Infinite I/O

Intel Optane: What VMware Administrators need to know

Posted by Sheryl Koenigsberg on Oct 23, 2017

It’s been over two years since Intel and Micron first announced a new type of memory called 3D XPoint.  Hailed as the next generation of storage media, 3D Xpoint was described as faster than NAND, denser than RAM, and non-volatile.

Fast forward to 2017, and this is now available in the form of an enterprise SSD from Intel, called Intel Optane. Given its higher performance (when compared to classic SSDs) and its lower cost (compared to DRAM), VMware administrators are wondering how to best get the value and benefit from these devices.  Here’s a quick guide to help you sort it out:

1. There are Intel Optane NVMe SSDs listed on the VMware HCL today. You can use these as you’d use any NVMe drive with vSphere.

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2. Intel Optane SSDs can be used with vSAN.  You can use Optane drives as a vSAN cache or as the foundation of an all-flash vSAN.  Read more about VMware's day 1 support here.

3. Optane's characteristics make it ideal for VMware caching.  The published specs are impressive: over 500,000 IOPS for both read and write.  Amazingly, this is true even at low queue depths. Equally impressive, even under a heavy load, read and write latencies remain under 500 microseconds, much faster than classic SSDs.  

Like with any storage technology, you can manually choose to place your most critical and high-performance database and application components on Optane, or you can use a cache (like ours) to distribute that benefit across multiple virtual machines and VMDKs.

4. VMware users can have higher performance I/O at a lower price point than ever before. We recently wrote a more detailed blog post about the economics of the medium, but the tl;dr is that if your business relies on processing data as fast as possible, Optane provides the basis for a very compelling way to do so. 

5. Optane is here to stay.  Intel has an extensive roadmap for this technology.  In 2018, we expect to see the same 3D XPoint technology that powers Optane SSDs become the basis for Optane NVDIMMs.  This memory will be part of a new class of storage-class memory ("SCM") that has hte low latency of RAM with the persistence of a traditional flash device.   

To learn more about using Optane as a VMware cache, talk with one of our technical experts.

Topics: Performance, Optane