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OCZ adds NVMe-based PCIe flash with Z-Drive 6000

PCZ said Z-Drive 6000 NVMe series eventually will replace its inaugural Z-Drive 4500 PCIe cards launched in 2014.

OCZ Storage Solutions this week expanded its solid-state storage with the introduction of the Z-Drive 6000 and Z-Drive 6300 families of nonvolatile memory express (NVMe)-based PCIe cards.

The PCIe solid-state drives (SSDs) use advanced 19 nanometer multilevel cell (MLC) NAND flash memory chips from Toshiba, OCZ's corporate parent, and are equipped with a PCIe 3.0 interface, NVMe 1.1b software drivers and a 16-channel PMC-Sierra Princeton flash controller.

OCZ's hot-swappable PCIe SSDs are available in usable capacities of 800 GB, 1.6 TB and 3.2 TB. OCZ also plans to release its Z-Drive 6300 Series of add-in cards that scale to 6.4 TB of usable storage later in 2015.

The vendor said the Z-Drive 6000 family is intended for read-intensive workloads and provides endurance of one drive write per day. The Z-Drive 6000 cards are rated for sequential reads of 2,900 megabits per second (Mbps), sequential writes of 1,900 Mbps, 700,000 random read IOPS and 160,000 random write IOPS.

The inaugural drives support a single port, but OCZ said an upcoming firmware upgrade would enable dual hosts to access the same storage device concurrently.

The Z-6300 drives use A19 enterprise MLC NAND and provide up to three drive writes per day. Targeted at mixed application workloads, Z-6300 cards are rated for sequential reads of 2,900 Mbps, sequential writes of 1,400 Mpbs, 700,000 random read IOPS and 120,000 random write IOPS.

The inaugural drives support a single port, but OCZ said an upcoming firmware upgrade would enable dual hosts to access the same storage device concurrently.

Maulik Sompura, OCZ director of product management, said Z-Drive 6000 cards are geared for storage that requires high throughput and sustained low latency. He said the drives deliver 25 microseconds of latency for 4 KB writes and 80 microseconds per 4K read.

"The Z-Drive 6000 is the best drive we have produced to date from a performance, reliability and endurance perspective. We are targeting it at enterprise customers that want consistent operations and reliable quality of service," Sompura said.

NVMe spec pushes PCIe devices closer to storage

The NVMe standard is being hammered out by an industry consortium of more than 90 member companies. NVMe's host-control interface places PCIe endpoints closer to storage than SATA or SAS protocols, enabling block-layer devices to directly access NVMe drivers. The spec supports 64,000 commands per queue. SAS and SATA support 254 commands and 31 commands per queue, respectively.

NVMe supports third-party drivers for Linux, Solaris, Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, VMware and Windows operating systems. Sompura said OCZ is developing vendor-specific drivers for its NVMe storage and plans to open its NVMe driver source code to community-based developed in Linux.

As with its other PCIe devices, OCZ architected the Z-6000 and Z-6300 cards with error-correcting firmware algorithms and in-flight storage protection. The PCIe cards are manufactured with special casing designed to promote airflow to critical components. Users can select variable power modes ranging from 15 kilowatt to 25 kilowatts.

The Z-Drive 6000 Series will replace the Z-Drive 4500 PCIe cards that OCZ brought to market in March 2014.

OCZ's expanded PCIe cards to compete with Intel, Samsung

OCZ was rescued from bankruptcy by Toshiba in 2013 following credit problems that prevented it from gaining steady flash supplies. Before going bankrupt, OCZ had to re-state its earnings for several years and was hit by investor lawsuits claiming its executives made misleading statements about its business.

Jim Handy, an analyst with research firm Objective Analysis, said OCZ is jumping into a market with few suppliers. He said Z-Drive PCIe cards stack up well to Intel Corp.'s PCIe devices and Samsung Electronics' Vertical NAND line.

"Being part of Toshiba means they are able to design the SSD with much greater knowledge of what's going on inside the flash chip. They also are using a more sophisticated controller that eliminates a network hop," Handy said.

The challenge for OCZ may have little to do with its technology, however.

"The performance of the drives is easy to measure," Handy said. "What is tougher to measure is OCZ's execution and their ability to make people forgive them for their past sins."

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