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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  • sbuckler - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Depends on how smart the controller is? Shuffling around the data now and again in the background would make sense. Reply
  • Frallan - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link


    @AT
    This is why i come to AT to read up on the developments.

    @OCZ
    Well played :0)

    The ruler of the roost are the Intels however I will be able to afford one of those when there are cows enjoying themselfs by dancing on the moon. My next upgrade will be a Vertex - not only bc its Valu for money but equally much bc. OCZ obviously takes care of thier customers and listens to reason.
    Reply
  • pmonti80 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    This is the kind of article that makes me come back here. Reply
  • nowayout99 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    OCZ, you should listen to Uncle Anand. ;) Hopefully Mr. Petersen understands that it's tough love.

    And the final product seems perfectly cool -- great performance at a better price than Intel. It's the first SSD I'd be able to reasonably consider.
    Reply
  • SOLIDNecro - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Thx for this article Anand, I have been in a hotly contested debate over OCZ vs Samsung with my "Asperger Enhanced" nemisis/close friend...
    (In all fairness, I should mention I use the BiPolar SSE instruction set myself)

    He was only looking at Samsung, I said he should look into what OCZ has now.

    His reply was "I don't know them, and don't want to be disapointed"
    (Long story behind that...He's from the Server/Workstain/HPC crowd, I am from the hardcore OC/Gamer/Desktop group, so he is not familiar with OCZ)

    Looks like the Samsung (And alot of others) has "Issues" with performance degrading over time that are somewhat solved by Intel and OCZ (Plus maybe a few other companies that use the Rev B JMicron controller on there low cost SSD's)

    I agree the OCZ Vertex offers the best bang for low buck SSD today, and I am tempted to grab one. But a year from now, anyone that bought a current gen MLC SSD will be saying "I coulda had a V-8" if that TRIM technology does what it promises!!!
    Reply
  • James5mith - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    As people continue to try and push the envelope of storage performance in a variety of ways, and as 6gbps SATA becomes available, the performance of SSD's will only go up.

    As always, I wanted to say thanks for the great article and keep them coming. It's the only way the rest of us can keep pace with what's happening out there in the world of performance storage.
    Reply
  • vailr - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Is there any benefit in using 2 SSD's in a Raid 0 configuration?
    And: any differences between motherboard Intel Raid vs. a Raid controller card from Areca, for example. Also: can the "Trim" command work while in Raid mode? Probably not, I'm guessing...
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - link

    Raid0 is really the holy grail for SSD's. The low risk of failure of SSD's which normally makes Raid0 with typical mechanical HD's more dangerous is very appealing. My personal storage-size goal is ~120-160gigs. Once they reach that size for under $300 I think I'm going to jump in. But I'm more likely to grab 2 60's or 2 80's and Raid0 them than get a single large SSD. The added performance will outweigh the higher power draw of 2 drives, and should make them extremely competitive with Intel's offerings (or whatever holds the crown at the time).

    I figure it will be about a year or so until the prices are in that range, as 2 60gig Vertex drives will currently run you about $400 after rebate.

    I can't wait to jump on that upgrade and will then put my current 250gig mechanical drive as the storage drive (I don't use a ton of space in general as I have a 320gig external backup).
    Reply
  • Rasterman - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - link

    The problem with doing that is if you want to move your drives to another system they won't work, so upgrading is a pain. You could image them I guess, but plugging one drive in is much simpler. I had an older XP install that made it through 3-4 different systems.

    I would also question real world results, if you're going at 250MB/s or 500MB/s its not even going to be noticeable unless you are doing some massive video editing or some other huge file operations, and as Anand says, SSDs don't fill this role right now as they are super expensive per GB. So if you really are editing video a lot, you are going to need a hell of a lot more space than SSDs can offer you.
    Reply
  • Gasaraki88 - Friday, March 20, 2009 - link

    RAID is a universal standard so if you take two RAID0 drives out and move them to another computer with a RAID controller, it SHOULD just work if the original RAID was doing it correctly. Reply

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