HPE is bringing Optane storage to Unix servers

After Windows and Linux, Intel's superfast Optane is now coming to Unix

In the next year or two, Hewlett Packard Enterprise will add support for Intel Optane memory and storage to its latest Unix servers.

Optane is a new form of storage and memory that could replace today's SSDs and DRAM. It is significantly faster and denser than both.

One new system that can be configured with Optane is HPE's new Integrity i6 server, which was released this week. Integrity i6 is based on Intel's Itanium 9700 processors, code-named Kittson, and runs the HP-UX OS. The server can also be linked to HP's all-flash 3Par storage arrays, which are due to get Optane support later.

Optane has stringent hardware and OS requirements. The first Optane products were low-capacity storage drives for PC caching and worked only with Intel's Kaby Lake chips and Windows 10.

The first large-capacity Optane drive is the SSD DC P4800X Series, which has a capacity of 375GB and sells for $1,520. Like flash SSDs, it plugs into NVMe slots. Optane drivers for other kinds of configurations should be ready in the coming years, said Jeff Kyle, director of product management for enterprise servers.

Next year, Intel will ship Optane memory DIMMs, which will run on the DRAM bus and be targeted at in-memory applications.

But whether HPE customers adopt Optane immediately is a big question mark, Kyle said.

Customers running mainframe-style mission-critical servers are averse to change and may not immediately adopt Optane, which is still spanking new technology. They may go for conventional NVMe SSDs, which are proven and reliable.

Servers like Integrity i6 are used for more than five to 10 years, and it's not yet known if Optane can last that long, Kyle said.

Intel provides a three-year warranty for its Optane SSD DC P4800X Series.

But for those who adopt Optane, there will be benefits, Kyle said. Databases and other applications will run faster, and customers will need fewer CPU cores to process data, which adds up to lower licensing costs, he said.

Optane was tested for more than two years on Linux servers hosted by IBM, Lenovo and Facebook. Another tester was database company Aerospike, which saw significant performance benefits.

But details around overall performance, software cost, and licensing per core have yet to be sorted out, Kyle said.

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