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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Intel's Optane and the end of hard drives

From time to time, I check the prices on various computer hardware and accessory items. Hard drive prices are always an interest because I have so much data to backup. While checking on recently, I found the following:

An 8 Terabyte external hard drive from Seagate for $189.99. This is a pretty drastic reduction from the previous price of $239.99. Whenever this happens, I am almost always certain that there is a major change in the works. Normally, this means that even larger storage capacity hard drives are becoming available at competitive prices. In this case, and 8 TB drive is about the limit of necessity for anyone except large corporations and people with a compulsive habit of downloading movies.

In this particular case, it appears that the motivation for the drop in price may be the introduction of Intel Corporation's Optane memory system. Quoting from a recent blog post on entitled, "Intel's first Optane SSDs for regular PCs is a small but super-fast cache."
Intel is positioning its new Optane technology as the next big advancement in computer storage after SSDs, and today it's announcing the first consumer product based on the technology. The "Intel Optane Memory" drives are 16GB and 32GB M.2 sticks that can be paired with a larger SSD or HDD to speed up total system performance. Intel's Rapid Storage Technology allows your PC to see the two drives as one storage volume, and the software automatically caches important data to the faster drive. 
The Optane Memory drives will be available to order on April 24th. A 16GB drive costs $44 while a 32GB drive costs $77. 
To use the drives, your PC will need to be "Intel Optane memory ready," which at a bare minimum requires a 7th-generation Kaby Lake CPU, a new 200-series chipset, and a compatible B-M keyed M.2 2280 slot with either two or four PCI Express data lanes. The full requirements are laid out on this page, and your motherboard manufacturer's site should also be able to tell you more.
 Basically, this new technology will directly compete with existing memory storage devices. Hence, the dramatic reduction in the price of a high-capacity hard drive. Because of the limitations on Intel's Optane technology, I suggest that you take advantage of the lower price on large hard drives. Apparently, at some point in the future, we will all be forced to migrate our data once again to a new technology.

1 comment:

  1. 8TB may be more than most individuals need, but there is still plenty of demand for higher capacities, mostly from businesses. I would guess that 8TB drive prices are dropping because Seagate plans to release bigger drives soon. See, for example,

    But you're dead on with the broader trends: storage will keep getting cheaper and new technologies will continue to show up.

    Intel's Optane is fascinating stuff. In the long run it could radically change computing