“Habemus 3D XPoint” says Micron, first 3D XPoint NVMe SSD announced

It was only a matter of time until Micron would announce a 3D XPoint product, and the time has finally come. Micron, co-developed 3D XPoint technology with Intel through their IMFT joint venture.

Both Micron and Intel state that this joint venture was limited in time and that the separation was never to be seen as a divorce, but rather as an agreed and planned ahead outcome when setting up the joint venture in the first place.

3D XPoint NVMe SSD Beginnings

Micron debuts their commercial journey (as a standalone manufacturer / reseller) in 3D XPoint with the Micron X100 NVMe SSD drive, a drive that will compete with Intel Optane DC SSD, especially with 2nd generation Intel 3D XPoint technology announced a few weeks ago.

This appears to be in line with off-the-mic information TECHunplugged managed to collect last year, saying that Micron would enter the market on its own with a 2nd-gen 3D XPoint product.

The Micron X100 NVMe SSD, shown in PCIe form factor. No other form factor is known at this time. Source: www.micron.com

Like its Intel Optane counterpart, Micron’s 3D XPoint technology promises High IOPS, High Bandwidth and Ultra-Low Latency.

Quoting Micron’s website, the X100 NVMe SSD can deliver up to 2.5M IOPS, a throughput of 9 GB/s (both for reads and writes), and consistent R/W latency inferior or equal to 8 μs. Currently, the specs on Micron’s website are still very scarce, but we hope to get more information soon.

What about Persistent Memory?

Currently, there’s nothing showing up on Micron’s website about a Persistent Memory implementation of their 2nd-gen 3D XPoint technology. This leaves the market fully into Intel’s hands with their Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory offering.

Considering Micron’s experience and involvement in developing 3D XPoint, it wouldn’t be surprising to see an announcement coming in the coming weeks or months. This is of course pure speculation from our side.

CPU Architecture Compatibility for an hypothetical PM implementation of Micron 3D XPoint

An interesting perspective would be to understand how an eventual PM implementation of Micron 3D XPoint would work, specifically in terms of compatibility with CPU memory controllers. Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory requires at least Cascade Lake processors and is not compatibly with the AMD Rome architecture.

Further reading on Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory

Check out TECHunplugged’s contribution about Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory on Amazic World

We may be digging further down the rabbit hole, but it would be really interesting to see whether hypothetical Micron-produced 3D XPoint PM modules would be “universal” or not.

One could foresee them leveraging existing memory controller optimizations in the Intel Cascade Lake architecture as a way to compete with Intel Optane DC, while also collaborating with AMD on developing a memory controller for the AMD “next-gen” CPU architecture (that will be one hop after AMD Rome).

The question would be if they can do this (not bound by any legal terms with Intel forbidding them to support other x86 architectures), and if they have the will to do it (potential damage to their relationship with Intel).

As a conclusion, this is a rather elaborate speculation based out of thin air, but the idea seems worth sharing nevertheless. We at TECHunplugged hope to explore this further and share with our audience.

TECHunplugged’s Opinion

Leaving speculations aside and focusing solely on the X100 announcement, it’s with great pleasure that we welcome Micron’s 2nd-gen 3D XPoint to the market.

It’s true that this is so far only limited availability to a few select customers, but the potential is here and no doubts that having a 2nd supplier of 3D XPoint on the market can only benefit the potential customers for this technology.