OCZ Tries Again with the Vertex

This is Ryan Petersen:

He’s the CEO of OCZ Technology. He wasn’t too happy after my Intel X25-M SSD review.

Although that review was about the X25-M, it addressed a major shortcoming with a number of other SSDs in the market - the most popular at the time being OCZ’s Core line.

The problem with the Core line was that although they were competitively priced, they had a major performance issue: small file write latency. The problem manifested itself in system-wide stuttering during disk intensive multitasking. It wouldn’t take a lot to make those drives stutter, and until that article went live, everyone assumed that the problem was Windows, the disk controller, or something else.

I placed the blame on the drives and Ryan wasn’t all too happy.

We argued. A lot. He claimed it was unfair that I was comparing the Core series to Intel’s far more expensive X25-M; I argued that the user experience offered by his drives was inferior to that of a regular hard drive. We never really saw eye to eye on SSDs after that article.

Ryan told me the problem was a lack of cache, and that they’d have a future version of their SSD with a large off-chip DRAM cache. Ryan did not want to send me any more SSDs that didn’t have a cache on them. It wasn’t just OCZ, we had difficulty getting JMicron based SSDs from most manufacturers after that article. Manufacturers were pissed.

I offered to look at any new SSDs they had coming, regardless of who made the controller. But I made one thing very clear - I did not believe that the JMicron based drives were fit for sale. I felt that they were hurting the image of SSDs in the market and doing more harm than good. Ask any of the major players in the flash and OS industries and you’ll hear the same complaint. We need good SSDs in the market, not a mixture of great ones and bad ones.

In early December I got word from OCZ that their first drive with a DRAM cache was nearing final production. The controller was from a Korean company called Indilinx, with a number of ex-Samsung engineers. JMicron was out for this product, they didn’t have a suitable controller - the JMF602B was it. I won’t draw too much attention to the fact that if the JMF602B drives were indeed fine then there would be no need to consider another controller manufacturer.

The Indilinx Barefoot controller would support up to 64MB of off-chip DRAM, but have no on-die cache. All user data would be buffered in this memory. Now 64MB is more than enough to handle anything being written to the drive, but the memory is also used for the ARM7 based processor for its work in dealing with wear leveling and flash block cleaning (removing invalid pages).

There’s a key distinction here between the Barefoot and Intel’s controller - the X25-M doesn’t store any user data in its DRAM. Technically the Barefoot approach is no less prone to dataloss than a standard hard drive, but the Intel approach is a bit better. In the event of sudden power loss there’s a chance that some of the data in the Barefoot’s 64MB buffer could be lost before it’s committed to flash.

The OCZ Vertex drive would have a more heavy duty controller, with an ARM processor and a large off-chip DRAM to improve performance. To top it all off, OCZ would sell it at a price much lower than Intel’s X25-M. Could this finally be the affordable SSD we’ve been looking for?

The Return of the JMicron based SSD OCZ Sends Me SSDs, Once More
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  • Sinned - Sunday, March 22, 2009 - link

    Outstanding article that really helped me understand SSD drives. I wonder how much of an impact the new SATA III standard will have on SSD drives? I believe we are still at the beginning stage for SSD drives and your article shows that much more work needs to be done. My respect for OCZ and how they responded in a positive and productive way should be a model for the rest of the SSD makers. Thank you again for such a concise article.
    Respectfully,
    Sinned
    Reply
  • 529th - Sunday, March 22, 2009 - link

    The first thing I thought of was Democracy. Don't know why. Maybe it was because a company listened to our common goal of performance. Thank you OCZ for listening, I'm sure it will pay off!!! Reply
  • araczynski - Saturday, March 21, 2009 - link

    very nice read. the 4/512 issue seems a rather stupid design decision, or perhaps more likely a stupid problem to find this 4/512 solution as 'acceptable'.

    although a great marketing choice, built in automatic life expectancy reduction.

    sounds like the manufacturers want the hard drives to become a disposable medium like styrofoam cups.

    perhaps when they narrow the disparity down to 4/16, i might consider buying an ssd. that, or when they beat the 'old school' physical platters in price.

    until then, get back to the drawing board and stop crapping out these half arsed 'should be good enough' solutions.
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Sunday, March 22, 2009 - link

    araczynski: The 4/512 isn't done by accident. It's done to lower prices. The flash technology used in SSDs are meant to replace platter HDDs in the future. There's no way of doing that without cost reductions like these. Even with that the SSDs still cost several times more per storage space. Reply
  • araczynski - Tuesday, March 24, 2009 - link

    i understand that, but i don't remember original hard drives being released and being slower than the floppy drives they were replacing.

    this is part of the 'release beta' products mentality and make the consumer pay for further development.

    the 5.25" floppy was better than the huge floppy in all respects when it was released. the 3.5" floppy was better than the 5.25" floppy when it was released. the usb flash drives were better than the 3.5" floppies when they were released.

    i just hate the way this is being played out at the consumer's expense.
    Reply
  • hellcats - Saturday, March 21, 2009 - link

    Anand,

    What a great article. I usually have to skip forwards when things bog down, but they never did with this long, but very informative article. Your focus on what matters to users is why I always check anandtech first thing every morning.
    Reply
  • juraj - Saturday, March 21, 2009 - link

    I'm curious what capacity is the OCZ Vertex drive reviewed. Is it an 120 / 250g drive or supposedly slower 30 / 60g one? Reply
  • Symbolics - Friday, March 20, 2009 - link

    The method for generating "used" drives is flawed. For creating a true used drive, the spare blocks must be filled as well. Since this was not done, the results are biased towards the Intel drives with their generous amount of spare blocks that were *not* exhausted when producing the used state. An additional bias is introduced by the reduction of the IOmeter write test to 8 GB only. Perhaps there are enough spare blocks on the Intel drives so that these 8 GB can be written to "fresh" blocks without the need for (time-consuming) erase operations.
    Apart from these concerns, I enjoyed reading the article.
    Reply
  • unknownError - Saturday, March 21, 2009 - link

    I also just created an account to post, very nice article!
    Lots of good well thought out information, I'm so tired of synthetic benchmarks glad someone goes through the trouble to bench these things right (and appears to have the education to really understand them). Whats with the grammar police though? geez...
    Reply
  • Erickffd - Friday, March 20, 2009 - link

    Also created an account just to post this comment.

    Really impressive and well done article ! Will stay tune for further developments and reviews. Thank you so much :)

    Also... very impressed by OCZ's respond and commitment upon end users needs and product quality assurance (unfortunately not so commun by large this days among other companies). Certanly will buy from them my next SSDs to reward and support their healty policy.

    Be well ! ;)
    Reply

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