Here at Computex 2018 we've spoken to numerous companies about emerging storage technologies, seen the road maps, and identified a few key emerging trends. One key takeaway from the show has been just how cheap SSDs will become. Walmart recently dropped the price of Samsung's 860 EVO 1TB to $150 for a few hours before adjusting it to $250, a $50 drop from the day before. Then came government subsidized flash on display in the form of 32-layer TLC at the Maxiotek booth. Still, no matter how cheap storage gets, it's hard to compete with "free."
That's exactly how Intel plans to establish its new storage products. Some companies have already bundled Intel's Optane Memory with their motherboards to increase awareness about the technology. Early reports appear positive in user reviews as many see first-hand just how good the technology really is. And this is just the first step designed to remove hard disk drives, and their latency, from the user experience altogether.
The next shoe to drop could involve adding QLC-based SSDs to a bundle with next generation chipset components that allow Optane Memory to cache NVMe devices. The rumored Intel 660p QLC NVMe SSD looks like the leading candidate for this to bear fruit. The leaked deck shows capacities between 512GB and 2TB but QLC, will need a nudge to gain acceptance due to reliability and endurance concerns.
Sitting behind high-endurance Optane Memory (cache) will remove any immediate concerns regarding QLC's endurance. A bundle that gives users a free or very low cost 512GB boot drive will be difficult to pass over even for the most adamant Optane and QLC naysayers.
We've asked Intel several times about using Optane Memory in front of very low cost SSDs to increase system performance and received the same "no comment" answer as we get with any rumor fact checking subject. The difference in this case is the inability to hide the ear-to-ear grin that inadvertently tells us that has been the plan for Optane Memory all along.