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Categories: 3d Xpoint Intel NAND Optane

Chip giant Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) has been increasingly focused on its nonvolatile memory solutions group, or NSG for short. NSG sells storage drives based on NAND flash and 3D XPoint (both are nonvolatile memories, or memories that retain their contents even when power to them is removed).

One product that Intel launched last year was Optane Memory. Optane devices are storage drives based on the company’s 3D XPoint technology (which is pricier but faster than NAND flash) that Intel pitches as a “system acceleration solution.”


“It can store commonly used data and programs closer to the processor so the system can access information more quickly with improved overall system responsiveness,” Intel wrote in a frequently-asked-questions page for Optane Memory.

According to Intel Interim CEO Bob Swan during the company’s July 26 earnings conference call, this technology “gained momentum” last quarter, with the company “shipping over 1 million client Optane memory modules.”

Here’s why that matters.

Grabbing dollar content in personal computers
From a big-picture point of view, Optane Memory is interesting because it allows Intel to sell more products into personal computers, thereby increasing its revenue per machine.

The Optane Memory modules aren’t going to be interesting for every type of computer; higher-end machines, for example, with large and fast solid-state storage drives, aren’t likely to benefit from Optane Memory.

However, what I’ve seen is lower-end and mid-range computers — systems that would typically ship with slow hard disk drives for cost reasons (hard disk drives are much cheaper for a given amount of storage than NAND flash-based solid-state drives) — being paired with Optane Memory to boost performance.

Intel’s clever marketing
According to a review of Optane Memory by PCWorld, the Optane Memory technology works pretty well, writing that Optane Memory “will make a world of difference for users stuck with traditional hard drives.”

The product clearly has merit.

However, having a good product isn’t enough; Intel and its partners need to do a good job of marketing the technology to system buyers to drive up adoption.

Intel seems to be doing its part by adding a “+” to the processor branding of any system that uses its Optane Memory. So, for example, if a computer comes with an Intel Core i5 processor and also includes Optane Memory, it’ll be marketed as a system with a “Core i5+” processor.

That’s probably a good marketing move, as that branding makes it easy for potential customers to know that the systems with the “+” processors are supposed to be better than their non-“+” counterparts.