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IBM adds Optane to its cloud, only as storage and without GPUs

Optane's $415/month and great as memory, says Big Blue, but we can't do that yet

By Simon Sharwood, 2 Aug 2017

UPDATED IBM's made good on its promise to fire up a cloud packing Intel's Optane non-volatile memory “in the second half of 2017.” But Big Blue has fallen short of the “broad services suite” it foreshadowed and can't even put Optane to work as memory.

Big Blue announced the availability of servers with Optane inside on Tuesday. You can run Intel's baby “on selected IBM cloud bare metal configurations” that give you the chance to provision a server with the 375GB SSD DC-4800X. Because that's a PCIe device, you can either have an Optane or a GPU, not both.

Another limitation is that you can only use Optane as storage, which is nice because it's pleasingly fast storage. But if you wanted to try Optane as a massive pool of memory, a role Intel feels is particularly impactful, you can't do that. “Scheduled availability is to be determined,” IBM says in its fine print.

The inability to use Optane as memory makes IBM's announcement of the service incongruent, as it lauds Optane as “is the first product to combine the attributes of memory and storage, thereby delivering an innovative solution that accelerates applications through faster caching and faster storage performance to increase scale per server and reduce transaction costs for latency sensitive workloads.”

But IBM can't do that now. And can't say when it will.

For now, Optane's only available in five IBM data centres. If latency between you and Dallas, London, Melbourne, Washington DC or San Jose, California, is going to be a problem, this service may not be for you.

We'd love to tell you more about the price of the service, but the online server configuration tool IBM suggests does not have an option for Optane that your correspondent could find. Nor is a price list apparent.

We can tell you that Optane-packing servers in the IBM cloud can run Windows Server 2012 or 2016, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.7 and up, or ESXi 5.5 and 6.0. ®

UPDATE, AUGUST 4th: IBM says Optane costs US$415/drive/month and that servers can run two of the drives.

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