Intel will introduce 3D XPoint SSDs this year, followed by Xpoint DIMMs. While 3D XPoint has massive potential to improve storage and memory, much will depend on pricing.

I attended the 7th Annual Non-Volatile Memories Workshop 2016 at UC San Diego this month. Frank T. Hady, Intel Fellow and Chief Architect of 3D XPoint Storage, gave a keynote address to a room full of PhDs and competitors. Of course, Intel was not ready to answer a number of vital questions, but what they did offer was illuminating.

First gen XPoint will be built on a 20nm process, and can be used both as storage and as system memory. But unlike SSDs and disks, XPoint is byte addressable, meaning that it can be used similarly to DRAM. For data storage it is used as a 4k block device.

But unlike DRAM, XPoint is 10x denser (but not as dense as flash since the initial product will be single level cell). Combined with DRAM, 3D XPoint servers will be able to support 4x the memory capacity at a significantly lower cost per bit than DRAM.

3D XPoint can be used in DIMMs because of a) byte addressing, b) 1000x more write endurance than NAND flash, and c) 1000x faster I/Os. The 3D XPoint DIMMs will need controllers to perform wear-leveling as they do with NAND flash, but I'd expect the trash collection process to be much more granular - thus much less intrusive - than the full block writes of NAND flash devices...

Read more: How Intel's 3D XPoint will transform servers and storage | ZDNet