From Intel® Optane™ Persistent Memory to CXL

Read this technology brief to understand the migration path from Intel® Optane™ persistent memory (PMem) to CXL-attached memory. Enterprises are faced with ever-increasing data. They need a memory solution that balances total cost of ownership (TCO) and performance. Also, data centers are increasingly running heterogeneous workloads—including artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing—that have varied infrastructure, performance, and availability requirements. As a result, the concept of “system memory” is transforming. The industry is turning to memory expansion, tiering, and pooling to optimize cost, capacity, and performance. Intel developed and productized Intel Optane PMem to accelerate adoption of these new usage models of memory. In 2019, the Compute Express Link™ (CXL™) Consortium was formed, of which Intel is a founding member, to develop an open standard for next-generation memory capabilities. Intel donated the code that formed the basis of the CXL 1.0 specification published in March of 2019. Subsequent versions were published in June 2019 (1.1) and in November of 2020 (2.0). It takes several years to develop products and usage models around I/O standards. CXL usage models and software solutions are comparable to the usage models and software that Intel Optane PMem supports. As the CXL 2.0 ecosystem matures over the next two to three years, enterprises can begin the transition to CXL-based memory solutions that support their usage models. Therefore, enterprises can confidently use Intel Optane PMem today to affordably meet memory expansion and tiering needs, and then migrate to CXL-based solutions when they are proven in the marketplace. This technology brief provides information on how enterprises can achieve a low infrastructure TCO by incorporating Intel Optane PMem into server deployments today; benefit from hierarchical memory expansion, tiering, and pooling; and add CXL-capable servers to the data center once they become available. Intel’s long-term collaboration with hardware and software developers will help customers to migrate from today’s Intel Optane PMem-based data and memory tiering solutions to tomorrow’s usage models with CXL devices.