Going a bit off the beaten path for this year’s Computex, MSI surprised us at the show with the prototype of a new hybrid storage array. The MSI Gaming Storage Card is all-in-one PCIe storage card that holds two M.2 NVMe SSDs and a 2.5" HDD. Like existing motherboard drive caching implementations, the idea here is to offer a SSD-cache in front of a HDD, allowing for SSD-like performance of critical data without manually allocating files/programs between the SSDs and the HDD. Except now the entire storage array is on a stand-alone PCIe x8 card.

MSI tells us to expect up to 7,200 MBps from the dual NVMe SSD array, which runs in RAID 0. Using large capacity NVMe SSDs will cache a lot of data, so only very cold data will come to the host system directly from the HDD. To ensure data protection, the card features an array of super capacitors that preserve data in flight in the event of a host power fail condition. Meanwhile the NVMe SSDs should benefit from increased airflow from the custom blower style fan used to tame thermal throttling.

MSI tells us the card will ship in MSI branded desktop systems. The company doesn't have plans to release the card as a standalone product, though it sounds like with enough consumer interest, that policy may not be set in stone. That said, we were told not to expect this anytime soon, as the card on display is only a prototype. The lead time could be as long as one year away, according to the product manager with whom we spoke.

Chris Ramseyer contributed to this report

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  • cosmotic - Saturday, June 03, 2017 - link

    "Unlimited speed" Reply
  • Zak - Saturday, June 03, 2017 - link

    They must have hired former Verizon or AT&T PR people. Reply
  • Zak - Saturday, June 03, 2017 - link

    Looks like a solution in a bad need of a problem. But it's "Gaming" and has lights so some dumbass will buy it and claim major FPS increase, oh well. Reply
  • LancerVI - Saturday, June 03, 2017 - link

    Well. I can see it used in cases where drive storage is limited. The ability to put several drives in such a small space could be useful. Reply
  • LancerVI - Saturday, June 03, 2017 - link

    EDIT:

    I mean in a physical case of course, with not a lot of drive bays.
    Reply
  • CheapSushi - Wednesday, June 07, 2017 - link

    I bet you're the type of guy that send for years that RAM speed didn't matter and SSDs were a waste of money. Reply
  • CheapSushi - Wednesday, June 07, 2017 - link

    *said Reply
  • jjj - Saturday, June 03, 2017 - link

    4xM.2 would be more fun and bundled with X299 and X399 mobos.

    M.2 as cache is of no use really and not justifying the costs.
    Reply
  • Kevin G - Saturday, June 03, 2017 - link

    I don't think that this will make it to market. First of, the gaming crowd is being courted a caching scheme directly form Intel in the form of Optane (which is also lack luster in my eye). Secondly, there will need to be some sort of caching software layer for this thing to work. Not impossible to pull off but likely the reason why they're already indicating that this would be a 2018 product. Testing and validation of something like this is going to be time consuming.

    I do support the introduction of PCIe carrier cards for multiple NVMe drives, preferably behind a PCIe bridge chip. Even better would be a six M.2 cards behind a bridge chips that also does RAID5/6 acceleration. For anything close to this has been tied to OEM workstations (HP, Dell, Lenovo) at a significant price premium.
    Reply
  • lagittaja - Sunday, June 04, 2017 - link

    This is actually quite interesting. I wouldn't use it for "gaming", because doh, but rather for a high speed VM storage just as an example.
    Of course I could achieve the same without this product but this is a nice, self contained solution. Assuming it's just mostly hardware without need for special software and/or drivers e.g. it presents itself as an xTB drive to the OS with the caching happening automagically.
    Reply

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