One of the core advantages of Intel systems, especially in the server space is support for its proprietary Optane memory technology which significantly reduces latency and bandwidth with sustained 4K I/O workloads. However, it looks like Optane or 3D XPoint memory may soon be supported with AMD CPUs as well.
The co-developer of XPoint memory, Micron has announced that it’s working on releasing its own family of memory and storage solutions based on 3D XPoint technology which will be usable across a wide range of platforms. The company plans to launch these products in a couple of years or so, as explained by Micron CFO, David Zinsner in an interview with SA.
At the moment, Micron produces 3D XPoint memory for Intel at its Lehi factory in Utah, but the fab is largely underutilized.
So we are in really early stages, I would say that. We still have not had any meaningful revenue outside of wafers that we’re selling to our prior partner in 3D XPoint, Intel.
I would say also on a relative basis, beyond just progress made on DRAM and NAND, eventually, we want to continue to build out a portfolio for 3D XPoint, which I think makes us unique in the marketplace, being able to supply DRAM, NAND and be able to supply 3D XPoint, which we think has some pretty interesting use cases particularly in the AI space.David Zinsner, Micron CFO
Micron has only one SSD lineup on the market that uses XPoint memory (X100 series), but it fails to keep up with Intel’s offerings and is pretty slow in heavy workloads such as 4K I/O. One of the primary advantages of XPoint memory is the lower latency and faster responsiveness, especially at more intensive read/writes. At standard transfers, the speeds are roughly similar to the top-end SSDs on the market.
As such, these products are primarily suited for the Data Center and Server market which deal with vast quantities of data to train neural networks. Micron is looking to launch both SSDs leveraging XPoint memory as well as non-volatile memory solutions that work in tandem with DRAM.
We obviously are working with some of the really big players in the space with this technology. The early read has been very positive, quite honestly, about it. But like all emerging technologies, adoption takes some time to get the use cases to the right place and get the cost and the performance at the right place.David Zinsner, Micron CFO
One of the primary advantages Micron will have is that it has a wider market as it will serve all platforms, from AMD’s Epycs to Arm-based servers. On the downside, Micron has much less experience with 3D XPoint memory compared to Intel which has been working on it for several years now.