OCZ's hyperfast SSD with 3X SAS speed set to ship

The 3.5-in. MLC-flash IBIS SSCD offers up to 960GB capacity and uses new OCZ High-Speed Data Link

OCZ Technology is set to begin shipping later this month its first solid-state drive (SSD) using a new proprietary interface that's said to be three times faster than serial-attached SCSI (SAS).

The new 3.5-in. IBIS SSD is designed for data centers and high-performance computing environments. It offers up to 740Gbit/sec. throughput or 120,000 I/Os per second and uses lower-end multilevel cell (MLC) NAND flash, which makes it possible to keep the price tag reasonable, according to OCZ.

OCZ's IBIS SSD
OCZ's IBIS SSD.

The new IBIS drive will be available in capacities ranging from 160GB to 960GB; it's expected to begin shipping to systems manufacturers in about two weeks, said Daryl Lang, director of product marketing at OCZ.

The IBIS drive will take advantage of OCZ's new High-Speed Data Link (HSDL) interface, which is expected to boost I/O for solid-state drives (SSD) in high-performance computing environments.

OCZ developed its standards-based HSDL interface because existing drive interconnects, such as SAS and Serial ATA (SATA), quickly become saturated with I/O traffic when used in conjunction with high-performance SSD technology.

The HSDL protocol would be more than three times faster than 6Gbit/sec. SAS and six times faster than today's 3Gbit/sec. SATA II. While conventional hard disk drives can't even saturate 1.5Gbit/sec. SATA, SSDs with up to 10 I/O channels are easily able to fill 3Gbit/sec. pipes.

In contrast, HSDL is capable of running up to 20Gbit/sec. of data bandwidth per channel.

The IBIS SSD achieves its high performance through the use of four SandForce 1222 controller chips. OCZ announced its shift away from the Indilinx Amigos to the Sandforce chips as part of the unveiling of its consumer-class, 2.5-in. SSD, the Onyx 2, which came out late last month.

OCZ will provide single-port adapter cards with the drives. It said a quad-port card will be available for multiple-drive configurations needed by users seeking greater storage and bandwidth, Lang said.

While there is an industry trend toward using 2.5-in. drives in data center servers, Lang said OCZ chose a 3.5-in. casing for its SSD for two reasons: Many of its customers are still using 3.5-in. drives in their servers and workstations, and there simply wasn't enough room in a 2.5-in. drive casing to fit all the IBIS SSD components.

"We're not planning a 2.5-in. version at this time," Lang said in an e-mail exchange with Computerworld.

Lang said OCZ chose to use MLC NAND flash memory as another part of the effort to keep pricing reasonable. While SLC flash is preferred for use in high-end drives, he said there's a strong push by data center executives to cut costs. Many OCZ customers, in fact, simply don't want to pay for SLC, he said, though "we can, of course, build SLC or eMLC [enterprise MLC] versions of the drives in the future," Lang said.

Enterprise MLC drives are those considered to have I/O handling capabilities and resiliency similar to that of SLC-based SSDs.

"It's important to understand the customer usage model. If it's database servers with heavy write patterns, then SLC is going to be required, but there are many times that MLC may be viable," Lang added. A number of MLC-based enterprise-class SSDs are now available from multiple vendors, and they're becoming a popular alternative to many Web-based applications that require high throughput.

For example, Israeli start-up Anobit Technologies in June released an MLC-based SSD that targets enterprises. Anobit's Genesis SSD boasts read/write speeds of up to 220MB/sec. and 180MB/sec., respectively. And more important, it can sustain more than 50,000 write/erase cycles, about half that of SLC-based SSDs.

STEC last month announced its MACH16 family of SSDs , which sport read speeds of up to 240MB/sec. and write speeds of up to 190MB/sec.

Micron's Crucial C300 SSD, which also uses the Sandforce controller, uses MLC flash and a 6Gbit/sec. SATA interface. The Crucial C300 has read speeds of up to 355MB/sec. and sequential write speeds of up to 215MB/sec. That's still less than half the speed OCZ's new IBIS SSD.

Micron's SLC-based P300 SSD, which the company claims is the fastest SATA drive, offers only 360MB/sec. read and 275MB/sec. write speeds.

Micron's C300 retails for $715 for the 256GB capacity version. In comparison, OCZ's IBIS drive with 240GB will retail for $739. STEC did not release pricing for its drive.

OCZ's IBIS has a mean time between failure (MTBF) rating of 2 million hours, but many industry observers don't believe MTBF is the preferred method for measuring drive life, since it refers to bulk shipments of drives and not individual units. The IBIS SSD will come with a three-year warranty.

Pricing for IBIS drives is based on capacity, and breaks down like this:

  • 960GB: $2799
  • 720GB: $2,149
  • 480GB: $1,299
  • 360GB: $1,099
  • 240GB: $739
  • 160GB: $629
  • 100GB: $529

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.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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