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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  • SkullOne - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Fantastic article. Definitely one of the best I've read in a long time. Incredibly informative. Everyone who reads this article is a little bit smarter afterwards.

    All the great information about SSDs aside, I think the best part though is how OCZ is willing to take blame for failure earlier and fix the problems. Companies like that are the ones who will get my money in the future especially when it is time for me to move from HDD to SSD.
    Reply
  • Apache2009 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    i got one Vertex SSD. Why suspend will cause system halt ? My laptop is nVidia chipset and it is work fine with HDD. Somebody know it ? Reply
  • MarcHFR - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Hi,

    You wrote that there is spare-area on X25-M :

    "Intel ships its X25-M with 80GB of MLC flash on it, but only 74.5GB is available to the user"

    It's a mistake. 80 GB of Flash look like 74.5GB for the user because 80,000,000,000 bytes of flash is 74.5 Go for the user point of view (with 1 KB = 1024 byte).

    You did'nt point out the other problem of the X25-M : LBA "optimisation". After doing a lot of I/O random write the speed in sequential write can get down to only 10 MB /s :/
    Reply
  • Kary - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - link

    The extra space would be invisible to the end user (it is used internally)

    Also, addressing is normally done in binary..as a result actual sizes are typically in binary in memory devices (flash, RAM...):
    64gb
    128gb

    80 GB...not compatible with binary addressing

    (though 48GB of a 128GB drive being used for this seems pretty high)
    Reply
  • ssj4Gogeta - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Did you bother reading the article? He pointed out that you can get any SSD (NOT just Intel's) stuck into a situation when only a secure erase will help you out. The problem is not specific to Intel's SSD, and it doesn't occur during normal usage. Reply
  • MarcHFR - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    The problem i've pointed out has nothing to do with the performance dregradation related to the write on a filled page, it's a performance degradation related to an LBA optimisation that is specific to Intel SSD.
    Reply
  • VaultDweller - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    So where would Corsair's SSD fit into this mix? It uses a Samsung MLC controller... so would it be comparable to the OCZ Summit? I would expect not since the rated sequential speeds on the Corsair are tremendously lower than the Summit, but the Summit is the closest match in terms of the internals. Reply
  • kensiko - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    No, OCZ Summit = newest Samsung controller. The Corsair use the previous controller, smaller performance. Reply
  • VaultDweller - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    So what's the difference?

    The Summit is optimized for sequential performance at the cost of random I/O, as per the article. That is clearly not the case with the Corsair drive, so how does the Corsair hold up in terms of random I/O? That's what I'm interested in, since the sequential on the Corsair is "fast enough" if the random write performance is good.
    Reply
  • jatypc - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    A detailed description of how SSDs operate makes me wonder: Imagene hypothetically I have a SSD drive that is filled from more than 90% (e.g., 95%) and those 90% are read-only things (or almost read-only things such as exe and other application files). The remaining 10% is free or frequently written to (e.g., page/swap file). Then the use of drive results - from what I understood in the article - in very fast aging of those 10% of the SSD disk because the 90% are occupied by read-only stuff. If the disk in question has for instance 32GB, those 10% are 3.2 GB (e.g., a size of a usual swap file) and after writing it approx. 10000 times, the respective part of the disk would become dead. Being occupies by a swap file, this number of reads/writes can be achieved in one or two years... Am I right? Reply

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