2016 (updated on Dec 30 2016) in
  • Storage
  • 3D XPoint is spoken as three dee cross point, see also IntelĀ® Optaneā„¢ Technology co-developed with Micron, who calls it QuantX Technology.

    PC Perspective has once again done a great job of covering the latest consumer storage technology in yesterday's article and podcast discussion.

    We don't yet know what month Optane products will begin to ship. What we do now know is that it appears Lenovo is first out with news of what secret storage acceleration sauce will be arriving in 2017 with the arrival of Intel's new 7th-generation Kaby Lake.

    PC Perspective Article

    2016-12-29_17-15-24
    • Lenovo Announces Updated ThinkPad Lineup Ahead of CES
      Dec 28 2016 by Sebastian Peak at PC Perspective:

      XPoint should offer enough of a performance boost (particularly for very small random access) to make for effective performance gains even over NVMe SSDs. Depending on how Intel tunes their RST driver to employ XPoint, we might see some impressive benefits, especially if the non-volatility is taken advantage of. Near instant wake from hibernates if the hiberfile is mostly cached on wake/boot, as an example.

      Something else worth considering, that is not present in the above leaked specs, is that Optane will very likely be able to handle <4KB random accesses extremely well...

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    Thoughts/Observations

    Anything that requires Intel RST never did work with VMware ESXi, something that comes up fairly often here at TinkerTry. Back in 2011, it's why folks like myself went with a VMware-HCL-supported RAID controller based on the LSI 9265-8i, featuring a high queue depth RAID, and an SSD cache. This OS-agnostic CacheCade never worked out so well for me, insisting on pricey/enterprise grade SSDs, for good reason. See also more details about the RSTe variant of RST here.

    "Flash" forward to the very recent arrival of the Samsung 960 PRO and EVO SSDs, and we're enjoying new performance highs from consumer M.2 NVMe, even under VMware ESXi, without the complexity, cost, cabling, (and resilience) of RAID.

    Turns out tomorrow might be coming sooner than many thought, in the form of a thin layer of XPoint to further accelerate our solid state experience. It also seems likely this sort of caching will take quite a while to work its way into the home-lab/affordable end of the Xeon product line, if ever. More about messy RST and NVMe at AnandTech.

    Samsung-960-EVO-1TB-offers-1024-Queue-Depth
    Samsung 960 EVO 1TB M.2 NVMe - unboxing & FLIR thermal testing during VMware 6.5 Win 10 VM cloning

    See also at TinkerTry

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    See also

    Leaked-Intel-Roadmap-Details-Upcoming-Optane-XPoint-SSDs-and-Storage-Accelerators
    • Leaked Intel Roadmap Details Upcoming Optane XPoint SSDs and Storage Accelerators
      Jun 13 2016 by Allyn Malventano at PC Perspective

    • Kaby Lake Systems With Intel Optane SSDs Coming Soon
      Dec 28 2016 by Billy Tallis at AnandTech

      Lenovo's new ThinkPads and competing high-end Kaby Lake systems will likely be the first appearance of 3D XPoint memory in the consumer PC market.
      ...
      At a high level, using Optane SSDs as a cache for hard drives is no different from the SSD caching Intel first introduced in 2011 with the Z68 chipset for Sandy Bridge processors and the Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) driver version 10.5. Branded by Intel as Smart Response Technology (SRT), their SSD caching implementation built on the existing RAID capabilities of RST to use a SSD as a block-level cache of a hard drive, operating as a write-back or write-through cache depending on the user's preference.