OCZ releases next-gen PCIe SSD

The new PCIe-based Z-Series SSD boasts 2.8GB per second performance, double that of previous generations of OCZ drives

OCZ today released the fifth generation of its PCI-Express SSD (solid state drive), which it said can perform at a 2.8GB/sec read rate.

The new Z-Series SSD R4 doubles the performance of the previous generation SSD, according to OCZ CEO Ryan Petersen.

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Past generations of OCZ's Z-Drives sported up to 2TB of capacity and 1.4Gbit/sec throughput. The latest model comes in capacities ranging from 300GB to 1.2TB on a half-height card and from 800GB to 3.2TB on a full-height card.

Unlike previous generations of OCZ drives, which were sold directly to end users, the new hardware is targeted directly at server manufacturers.

One major systems manufacturer expects to ship a card with four OCZ PCIe controllers, generating over 400,000 4K random input-output operations per second (IOPS), Petersen said.

The new generation of OCZ SSD drives use Micron's NAND flash with 25 nanometer circuitry .

Micron also makes a competitive line of PCIe-based SSDs for enterprises.

The Micron P320h line , announced in June, boasts performance of up to 3GB/sec. However, Micron's card uses high-end SLC (single-level cell) NAND flash. OCZ's SSD uses less expensive MLC (multi-level cell) flash, which allows it to offer its product at $7 per gigabyte.

Another competitor, Fusion-io makes an MLC-based PCIe card, the ioDrive.

Fusion-io's full-height, midrange PCIe SSD, the ioDrive Duo , offers up to 1.5GB/sec throughput and capacity from 320GB to 1.2TB. While Fusion-io would not release per-gigabyte pricing, the ioDrive Duo sells for $28,871 for a 1.2TB card on Pricegrabber.com.

Unlike previous generations of Z-Drives , the R4 series contains the second generation of what OCZ calls a Virtualized Controller Architecture (VCA). The updated VCA technology creates an abstraction layer between it and a the host server, allowing I/O to be spread among multiple SSD controllers.

According to Petersen, a single Z-Series controller can generate up to 500,000 4KB random IOPS. Each flash card can host up to two controllers. "So that's one million IOPS per card with two controllers," Petersen said.

OCZ's "SuperScale" PCIe controller manages internal functions such as OCZ's CCQS (Complex Command Queuing Structure), a queue balancing algorithm that increases I/O performance.

The latest Z-Series SSD is aimed at public and private cloud infrastructures, Petersen said. "We're enabling cloud computing guys to meet their storage needs by solving the problems of big data," he said.

Unlike many SSDs used today by consumers and enterprises, PCIe-based SSDs are in the form of adapter cards and do not have a 3.5-in or 2.5-in hard disk drive form factor. For enterprises, a PCIe card is ideal for boosting performance internally in servers.

Market research firm Objective Analysis forecasts that the PCIe interface will become dominant in the enterprise SSD market in 2012, with unit shipments greater than the combined shipments of its SAS and Fibre Channel drive counterparts.

"This is because the PCIe interface puts less drag on the NAND-to-processor communication channel than do standard HDD interfaces," said Jim Handy, an analyst at Objective Analysis.

By 2015, Handy projected that well over 2 million PCIe SSDs will ship, more than all SATA SSDs that shipped in 2010.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com. Read more about storage in Computerworld's Storage Topic Center.

This story, "OCZ releases next-gen PCIe SSD " was originally published by Computerworld.

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