Tech Preview – 3PAR 3D Cache

With Intel officially announcing its 3D Xpoint based Optane product line this week I thought it was worth another look at this post I wrote previously demonstrating Optane working with 3PAR. This post talks through how an Intel Optane drive can be used to significantly reduce latency in the system and features a video talk through with one of the product managers:

The adoption of flash technology has revolutionised storage over the past few years.  Current implementations of flash use NAND flash, Intel have been developing a new type of persistent storage that will offer up to 1000 times the performance of NAND.  At Discover, HPE previewed a 3PAR utilising Intel 3D-Xpoint point as an additional caching layer, you can get an overview of 3D-XPoint in this post I wrote previously.


In the video below I discuss the 3D-XPoint preview with Eduardo, the media product manager for 3PAR . We discuss how it works and the benefits to the system.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel so you don’t miss any future updates


I have summarised some of the main points around 3D Cache in the points below.

  • HPE showed a tech preview of a new storage technology that could significantly improve performance in terms of latency and potentially reduce costs. The tech is called 3PAR 3D Cache
  • Current flash drives in 3PAR and other flash arrays are NAND
  • NAND has produced significant performance improvements v spinning disk but is still significantly slower than DRAM. DRAM is memory that is found in 3PAR controllers and compute, it is very fast but also expensive so generally used in small amounts
  • DRAM acts as the cache in 3PAR buffering IO, from having to be written or read direct from disk
  • The more DRAM (cache) the better as you are saving more IO from disk.
  • Intel have been developing a persistent memory technology that sits in-between NAND and DRAM in terms of cost and performance i.e. its much faster than NAND but not as fast or as expensive as DRAM
  • Intel’s new form of storage is based on a technology they have named 3D XPoint
  • At Discover London HPE, gave a tech preview of 3PAR using 3D XPoint as a caching layer to accelerate system performance
  • The 3D XPoint card was NVMe and plugged into the PCI slot of a 3PAR
  • The card was used to extend the on-board DRAM cache, in a very similar way to Adaptive Flash Cache
  • The cache extension is for reads only
  • When a read goes cold within DRAM it would be tiered down to the 3D Cache. This extends the likelihood of a read hit, resulting in a performance boost from more reads being returned from cache. Plus by not requesting IO from the SSD’s they are quieter for other operations
  • This is a tech preview so is not yet available for order.

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SFD9 Preview Intel – X Marks the spot

Vendors are always looking for the next technology or innovation that is going to allow them to remain competitive. Intel XPoint announced in July last year could be that next treasure that all storage vendors are searching for.




Today’s market

Flash has been a major breakthrough in storage, the debate on all flash data centres is all but done, it’s happening right now. Flash has brought a significant amount of innovation and additional competition to the storage market. Today’s flash systems tend to use nand SSD’s, according to Intel these are up to 1300 times faster than traditional hard drives but are 1500 times slower than DRAM. Intel want to fill this gap in the memory market with a fast, dense medium that is also non-volatile. The solution they have come up with is 3D XPoint.


The future

3D XPoint is so named due to its cross like structure which can be stacked in 3 dimensions. Any cell can be uniquely addressed by selecting one wire at the top and one at the bottom.


Intel will be releasing this 3D Xpoint based meory under the brand name of Intel Optane and claim XPoint will have 1,000 times the performance of NAND flash, 1,000 times the endurance of NAND flash, and about 10 times the density of DRAM. The following graphic shows how the memory grids will be stacked one on top of another.





It seems likely storage vendors will be queuing up at Intel’s door to get hold of this technology. Like the introduction of flash there will be winners and losers: Who will be the first to ship with the technology? Will this fit in with Vendors existing model, or prompt a re-design like the first wave of flash. Perhaps most interestingly will hybrid players have the upper hand and be able to use XPoint as a high performance tier and SSD’s for capacity. It really does appear to be game changing technology and it will be interesting to see if the other storage vendors presenting during SFD9 will start to talk about it.

There is no official release date yet for XPoint, Intel’s website displays a teaser stating that it will be coming soon. You can read more about XPoint on Intel’s website. Intel will be presenting at Storage Field Day 9 next week, remember you can follow along by watching the live stream and have your say by using #SFD9 on Twittter.


Intel website