Trying Out Intel Optane Memory On Linux

Written by Michael Larabel in Storage on 15 May 2017 at 10:16 AM EDT. Page 1 of 2. 37 Comments.

Here are some of my initial tests of trying out an Intel Optane memory module under Ubuntu Linux with a Kabylake system.

At the end of April is when Intel began shipping the long-awaited Optane Memory. Optane makes use of Intel's long talked about 3D XPoint technology. These initial modules come in 16GB and 32GB capacities with the intention of basically using them as a cache for frequently used files to complement a large-capacity hard drive.

I wasn't seeded with any review sample of Intel Optane, but back on launch-day I had placed a pre-order for a 32GB Optane module from Amazon... I'm still waiting for them to go in-stock while NewEgg has also been out-of-stock all this time too. Last week I decided to order a 16GB Optane module, which can be found at both Internet retailers, while waiting for the 32GB module to finally arrive.

This 16GB Intel Optane Memory is rated for sequential reads up to 900MB/s, sequential writes up to 145MB/s, 190k IOPS for random reads, 35k IOPS for random writes, and an active power use of 3.5 Watts. The read performance is much better than the write for serving as a cache.

I hadn't seen any Linux tests of Intel Optane to date, so was very curious how this new class of Intel storage is performing. My initial tests were done with an Intel Core i7 7700K Kabylake box with MSI Z270-A PRO motherboard. First I upgraded the BIOS on this motherboard for adding the Optane memory compatibility and then installed it into the M.2 slot. Optane is only supported by Kabylake (7th Gen) Intel CPUs and newer.

With the updated BIOS on this Kabylake motherboard, the Intel 16GB Optane memory worked just fine. When booting up a USB installation of Ubuntu 17.04 x86_64, the Intel Optane 16GB device was detected right away as an NVMe block device.

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