Disappointed, I went back to OCZ

OCZ was worried. The last time I reviewed one of their SSDs I was truthful about it, and it hurt their sales considerably. Customers were returning drives, and to OCZ’s credit, they stepped up and even accepted some returns themselves - something that most manufacturers wouldn’t have done. Regardless what they had told me, there was some admission of fault there. Those JMicron drives were nothing short of crap.

As soon as OCZ started getting word that I wasn’t pleased with Vertex, they went into a state of panic. These drives all do very well in synthetic HDD tests like HDTach and ATTO, that’s generally all they’re reviewed in, so that’s all they’re tested in. But now OCZ was hearing that the Vertex wasn’t passing some of my tests and they had no idea what it was failing or why.

I tend to do a good job of keeping what tests I run secret until the review is published, so there isn’t any unfair optimization. I purposefully introduce new tests to our performance suites to help keep manufacturers honest and optimizing for real world usage scenarios rather than specific benchmarks. OCZ had no idea what I was running, but they knew that the Vertex wasn’t doing well.

Summit on the other hand was performing just fine, but that’s an expensive drive. Vertex was supposed to be good, it should’ve been good, there’s no reason for it to be performing this poorly. I ran the infamous iometer test to see what was going on:

Iometer 4KB Random Writes, IOqueue=1, 8GB sector space IOs per second MB/s Average Latency Maximum Latency
Original Pre-release OCZ Vertex 20.7 0.08 MB/s 48.2 ms 484.5 ms

 

How on earth is this acceptable at all? Average latency of 48.2ms and a maximum latency as bad as the Apex and G.Skill Titan drives? I’ve heard some SSD vendors dismiss the iometer results but let me caution you against that. What these numbers are telling us is that on average, when your OS goes to write a 4KB file somewhere on your drive, it’ll take nearly 50ms. That’s 4.5x longer than a 5400 RPM 2.5” notebook drive and that’s the average case. What part of that sounds acceptable? Anyone who tells you otherwise is delusional.

I thought for sure that the drive was broken and that we’d made no progress since last fall. But the drive hadn’t launched yet, while there were glowing reviews of it, no one had wasted any money. I wrote an email to Ryan Petersen, OCZ’s CEO. I described my findings and told him that while the Vertex’s performance was better than any of the JMicron solutions, it was unacceptable for anything other than perhaps extremely light, single-tasking usage.

I told him it sucked. He said that wasn’t fair. We argued over email but he came back and asked me what I needed to see to make the drive better.

I told him I’d need an average response time in the sub-1ms range and a max latency no worse than Intel’s 94ms. I didn’t think it would be possible. I was prepared for OCZ to hate me once more. He told me to give him a couple of days.

OCZ Sends Me SSDs, Once More Once More, With Feeling
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  • KadensDad - Tuesday, October 27, 2009 - link

    How do these drives fail? I have heard that they will just suddenly die, no more writes or reads possible. What I would like to know is what happens when it dies? Do you lose all data? Just can't write anymore? How does the OS respond? Any early warnings? What about e.g. CRC? How does possibility of data corruption compare to traditional SSD? What about RAID? Since the drives are electrical, not mechanical, this reduces the number of failure vectors and environmental concerns (e.g., ambient temperature over lifetime of the drive). Won't SSDs therefore fail closer together in time in a RAID configuration? This reduces the window of opportunity for fixing an array and also decreases the applicability of RAID, however marginal.
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