The disk drive in your computer is used to store the operating system components, installed software programs, and your personal data files (documents, pictures, music, video, etc.). Disk drives are very large storage devices and come in a variety of sizes (250Gb, 500Gb, 1 Tb, and larger). Until recently, disk drives were typically a spinning platter, spinning at 5400 or 7200 rpm.
A few years ago, these spinning disk drives (referred to as HDD), became a bottleneck in your computer causing slow computer performance. The HDD was too slow when the newer high-speed processors were accessing information. Before the high-speed processor, older and much slower processors were able to provide adequate performance with the spinning HHD technology. But, now, the HHD was becoming an obsolete device and has been replaced with some newer technology that provides storage information to the processor.
A newer, faster technology was required to remove the bottleneck, it was known as the solid-state disk (SSD). The solid-state drive (SSD) is a new generation of a storage device that replaced the traditional mechanical hard disks (HDD) by using flash-based memory, which is significantly faster. While this newer technology works extremely well, the problem was the price — SSDs were very expensive.
Intel decided to take a different approach to the SSD and developed Optane which is an internal hardware device that when added to assist the HDD, makes HDDs appear to operate at a faster speed, and it was much cheaper than the SSD.
What is Intel Optane?
Intel Optane is an accelerator for your hard drive. Intel Optane is a stick of non-volatile memory, which means it does not get wiped clean when you power it off like regular RAM, that fits into an M.2 slot on your motherboard to provide a large cache for your hard drive. Today, Intel Optane comes in 16GB or 32GB sizes. In other words, it is now very fast memory configured as an SSD Cache.
• Technology: While Optane’s stacked memory is crazy fast, you need to have all the latest and greatest hardware to make it run.
• Complexity: While it is not very hard to add in an M.2 Intel Optane card, it is one more step and one more thing to go wrong. I have no idea what would happen to the files on your spinning disk if the Optane ‘Disk’ became defective. My guess is it would be pretty ugly as your spinning disk may now only contain SOME of the files it needs to run the Operating System and your programs.
Intel Optane is just another attempt at adding RAM to spinning disks. What is new is that the RAM is much faster and sits outside of the hard drive.
Is Optane dead?
Two new (Optane Memory M15 and Optane SSD 815P) have been officially canceled. The 815P is dead because 118GB is simply too small when compared to an SSD to be competitive, and the M15 is dead because there are not enough systems still shipping with mechanical hard drives to support another generation of cache drives.
Over the past few years, SSD prices have tumbled, and now the price of the SSD is only a few dollars more than the equivalent HDD drive. This mostly dealt the death blow to Optane solutions.
George Cox is the owner of Computer Diagnostics and Repair. He can be reached at 346-4217.