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Intel To Wind Down Optane Reminiscence Enterprise

It seems that the top could also be in sight for Intel’s beleaguered Optane reminiscence enterprise. Tucked inside a brutal Q2’2022 earnings launch for the corporate (extra on {that a} bit later in the present day) is a really curious assertion in a piece speaking about non-GAAP changes: In Q2 2022, we initiated the winding down of our Intel Optane reminiscence enterprise.  As effectively, Intel’s earnings report additionally notes that the corporate is taking a $559 Million “Optane stock impairment” cost this quarter.

Taking these things at face worth, it will appear that Intel is making ready to close down its Optane reminiscence enterprise and growth of related 3D XPoint expertise. To make sure, there’s a excessive diploma of nuance right here across the Optane identify and product traces – which is why we’re in search of clarification from Intel – as Intel has a number of Optane merchandise, together with “Optane reminiscence” “Optane persistent reminiscence” and “Optane SSDs”. None the much less, inside Intel’s earlier earnings releases and different monetary paperwork, the entire Optane enterprise unit has historically been known as their “Optane reminiscence enterprise,” so it will seem that Intel is certainly winding down the entire Optane enterprise unit, and never simply the Optane Reminiscence product.

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Following our request, Intel has despatched out a brief assertion on the Optane wind-down. Whereas not providing a lot in the best way of additional particulars on Intel’s exit, it does verify that Intel is certainly exiting your complete Optane enterprise.

We proceed to rationalize our portfolio in help of our IDM 2.0 technique. This consists of evaluating divesting companies which are both not sufficiently worthwhile or not core to our strategic targets. After cautious consideration, Intel plans to stop future product growth inside its Optane enterprise. We’re dedicated to supporting Optane clients by way of the transition.

First introduced by Intel in 2015, the corporate’s 3D XPoint reminiscence expertise was pitched because the convergence between DRAM and stable state storage. The distinctive, bit-addressable reminiscence makes use of section change expertise to retailer information, relatively than trapping electrons like NAND expertise. Consequently, 3D XPoint affords extremely excessive endurance – on the order of tens of millions of writes – in addition to very excessive random learn and write efficiency since its information doesn’t must be organized into comparatively massive blocks.

Intel, in flip, used 3D XPoint as the idea of two product lineups. For its datacenter clients, it provided Optane Persistent Reminiscence, which packaged 3D XPoint into DIMMs as a partial alternative for conventional DRAMs. Optane DIMMs provided larger bit density than DRAM, and mixed with its persistent, non-volatile nature made for an fascinating providing for methods that wanted huge working reminiscence units and may gain advantage from its non-volatile nature, corresponding to database servers. In the meantime Intel additionally used 3D XPoint as the idea of a number of storage merchandise, together with high-performance SSDs for the server and shopper market, and as a smaller high-speed cache to be used with slower NAND SSDs.

3D XPoint’s distinctive attributes have additionally been a problem for Intel because the expertise launched, nonetheless. Regardless of being designed for scalability by way of layer stacking, 3D XPoint manufacturing prices have continued to be larger than NAND on a per-bit foundation, making the tech considerably costlier than even higher-performance SSDs. In the meantime Optane DIMMs, whereas filling a singular area of interest, had been equally as costly and provided slower switch charges than DRAM. So, regardless of Intel’s efforts to supply a product that might crossover the 2 product areas, for workloads that don’t profit from the expertise’s distinctive skills, 3D XPoint ended up being neither pretty much as good as DRAM or NAND of their respective duties – making Optane merchandise a tough promote.

Consequently, Intel has been dropping cash on its Optane enterprise for many (if not all) of its lifetime, together with hundreds of millions of dollars in 2020. Intel doesn’t escape Optane income info frequently, however on the one-off events the place they’ve revealed these numbers, they’ve been effectively within the purple on an working earnings foundation. As effectively, experiences from Blocks & Recordsdata have claimed that Intel is sitting on a significant oversupply of 3D XPoint chips – on the order of two years’ of stock as of earlier this yr. All of which underscores the issue Intel has encountered in promoting Optane merchandise, and including to the price of a write-down/write-off, which Intel is doing in the present day with their $559M Optane impairment cost.

Consequently, a possible wind-down for Optane /3D XPoint has been within the tea leaves for some time now, and Intel has been taking steps to change or curtail the enterprise. Most notably, the dissolution of the Intel/Micron IMFT three way partnership left Micron with possession of the sole production fab for 3D XPoint, all of the whereas Micron abandoned their own 3D XPoint plans. And after producing 3D XPoint reminiscence into 2021, Micron eventually sold the fab to Texas Instruments for other uses. Since then, Intel has not had entry to a excessive quantity fab for 3D XPoint – although if the stock experiences are true, they haven’t wanted to provide extra of the reminiscence in fairly a while.

In the meantime on the product aspect of issues, winding-down the Optane enterprise follows Intel’s earlier retreat from the shopper storage market. Whereas the corporate has launched two generations of Optane merchandise for the datacenter market, it by no means launched a second technology of shopper merchandise (e.g. Optane 905P). And, having offered their NAND enterprise to SK Hynix (which now operates as Solidigm), Intel now not produces different varieties of shopper storage. So retiring the remaining datacenter merchandise is the logical subsequent step, albeit an unlucky one.

Intel’s Former Optane Persistent Reminiscence Roadmap: What WIll By no means Be

General, Intel has opted to wind-down the Optane/3D XPoint enterprise at a vital juncture for the corporate. With their Sapphire Rapids Xeon CPUs launching this yr, Intel was beforehand scheduled to launch an identical third technology of Optane merchandise. An important of those was to be their “Crow Cross” 3rd technology persistent DIMMs, which amongst different issues would replace the Optane DIMM expertise to make use of a DDR5 interface. Whereas growth of Crow Cross is presumably full or practically full at this level (given Intel’s growth schedule and Sapphire Rapids delays), truly launching and supporting the product would nonetheless incur vital up-front and long-term prices, in addition to requiring Intel to help the expertise for an additional technology. Giving Intel a powerful incentive to lastly take an exit on the money-losing enterprise unit.

In lieu of Optane persistent reminiscence, Intel’s official technique is to pivot in the direction of CXL reminiscence expertise (CXL.mem), which permits attaching risky and non-volatile reminiscence to a CPU over a CXL-capable PCIe bus. This could accomplish lots of the similar objectives as Optane (non-volatile reminiscence, massive capacities) with out the prices of creating a completely separate reminiscence expertise. Sapphire Rapids, in flip might be Intel’s first CPU to help CXL, and the general expertise has a wider business backing.

AsteraLabs: CXL Reminiscence Topology

Nonetheless, Intel’s retirement of Optane/3D XPoint marks an unlucky finish of an fascinating product lineup. 3D XPoint DIMMs had been a novel concept even when they didn’t fairly work out, and 3D XPoint made for ridiculously quick SSDs because of its huge random I/O benefit – and that’s a function it doesn’t seem like every other SSD vendor goes to have the ability to totally replicate any time quickly. So for the stable state storage market, this marks the top of an period.

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