Rumor: Intel may release 3D XPoint system memory in 2018

Via Expreview. Click for original. (Image credit: Expreview)

The true potential of 3D XPoint technology developed by Intel and Micron has yet to be reached. So far we've seen just two 3D XPoint products—an enterprise solid state drive (Optane SSD DC P4800X) and a storage caching solution (Optane memory). Looking ahead, the next 3D XPoint product could be used to supplement DRAM.

This has always been a possible path for 3D XPoint, though not necessarily one for the consumer market. At its Optane overview earlier this year, Intel gave examples of multi-TB memory configurations in servers as one use case. Expreview reports that 3D XPoint will be introduced into the DIMM market next year as an alternative to DRAM.

According to TechPowerUp, Intel views current DRAM solutions as being too small, too expensive, and not stable enough to maintain its position as the top memory solution. That is where 3D XPoint could come into play. The promise of 3D XPoint DIMMs is that they'd offer more storage at a lower cost.

There are some tradeoffs in going this route. One of them is performance. Intel is banking on customers being willing to sacrifice a bit of bandwidth and latency in exchange for higher capacities and lower prices.

Another tradeoff is security. 3D XPoint is a persistent memory, meaning data is not wiped clean when the power is turned off (intentionally or otherwise). While that can be a good thing in many cases, it also means that anyone with access to a system running 3D XPoint DIMMs could swipe the modules with potentially sensitive data stored on them. There would have to be some kind of additional security safeguards put in place, ones that are not required by volatile DRAM modules.

Initial solutions will mostly be of interest to commercial clients in charge of mission critical systems and data centers. However, this kind of thing has a way of eventually trickling down into the consumer space. Whether or not that day is sometime in 2018 remains to be seen.

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).