Intel Optane: A Restrictive Licensing Model and the Half Billion Dollar Operating Loss in 2020

I have written about this technology before. It isn’t anything new. Now, a little over a week ago, it was revealed that in the year 2020, Intel had reported a half-billion dollar loss on its Optane 3D XPoint business. Yikes! Also, Intel’s Optane head left the company.

The Optane technology itself is still struggling with design issues:

A claim that Optane cells can’t be immediately read because they need to cool after being written has been rebuffed by Intel, but it declined to comment on suggestions contractual restrictions hindered Optane’s adoption by third parties.

The future may not be looking good for the technology. At least, not in the near term.

Anyway, circling back to the original comment regarding the large negative financial impact, I personally feel that the root of this problem comes from the fact that the technology is manufactured and distributed under a very restrictive licencing model. In an earlier post, I wrote:

About four or five years ago, I made a prediction: 3D XPoint will not get very far. I made that prediction based on the licensing model that Intel (and Micron) decided to adopt for them technology. It is a closed technology and one that was very restrictive. Being the history buff that I am, I anticipated that history was going to repeat itself here. For instance, Rambus released its RDRAM to compete with the then slower SDRAM technology. It was a closed and restricted technology. What was the industry’s response to it? DDR RAM. What happened to RDRAM? It disappeared. What about Fusion-io’s PCIe SSD? Again, a closed and non-standardized proprietary technology. The industry again responded and this time with NVMe.

It will be a matter of time before a more open competing technology (likely the product of multiple companies forming a standard via a committee) takes the market and leaves Optane in its wake.