Five Things about Intel® Optane ® SSDs and Why They’re Awesome for Azure Stack HCI

You’ve done the research and chosen Azure Stack HCI for your hyper-converged infrastructure. Depending on your workloads, you have a short list of storage possibilities like all-NVMe 3D NAND solid state drives (SSDs) or hybrid storage consisting of 3D NAND SSD cache and hard disk drive (HDD) capacity tiers. But there is another type of SSD storage available that can significantly improve cache performance, deliver faster, high-capacity storage, and even extend server memory in an Azure Stack HCI environment. Enter Intel® Optane™ SSD technology.

Azure Stack HCI is built to take advantage of new technologies like Intel® Optane™. Here’s five things about Intel® Optane® SSDs and why they’re awesome for Azure Stack HCI.

1. Intel® Optane™ SSDs accelerate response times and performance in Azure Stack HCI

Intel® Optane™ SSD technology combines the attributes of memory and storage, delivering high throughput, low latency, high QoS, and high endurance in an Azure Stack HCI environment. Intel ® Optane™ SSD technology accelerates enterprise applications significantly over Intel® 3D NAND SSDs, clears data center bottlenecks, and enables larger datasets to be processed affordably by providing a new data storage tier closer to localized hot data near the CPU.

Compared to 3D NAND SSDs, Intel® Optane™ SSDs have sufficient endurance to act as system memory and are capable of byte accessibility and write in place. This means no garbage collection is required, no extra user non-visible space needs to be allocated, and no extra writes are generated, equivocating to 6x higher throughput than 3D NAND SSDs. In addition, Intel® Optane™ SSDs compared to 3D NAND SSDs maintain consistent response times regardless of write throughput up to 63x faster and offer up to 60x better quality of service (QoS).

Used in conjunction with 3D NAND SSDs or hard disk drives (HDDs) in an Azure Stack HCI environment, Intel® Optane™ SSDs improve performance in virtual desktop infrastructures (VDIs) like Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS), Microsoft Hyper-V, Microsoft SQL Server, scale-out storage, new ROBO/edge, and Kubernetes with Rancher deployments. This improved performance can be achieved system-wide by keeping the bulk of data in the capacity tier, while creating a cache tier of more frequently accessed data on the faster Intel® Optane™ SSD storage.

2. Intel® Optane™ SSDs help further consolidate resources in Azure Stack HCI

One of the many reasons why organizations choose Azure Stack HCI is to reduce complexity and consolidate workloads onto fewer servers as much as possible. Azure Stack HCI helps accomplish this by integrating storage, compute, and networking on a hyper-converged software-defined platform with trusted enterprise virtualization and software-defined networking and storage.

Because Intel® Optane™ SSDs outperform 3D NAND SSDs under write pressure, system administrators can increase the number of workloads and VMs on Intel ® Optane-configured deployments without sacrificing performance and even reduce the need for additional nodes. Performance increases are even more evident in hybrid storage solutions that use HDDs or QLC 3D NAND SSDs in the capacity tier. In fact, Intel® Optane™ technology increases data center efficiency up to 52% more IOPS and up to 26% less latency.

3. Intel® Optane™ SSDs increase in SQL Server performance in Azure Stack HCI

Azure Stack HCI delivers the performance demanding SQL Server workloads require and support the latest technology like 2nd Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors, NVMe 3D NAND flash, Intel® Optane™ technology, and RDMA networking. Azure Stack HCI also simplifies deployment and operations, reduces complexity, and is highly scalable. When SQL Server workloads require more storage or compute in an Azure Stack HCI environment, an organization can simply add additional nodes.

System administrators can also add Intel® Optane™ SSD DC P4800X SSDs and significantly improve transaction response times and query throughput in SQL Server workloads compared to an all-flash 3D NAND SSD or hybrid storage 3D NAND SSD/HDD solution. System administrators can accomplish this by offloading cache and moving the SQL Server T-LOGS and TempDB onto Intel® Optane™ SSDs.

In the example of an e-commerce use case, the benefits to business are significant. Intel® Optane™ SSDs accelerate online SQL Server transactions by reducing I/O wait times. This decreases the time for transactions to move from memory to disk, which in turn enables more transactions per minute (TPM). Ultimately the TPM performance bump, reduces cart abandonment, boosts sales, and increases customer satisfaction.

4. Intel® Optane™ SSDs are high endurance, increase storage media life cycles, and reduce costs in Azure Stack HCI

Intel® Optane™ storage cells are designed with the first new memory technology in over 20 years, purpose-designed for high endurance. This bit addressable design increases Intel® Optane™ SSD resiliency across decades more read/write cycles than the trapped charge process used in 3D NAND storage. In fact, an Intel® Optane™ SSD boasts 20x more total terabytes (TB) written than 3D NAND, and one single Intel® Optane™ SSD will last as long as the cumulative projected lifetime capacity of 18 3D NAND SSDs.

Because Intel® Optane™ SSDs deliver higher write endurance and write speeds, they can be configured to take the brunt of the writes in an Azure Stack HCI environment and increase the life cycle of 3D NAND SSDs and HDDs. Not only does this lower overall storage costs, but it reduces potential downtime that might occur if more drives were to fail.

5. Intel® Optane™ SSDs are verified for optimized performance and simplified deployment in Azure Stack HCI

Intel® Optane™ SSDs are part of an Intel Select Solution for Azure Stack HCI, a workload-optimized data center solution that simplifies Azure Stack HCI deployments and delivers efficiency and high-performance from the data center to the edge Intel Select Solutions for Azure Stack HCI give organizations the ability to innovate with a flexible architecture, including 2nd Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, Intel® 3D NAND SSDs and Intel® QLC 3D NAND SSDs, Intel® Optane™ SSD DC P4800X series SSDs, and Intel® Optane™ DC Persistent Memory (PMEM). These solutions come with pre-defined settings and system-wide tuning and are benchmarked for specific workloads to deliver optimal performance.

Intel and Microsoft have jointly co-engineered optimizations for Azure Stack HCI, ensuring the kernel, storage stack, memory manager, Hyper-V, Storage Spaces Direct, and OS networking components work seamlessly with Intel-based hardware.

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