Optane Memory, the new Intel technology explained in simple terms

Are you still not able to figure out, what is Optane Memory? How is it different from conventional RAM? Why Intel developed Optane? The article given below explains everything about Intel Optane Memory.

Optane memory to reduce latency time
Intel Optane memory | Image courtesy Geospatial World

Pre requisite terms:

1. Latency

In layman terms, The total time a message needs to travel in the whole system or network is latency.

2. Flash memory

You may saw the term ‘Flash Memory while buying USBs, Memory cards, or even Hard disks. However just because it was none of your business, you bought it blindly. So, Flash memory is a type of solid-state electronic memory that is non-volatile. It can be programmed, erased, and reprogrammed. The flash memory mainly comprised of two types i.e. NOR (NOT-OR) & NAND (NOT-AND) 

3. NAND Flash

The USBs, memory cards, and solid-state drives are the devices with NAND Flash memory. These memories can read, write, and erase contents in the form of blocks. These blocks are much smaller in size containing the data in the form of binary codes (1s or 0s). The storage of data in the absence of any power source is possible due to the semiconductor material. This material used in the electric circuit is known as the floating gate transistors.

Several electric circuits connected like a NAND gate connection which behaves opposite of AND gate. So when we supply power, all NAND gate bits get high, and floating-point transistors get deactivated. As a result of which, data gets retained as the power supply is on. On the other hand, when the same power supply gets cut, the NAND gate connection bits get low and charges get activated which can store the data even without the power.

4. NOR Flash

It is a code storage memory in which the instruction sets are stored, This flash type allows only single word (byte) writing to an erased location, The electric circuits are not connected, instead, each instruction has its circuit as different instructions call for different system operations like a boot, Basic-Input-output-service(BIOS). Depending upon the instructions called, the low bits are activated for the operations.

5. 3D NAND Fabrication

Memory chips are made from silicon. The process of conversion is called fabrication. The memory chips now fabricated in 3 dimensions unlike the conventional way of connecting the memory cells in 2 dimensions. The process involves connecting the memory cells vertically so that in that limited space. A huge amount of memory chips can be connected in the form of layers.

For example, suppose A, B, C are three sisters who love books, now there is only one drawer available for all of them. Only 3 books can be stored horizontally, so they decided to divide the same drawer into 3 sub drawers and now they can store 9 books altogether.

OPTANE: THE NEW UPGRADE IN INTEL TECHNOLOGIES

Intel introduced an innovation known as the Optane memory, with the launch of 7th generation Intel core processors. This is not a conventional ROM or RAM which implemented the NOR/NAND flash. It is a bridge between primary and secondary memory. You may now think about how it is different from a cache memory? Optane is a cache memory with the upgraded technology known as 3D Xpoint technology embedded with the Intel Rapid Storage Technology. About 128 billion memory cells are densely packed together resulting in fast-changing resistance which is a new base for storage of bits.

Why it was introduced? What were the results?

The main objective behind this technology is to reduce the latency time. Intel has tried to minimize the latency time to almost 10 microseconds. Optane memory uses the LRU Least Recently Used approach while caching the data due to which the most used data can be loaded as fast as possible. Because of Optane speed, more than 5-6 GBs data can be cached at one go leading to fast boot time and frequent data access the fastest. Currently, 16GB and 32GB variants are available in the market.

Conclusion

3D XPoint also implements the 3D NAND Fabrication speeding up the overall performance by 28% but only with one complication, requires the M.2-slots in motherboards. Optane can perform better than SSD but every time, SSD gives a tough competition to it. Taking into consideration the drawbacks, it only supports the primary OS drive partition which sometimes is not a great deal as secondary storage speed cannot be improved.

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