OCZ Suite Tour: Vector 180, JetExpress PCIe NVMe Controller & Z-Drive 6000by Kristian Vättö on January 9, 2015 8:08 PM EST
While the Barefoot 3 platform is already a couple of years old, it is still going strong. OCZ has been in the process of adopting Toshiba's latest A19nm to its whole product lineup and with all other drives having made the change, the Vector is the last (but definitely not the least) to make the switch to the latest NAND process.
Aside from the new NAND, OCZ is also adding a new 960GB capacity. We have seen many OEMs upping their capacities to 960GB/1TB in the past six months or so and the Vector 180 marks as OCZ's first client-level SATA SSD with 1TB-class capacity. The Vector 180 also features partial power-loss protection (or Power Failure Management Plus as OCZ calls it), which is not a full implementation like in enterprise drives, but there are capacitors to ensure that data at rest is safe. In other words, all user data in the DRAM buffer will still be lost in the case of sudden power loss, but the capacitors ensure that all metadata is safe and that the drive will continue to operate normally after a power loss (i.e. the NAND mapping table won't be lost, which can brick the drive or at least slow down the next boot up as the drive has to go through recovery process).
The rest of the specs remain pretty much unchanged from the Vector 150. The drive is rated at 50GB of writes per day and carries a 5-year ShieldPlus warranty (no purchase receipt required and all defective drives will be replaced with brand new units). Given that the controller and the underlying firmware remain unchaged I would expect the performance to be very similar to the Vector 150.
Unfortunately, the Barefoot 3 platform still doesn't support low-power states, so the main market for the Vector 180 will be in desktop systems. This is a problem in the silicon itself (it is two years old, after all) and to fix that the silicon would require a redesign, so instead of spending resources on that OCZ has decided to focus on the next generation JetExpress controller.
Originally OCZ's plan was to release the Vector 180 here at CES, but the company decided to spend a bit more time validating the drive to ensure that everything is okay (which, as some of you may remember, is quite different from what OCZ used to do a few years ago). Availability should be in the coming weeks, though, and I would expect pricing to be close to the Vector 150 or perhaps a bit lower given the new, more cost efficient NAND.
The big and obviously interesting news is OCZ's JetExpress controller. It's a native PCIe 3.0 x4 controller with NVMe support and SATA/AHCI are also included for legacy support (SATA isn't going anywhere anytime soon anyway). In terms of features the JetExpress has pretty much all the bells and whistles. DevSleep, TCG Opal 2.0, eDrive, LDPC error correction and TLC NAND are all supported. The controller itself is small enough to fit in M.2 as seen above, unlike the FPGA designs that we have seen in drives like the Samsung XS1715.
Architecturally the JetExpress sports the same Aragon cores as the Barefoot 3, but the core count is much higher (I'm hearing seven cores) with each core having its own specific purpose. The chip consists of several power islands, which can be shut down individually for increased power efficiency. The DRAM controller is massive and supports up to 32GB of DDR3, which enables very high capacities (I was told that even 10TB is achievable, although in most cases the problem is the form factor and its physical limitations, not the controller itself).
OCZ will start by shipping the JetExpress to enterprise customers in the first half of 2015 and a client release will follow in H2'15 -- most likely right around the time Intel releases its Skylake platform with proper PCIe and NVMe support.
OCZ's ECC engine is also quite interesting. The controller supports both BCH and LDPC error correction and there are three different modes (high performance, high endurance and hybrid) available. Basically, high performance mode means that only BCH ECC is used, which has less overhead than LDPC but isn't as powerful and thus results in lower endurance. The high endurance mode, on the other hand, has LDPC enabled, which increases the endurance by about 3x from what I've heard. The hybrid mode basically has BCH enabled at first, but as the NAND is cycled and starts to require more ECC, LDPC will kick in to boost the endurance. The reason why OCZ is offering all three modes is that LDPC adds some latency, so once it kicks in there is some performance loss and typically enterprise customers want a device that has predictable performance throughout its life (or at least an option to choose a mode like that). Similarly, some customers value performance more than endurance (online transaction processing is a good example since the more transactions you can do the more money you will make), so OCZ is offering the customer the opportunity to select what mode is the best for their usage.
