It seems that the tip could also be in sight for Intel’s beleaguered Optane reminiscence enterprise. Tucked inside a brutal Q2’2022 earnings launch for the corporate (extra on {that a} bit later at the moment) is a really curious assertion in a bit speaking about non-GAAP changes: In Q2 2022, we initiated the winding down of our Intel Optane reminiscence enterprise.  As properly, Intel’s earnings report additionally notes that the corporate is taking a $559 Million “Optane stock impairment” cost this quarter.

Past these two objects, there is no such thing as a additional details about Optane inside Intel’s earnings launch or their related presentation deck. We’ve reached out to firm representatives in search of extra info, and are ready for a response.

Taking this stuff at face worth, then, it could appear that Intel is getting ready to close down its Optane reminiscence enterprise and growth of related 3D XPoint know-how. To make sure, there’s a excessive diploma of nuance right here across the Optane title and product traces right here – which is why we’re searching for clarification from Intel – as Intel has a number of Optane merchandise, together with “Optane reminiscence” “Optane persistent reminiscence” and “Optane SSDs”. None the much less, inside Intel’s earlier earnings releases and different monetary paperwork, the entire Optane enterprise unit has historically been known as their “Optane reminiscence enterprise,” so it could seem that Intel is certainly winding down the Optane enterprise unit, and never simply the Optane Reminiscence product.

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Following our request, Intel has despatched out a brief assertion on the Optane wind-down. Whereas not providing a lot in the way in which of additional particulars on Intel’s exit, it does affirm that Intel is certainly exiting the whole Optane enterprise.

We proceed to rationalize our portfolio in help of our IDM 2.0 technique. This contains evaluating divesting companies which might be both not sufficiently worthwhile or not core to our strategic aims. After cautious consideration, Intel plans to stop future product growth inside its Optane enterprise. We’re dedicated to supporting Optane prospects by the transition.

Intel, in flip, used 3D XPoint as the premise of two product lineups. For its datacenter prospects, it provided Optane Persistent Reminiscence, which packaged 3D XPoint into DIMMs as a partial substitute for conventional DRAMs. Optane DIMMs provided larger bit density than DRAM, and mixed with its persistent, non-volatile nature made for an fascinating providing for methods that wanted large working reminiscence units and may benefit from its non-volatile nature, reminiscent of database servers. In the meantime Intel additionally used 3D XPoint as the premise of a number of storage merchandise, together with high-performance SSDs for the server and shopper market, and as a smaller high-speed cache to be used with slower NAND SSDs.

3D XPoint’s distinctive attributes have additionally been a problem for Intel because the know-how launched, nonetheless. Regardless of being designed for scalability by way of layer stacking, 3D XPoint manufacturing prices have continued to be larger than NAND on a per-bit foundation, making the tech considerably dearer than even higher-performance SSDs. In the meantime Optane DIMMs, whereas filling a singular area of interest, have been equally as costly and provided slower switch charges than DRAM. So, regardless of Intel’s efforts to supply a product that might crossover the 2 product areas, for workloads that don’t profit from the know-how’s distinctive skills, 3D XPoint ended up being neither pretty much as good as DRAM or NAND of their respective duties – making Optane merchandise a tough promote.

Consequently, Intel has been shedding cash on its Optane enterprise for many (if not all) of its lifetime, together with lots of of thousands and thousands of {dollars} in 2020. Intel doesn’t escape Optane income info frequently, however on the one-off events the place they’ve printed these numbers, they’ve been properly within the pink on an working revenue foundation. As properly, studies from Blocks & Information have claimed that Intel is sitting on a major oversupply of 3D XPoint chips – on the order of two years’ of stock as of earlier this 12 months. All of which underscores the problem Intel has encountered in promoting Optane merchandise, and including to the price of a write-down/write-off, which Intel is doing at the moment with their $559M Optane impairment cost.

Consequently, a possible wind-down for Optane /3D XPoint has been within the tea leaves for some time now, and Intel has been taking steps to change or curtail the enterprise. Most notably, the dissolution of the Intel/Micron IMFT three way partnership left Micron with possession of the only real manufacturing fab for 3D XPoint, all of the whereas Micron deserted their very own 3D XPoint plans. And after producing 3D XPoint reminiscence into 2021, Micron finally offered the fab to Texas Devices for different makes use of. Since then, Intel has not had entry to a excessive quantity fab for 3D XPoint – although if the stock studies are true, they haven’t wanted to supply extra of the reminiscence in fairly a while.

In the meantime on the product facet of issues, winding-down the Optane enterprise follows Intel’s earlier retreat from the shopper storage market. Whereas the corporate has launched two generations of Optane merchandise for the datacenter market, it by no means launched a second technology of client merchandise (e.g. Optane 905P). And, having offered their NAND enterprise to SK Hynix (which now operates as Solidigm), Intel now not produces different forms of shopper storage. So retiring the remaining datacenter merchandise is the logical subsequent step, albeit an unlucky one.

Intel’s Former Optane Persistent Reminiscence Roadmap: What WIll By no means Be

Total, Intel has opted to wind-down the Optane/3D XPoint enterprise at a vital juncture for the corporate. With their Sapphire Rapids Xeon CPUs launching this 12 months, Intel was beforehand scheduled to launch a 3rd technology of Optane merchandise, most significantly their “Crow Move” 3rd technology persistent DIMMs, which amongst different issues would replace the Optane DIMM know-how to make use of a DDR5 interface. Whereas growth of Crow Move is presumably full or practically full at this level (given Intel’s growth schedule and Sapphire Rapids delays), truly launching and supporting the product would nonetheless incur important up-front and long-term prices, requiring Intel to help the know-how for an additional technology.

In lieu of Optane persistent reminiscence, Intel’s official technique is to pivot in direction of CXL reminiscence know-how (CXL.mem), which permits attaching unstable and non-volatile reminiscence to a CPU over a CXL-capable PCIe bus. This may accomplish lots of the similar objectives as Optane (non-volatile reminiscence, massive capacities) with out the prices of growing a wholly separate reminiscence know-how. Sapphire Rapids, in flip will likely be Intel’s first CPU to help CXL, and the general know-how has a much wider business backing.

AsteraLabs: CXL Reminiscence Topology

Nonetheless, Intel’s retirement of Optane/3D XPoint marks an unlucky finish of an fascinating product lineup. 3D XPoint DIMMs have been a novel concept even when they didn’t fairly work out, and 3D XPoint made for ridiculously quick SSDs due to its large random I/O benefit – and that’s a characteristic it doesn’t appear to be every other SSD vendor goes to have the ability to absolutely replicate any time quickly. So for the stable state storage market, this marks the tip of an period.

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