Intel gets ready to go live with servers with 12TB Optane

Expect Intel to announce on April 2 that server makers will ship 4-socket, 112-core servers with up to 12TB of Optane memory, from July onwards.

This means the servers will run applications faster than servers using DRAM and SSDs alone.

Blocks & Files has joined up the dots from several Intel pronouncements to draw this picture.

Dot 1: Intel has a Data-Centric Innovation Day event scheduled for April 2. It will stream this live.

Dot 2: Rob Crooke, Intel’s SVP for its Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group,  blogged on March 19: “We’re also excited about soon-to-be released Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory that will be available on next-generation Intel Xeon processors for data centres. This is redefining the memory and storage hierarchy and bringing persistent, large-scale memory closer to the processor.”

Optane DC Persistent Memory is 3D XPoint media supplied as a non-volatile DIMM with memory-channel connectivity as opposed to the Optane SSDs with slower PCIe bus connectivity.

Dot 3: Late last year Intel announced the availability of Optane DIMMs in a beta testing program for OEMs and cloud service providers, which “paves the way for general availability in the first half of 2019.”

The Cascade Lake AP upgrade of Intel’s data centre Xeon server CPU line was announced in November last year and these CPUs support Optane DIMMs.  Cascade Lake AP parts are single or dual-socket processors with up to 48 cores and 12 DDR4 channels per package.

The Optane DIMMs come in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities. A 2-socket Cascade Lake AP could have 12 X DDR4 memory channels, each supporting 2 DIMMs, either DRAM or Optane DIMMs. There could be a maximum of 6TB of Optane memory.

The first Cascade Lake AP iteration is a multi-chip package combining two 24-core processors connected by a UPI link, into a single 48-core CPU. 

That would be 12 x 512GB Optane DIMMs, leaving 12 DIMM sockets for DRAM – the servers use a mix of DRAM and Optane.

Things have moved on

Dot 4: On March 15 Jason Waxman, GM of Intel’s Cloud Platforms Group, said Intel sees a need for 4-socket servers with up 112 cores – 28 per socket (processor) – and 48 DIMMs – 12 per processor.

These servers would support up to 12TB of Optane DIMM capacity and be available from July onwards.

Waxman is pointing to a second iteration of Cascade Lake AP with 28-cores/socket – 4 more cores than before, and 12 DIMMs per CPU (socket). This adds up to 6 memory channels per CPU, as before, and 24 memory channels in total.

12TB of Optane DIMMs in turn implies 24 x 512GB Optane DIMMs – six per CPU (socket) using up 3 memory channels and leaving 3 for DRAM.

Our conclusion is that Intel will announce 4-socket, 112-core Cascade Lake AP packages on April 2 that support up to 12TB of Optane memory. Server systems using this will be coming available from Dell EMC, HPE, Lenovo, Inspur, Supermicro and Quanta, with first shipments in July.

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