OCZ, BitMicro release new controllers, SSD lines

BitMicro's new controller represents an 8X performance improvement over its existing chip

Solid-state drive makers OCZ and BitMicro on Tuesday separately announced new controllers that will be the basis of new flash drive lines intended to boost performance of consumer and enterprise applications.

OCZ announced its new consumer-grade Vector SSD Series developed using its new Barefoot 3 controller.

This is the first time that OCZ has produced a chip technology completely in house since it acquired Barefoot controller-maker Indilinx last year.

The Vector SSD series is a flash drive that uses a serial ATA (SATA) 3.0 (6Gbps) interface. Along with performance upgrades in the Barefoot 3 controllers, the flash drive delivers up to 550MBps of read performance and write bandwidth of up to 530 MBps. The Vector SSD can produce up to 100,000 I/Os per second (IOPS) of random read performance.

The Vector SSD Series is available in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities. The Vector SSD line is 7mm thick alloy housing that can be used in the latest thin form factor notebooks.

OCZ's new Vector SSD.

Each Vector SSD is also bundled with a 3.5-in. desktop adapter bracket and Acronis True Image cloning software to give users the ability to transfer data from legacy hard disk drive (HDD) storage or SSDs to the Vector SSD.

OCZ CEO Ralph Schmitt said in a statement that the development of the Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller architecture is "a crowning achievement in our company's history, being our first controller and firmware completely designed in-house from start to finish using all of the OCZ technology development teams."

"These are the first SSD products delivered under the new OCZ and [they leverage] cutting-edge controller technology to deliver a groundbreaking level of sustained performance and reliability for customers seeking a superior SSD for their high performance computing applications," he added.

Schmitt said endurance was a top consideration for the Vector SSD series, so the Barefoot 3 controller includes an advanced suite of flash management tools, including wear leveling to more evenly spread writes and more advanced error correction code.

The Vector SSD series, available Tuesday, is specified to deliver 20GB of host writes per day for five years. "This five-year warranty ensures that Vector SSDs can be reliably used in a wide range of high performance computing environments over an extended lifetime," the company said.

The 128GB model of the Vector SSD will retail for $149.99, the 256GB model for $269.99, and the 512GB model for $559.99.

BitMicro's new enterprise-class SSD controller

In another flash storage announcement, BitMicro announced its next-generation SSD controller, the Talino ASIC, which represents an eight-fold increase in I/O random read-write performance over its existing architecture.

The new Talino ASIC will allow BitMicro to scale its SSDs into multiple terabyte capacity products. BitMicro claims the new controller can achieve up to 400,000 I/Os per second.

By comparison, Hitachi Data Systems recently released its first enterprise SSD, a single 1.6TB module, which uses a 6Gbps SAS 2.0 interface. That drive can perform just over 1 million random read I/Os per second (IOPS) using 8K block sizes and 270,000 random write IOPS.

BitMicro said its new Talino architecture is an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) that will provide better performance for enterprise-class applications while also leveraging BitMicro's reputation for product reliability within the defense industry.

BitMicro called its new controller "revolutionary" because it has a two-tier architecture that will be the basis for the company's upcoming maxIO line of I/O accelerators and SSDs.

With two-tier architecture, there are two different ASIC chips in the controller, according to Zophar Sante, BitMicro's vice president of marketing and sales. The primary controller is the BitMicro Talino quad-core ASIC, which handles all the data processing functionality. The Talino ASIC integrates embedded processors with a high-speed, multi-bus design.

The Talino also connects to dozens of smaller ASICs, which perform management of the flash memory chips. "Most SSDs on the market only use a single tier architecture, potentially limiting their performance and scalability," Sante said.

A single Talino SSD controller can achieve up to 400,000 random IOPS using 4K block sizes and can perform up to 4,096 concurrent flash operations, BitMicro stated. To complete the architecture, the Talino controller connects with several of BitMicro's new ASICs.

"A single Talino ASIC can connect to as many as 60 chips, each connecting to up to eight flash die," Sante said. "Multiple Talino ASICs can easily interconnect via a PCIe switch to create 1U, 2U and 3U complete storage systems with enormous capacities and blistering performance. " The "U" is a unit of measurement equal to 1.75 inches in height.

Talino ASIC-based storage systems can use standard front-end connectivity that support block data transfer specifications such as Fiber Channel, Fibre Channel over Ethernet, iSCSI, and file-level transfer specs such as NFS and CIFS.

"The technology we put into our Talino architecture puts BitMicro far beyond what anyone else is doing with solid state storage," BitMicro CEO Rey Bruce said. "In terms of performance, scalability, and reliability, there's no other architecture that can match what Talino can deliver. And we will continue the innovation of Talino so it will remain cutting edge for years to come."

Interface controllers are built directly into the ASIC, with 8x 5Gbps PCIe lanes, 2x 6Gb SAS ports and 2x 6Gb SATA ports.

BitMicro's initial maxIO product line, due out by the end of 2012, will use the Talino architecture and is expected to include PCIe, NVMe and SAS interfaces.

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.

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This story, "OCZ, BitMicro release new controllers, SSD lines" was originally published by Computerworld.

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