What OCZ (and other companies) ultimately need to do is introduce a SSD controller with a native PCI Express interface (or something else other than SATA). SandForce’s recent SF-2000 announcement showed us that SATA is an interface that simply can’t keep up with SSD controller evolution. At peak read/write speed of 500MB/s, even 6Gbps SATA is barely enough. It took us years to get to 6Gbps SATA, yet in about one year SandForce will have gone from maxing out 3Gbps SATA on sequential reads to nearing the limits of 6Gbps SATA.
It doesn’t appear the RevoDrive X2 is all that much better than four equivalent sized SSD drives in a four drive RAID Level 0 array. But hope springs eternal, and the author sums up where manufacturers should go with their future product announcements. I think everyone agrees SATA is the last thing we need to get full speed out of the Flash based SSDs, we need SandForce controllers with native PCIe interfaces and then maybe we will get our full money’s worth out of the SSDs we will buy in the near future. As an enterprise data center architect, I would seriously be following these product announcements and architecture requirements. Shrewdly choosing your data center storage architecture (what mix of spinning disks and SSD do you really need) will be a competitive advantage for data mining, Online Transaction Processing, and Cloud based software applications.
Until this article came out yesterday I was unaware that OCZ had an SSD product with a SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) interface. That drive is called the IBIS and OCZ describes the connector as HSDL (High Speed Data Link-an OCZ created term). Benchmarks of that device have shown it to be faster than it’s RevoDrive counterpart which uses an old style native hard drive interface (SATA). Anandtech is lobbying to dump SATA altogether even now that the most recent SATA version supports higher throughput (so called SATA 6). The legacy support built into the SATA interface is absolutely unnecessary given the speed of today’s flash memory chips and the SSDs they are designed into. SandForce has further complicated the issue by showing that their drive controllers can vastly out pace even SATA 6 drive interfaces. So as I have concluded in previous blog entries PCIe is the next logical and highest speed option after you look at all the spinning hard drive interfaces currently on the market. The next thing that needs to be addressed is the cost of designing and building these PCIe based SSD drives in the coming year. $1200 seems to be the going price for anything in the 512GB range with roughly 700MB/second data throughput. Once the price goes below the $1,0000 mark, I think the number of buyers will go up (albeit still niche consumers like PC Gamers). In the end we can only benefit by manufacturers dumping SATA for the PCIe interface and the Anandtech quote at the top of the blog, really reinforces what I’ve been observing so far this year.