Back in February we speculated that Intel might drop its Optane memory business. In its latest earnings release, Intel stated that “in Q2 2022, we initiated the winding down of our Intel Optane memory business.” The earnings report also noted that Intel will take a $559M “Optane memory impairment” charge this quarter. Below is an image of an Optane SSD.
In January 2021, Intel said that it would quit shipping most of the Optane-based products for consumer applications (eg gaming). In March of 2021 Micron, Intel’s former 3D XPoint (the joint project name for Intel’s Optane memory) partner said that it was ceasing development of 3D XPoint and later in the year sold the Lehi Utah plant where it manufactured 3D XPoint for Intel and its own use, to TI.
Intel sold off much of its memory business when it announced back in December 2021 that it was selling its SSD and NAND business to SK hynix, including Intel’s NAND fab in Delian, China. This business unit is now called Solidigm (a subsidiary of SK hynix). Getting out of the Optane business pretty much completes the company’s exit from selling memory products.
The earning message from Intel leaves open the possibility that Intel could sell its Optane business to some other company, like it did with its NAND and SSD business. Optane has been incorporated into storage and memory systems by several companies. These companies must be considering what their next steps could be.
However, we believe that Intel has been subsidizing its Optane products in order to keep the price low enough to generate demand (roughly half the price of DRAM, in $/GB). The idea would be to subsidize the product until the manufacturing volume lowered the costs to less than the price they needed to sell for in order to supplement DRAM memory. Also, Intel had indicated for a few years that they saw Optane combined with the company’s server chips as a differentiator from other server CPU companies.
Intel says it is winding down its Optane memory business. It remains to be seen whether Optane will be resurrected somewhere else, or just be phased out. But it is clear that Intel no longer sees Optane as part of its future.