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Rethinking the Data Centre with Intel Optane Technology

IT leaders are rethinking how the data centre can meet digital demands thanks to a breakthrough in storage and memory technology that promises to transform agility, cost-efficiency and performance.

Based on 3D XPoint memory media, the Intel Optane family boasts a new generation of solid-state disk (SSD) products built from the ground up and is the biggest breakthrough in Intel chip engineering in 25 years. Optane provides memory and storage that is fast, dense and non-volatile, eliminating data bottlenecks.

“The driving force for the modern-day data centre is adaptability and agility. Latency is the key killer of most business in the digital world, as having to wait saps a business’s ability to provide a good service,” says Justin Wheeler, technical architect at Intel’s Non-Volatile Solutions Group (NSG).

IT architecture for business
Organisations have been held back by legacy data centre architectures that are unable to keep up with the fast pace of digital change. Progress has been restrained around monolithic storage area networks where all performance and capacity come from the SAN, which does not lend itself to scaling out. But in an application-hungry world, an IT architecture must be fit for purpose.

“Today, a business lives and dies by IT, and applications are the No. 1 driving force on the data centre,” says Wheeler. “With each iteration, CPUs and DRAM have become exponentially faster, but the laggard has always been storage performance, which has held organisations back. With Optane SSDs, it is possible to realise the true performance available.”

Traditional NAND-based devices are slower than DRAM and need careful monitoring to manage their lifecycle. Optane memory is faster than NAND, denser than DRAM and non-volatile. While DRAM holds a charge and data in a single cell, Optane’s 3D XPoint technology has removed the charge so it is possible to keep writing to the cell and deliver greater capacity in the same space.

Combining Optane memory media, controllers and interconnectedness between controllers reduces latency for hot-data workloads and is ideal for devices, applications and services requiring fast access to large sets of data.

NVMe storage has been designed from the ground up to address non-volatile media so it is possible to run CPUs more efficiently than before.

“Optane is used not only as a storage medium, but also as a memory displacement, which is cheaper than DRAM. It is multisided in nature, and we are at the bottom of the rung on the ladder in terms of what is possible,” says Wheeler.

Real-time data
Application vendors have tried to figure out how to tap into advances in CPU and DRAM without having to rely on the storage behind it. For example, SAP HANA, a high-performance analytic appliance, uses in-memory database technology to process huge amounts of real-time data quickly as opposed to reading it from disk.

“We are beginning to understand how we can tap into the potential of devices and to look at the right device for the right solution,” says Wheeler.

“Organisations need adaptability and agility, not just at the storage level, but all the components working together. Optane changes usage cases. It is not just about disks, but also performance profile and what’s business-critical and is multifaceted.”

Each organisation is different and will have unique requirements, which Intel can accommodate and advise on.

“We can help organisations embrace the changes available to them for a more efficient data centre,” says Wheeler.

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Lowest latency
The key aim for Intel is to architect a solution around the lowest latency possible by cutting out inefficient processes and focusing on speed of response within the data centre.

In a digital environment, it is a misnomer to concentrate on cost of IOPS. Instead, it is advisable to focus on how quickly you can get hold of the data, which means a focus on throughput and latency.

“You can’t think, ‘I don’t need low latency because my data is static.’ You will need to be able to read it or gain access to it. For example, in the healthcare sector, a patient’s data may not have changed, but a doctor will need to abstract it quickly,” says Wheeler.

Factors such as compliance with data protection regulations, as well as the need for business agility and efficiency, mean accessing data quickly is a necessity.

“The understanding of what performance is has changed. If you need data on something that happened three years ago, you can’t have to go and find a tape,” says Wheeler.

No one has the answer on what organisations will need from their IT systems in the future. With changing laws, evolving needs and an uncertain business environment, being able to adapt to whatever is in store is the No. 1 requirement.

“Change is coming quicker than most people think, and we need to evolve to accommodate what is possible. With the time and effort put into an IT infrastructure, you owe it to yourself and the people you service to do the best in a changing world,” says Wheeler.

If you would like to find out how Intel Optane can prepare your business to evolve to meet the demands of digital transformation, please visit https://www.intel.de/content/www/de/de/storage/data-storage-innovations.html

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