With the development of technology, an age old factor has been the type and speed of storage that best suits your uses. With the development of modern technology, that choice has evolved into the slower, but bulky and cheap costing hard disk drive, against the faster, slim, modern, and expensive solid state drives. While the latter technology has gotten larger, cheaper, and largely more effective, it has yet to be entirely a perfect choice. However, Intel is promising they might just be able to change the game for us. Welcome back to #TechTuesday, where we're going to discuss the new Intel Optane memory architecture, and how it might help speed your machine.
The Principles of Storage
To understand what the advancements Intel is making, we have to understand the technology that brought us to this point. Memory is divided into two categories. Random Access Memory, or RAM, are those sticks of memory you add to your computer that equates to a piece of the equation of speed. It takes information of your current, or most used, applications and stores that in its banks for quick reference to feed to the processor. But, the information is volatile on this platform of memory, meaning that it erases entirely as soon as power is cut from the machine. Thus, we then have the Non-Volatile version of memory found in your Hard Drive. This form of memory has less restriction on storage, as it is long term and not erased on the cut of power from a machine. This is the sort of memory where your files such as music, documents, pictures, etc. are stored. The issue with this form of memory, is it is specific to that function, and cannot be used in the same fashion that RAM can.
The Future of Memory
With our brief explanation in mind, we want to introduce you to Optane. Optane is a format of memory that Intel introduced, or at least announced, back in July of 2015. They boast the benefits of both worlds, with the speed of your typical RAM module, but the stability of your typical Solid State Hard Drive. But rather than replacing any component in your machine, Optane acts more like a supercharger for your device. It is clipped into the motherboard, operating alongside your typical RAM setup and giving an immediate increase in performance right out of the box. According to claims by Intel, machines will power on twice as fast, browsers launch five times faster, and games will launch up to 67% faster than before. Rather than replacing anything, it sits between the computer's processes between the hard dirve and processor. It remembers regularly access data, just as your RAM may, but instead of deleting it, it will retain the information after power is cut from the machine.
But, while Optane might be a massive boost to your PC, it is not a critical component. Meaning that if a stick of this fails, it simply will return your PC to previous speeds, rather than crash it. You can simply remove the old piece and exchange it for a new device. It is not necessary to the computer's function, and thus will cause no data loss beyond the pseudo temporary information stored on it. The downside to the device majorly, however, is that it will not be compatible with older systems. This device is meant for the "Kaby Lake" Processor Family of computers, the most modern of Intel's current processor lineup. To be able to properly utilize all of the functions and features of the device, a computer would not only need to utilize this processor architecture, but also have a motherboard that is "Optane Ready", so that it supports the device when inserted.
However, despite these drawbacks, Intel is serious about the technology they are developing, and hope to push it to mass market as best they can. They plan to encourage every motherboard for Kaby Lake processors to support Optane, and we would not be surprised to see many laptops supporting or featuring the Optane technology in their hardware as the year goes on.