In addition to the upcoming JetExpress drive OCZ was showing off their upcoming Z-Drive 6000 for enterprises with NVMe support. The drive comes in 2.5" 15mm form factor with the SFF-8639 connector (basically the enterprise version of SATA Express) and utilizes PCIe 3.0 x4 interface. The Z-Drive features the same PMC controller as Samsung's XS1715 but obviously the firmware is à la OCZ. Performance comes in at up to 3GB/s for sequential reads and 2GB/s for writes and random performance is up to 700K IOPS for reads and 175K for writes. Capacities go all the way up to 3.2TB, although OCZ was very confident that the company can build a 6.4TB version as well. OCZ is currently sampling a handful of key OEMs and volume availability should be in the coming months.
I spent a good hour talking with OCZ's CEO, Ralph Schmitt, about how OCZ is doing under Toshiba and what is the direction of the company, so watch out for a deeper dive after CES.
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MrSpadge - Saturday, January 10, 2015 - linkHosps, you should update your information from 2012! Yes, what you say was correct back then:
7% overall OCZ return rate, with some models goiung as high as 10+%. But even there they already say that in the next period they reached 1%, very likely due to firmware updates. In 2014 they didn't sell many OCZ anymore, but the Agility 3 480 GB (using the same Sandforce controller as the problematic drives "back then") scored 1.3% - which is noch excellent, but alright:
MrSpadge - Saturday, January 10, 2015 - linkAnd I forgot: switching to newer and cheaper NAND is NOT just "yet another version of the same drive". It's very similar for sure, but the older one will be retired in due time and the new one will benefit the customer by being cheaper (once the dust from the introduction settles). If they didn't do this someone would complain about a lack of progress. If they just updated the NAND silently someone would complain about them cheating.
Mikemk - Saturday, January 10, 2015 - linkDoes that 550 MB/s apply to the M.2?
ocztosh - Saturday, January 10, 2015 - linkHello Mikemk,
Thank you for your question. The 550MB/s does not apply to the M.2, as we have not released any performance numbers as of yet for any of the upcoming drives that will leverage JetExpress. We are excited about this controller as it is native SATA, Native PCIe and NVMe compliant. We can (and will) leverage this controller for a variety of upcoming enterprise and client class drives in a variety of form factors across these interfaces and will share performance data as soon as we can. Thanks.
mapesdhs - Saturday, January 10, 2015 - link
I've been looking forward to the Vector 180 for a while because of its power loss protection
(I asked about it on the OCZ forums recently); pity it's only partial PLP, but that's still more
than most desktop models offer. I just hope it's priced to be competitive with the 850, etc.
JetExpress and the Z-Drive 6K sound most intriguing though, could be good candidates
for 4K/8K capture & editing. If you can supply any RAID0 or other data for these, do let
me know, I'll pass them onto a major movie company I know which is currently evaluating
SSDs for 8K work (one Z-Drive wouldn't be enough I suspect). Find me via Google (search
for 'SGI Ian', check the Contact page, send to my Yahoo address).
Mikemk - Saturday, January 10, 2015 - linkHopefully it will finally serve as a competitor to the XP941
mobutu - Sunday, January 11, 2015 - linkmeanwhile...
The_Assimilator - Saturday, January 10, 2015 - linkHoly hell, the JetExpress has more cores than my PC's CPU does.
LukaP - Saturday, January 10, 2015 - linkThat means nothing, those cores are very weak compared to even ARM A53 (for example), but they are also specialised for the job they have to do, and consume very little power :) They probably have so many cores so they can focus each core to a specific task (eg, core0 SATA comms, core1 PCIe comms, cores2-4 NAND control, core5-6 ECC for example) and be able to shut cores down when they arent needed, further lowering the power consumption
FunBunny2 - Saturday, January 10, 2015 - linkWelcome to the world of embarrassingly parallel problems.