OCZ's New PCIe Flash Card Can Serve as Tier 1 Storage Layer

The Z-Drive cards for the first time enable data centers to deploy PCIe as a Tier 1 storage layer.

PCIe cards, specialized NAND flash-based storage devices designed to add speed and versatility in enterprise storage deployments, are swiftly gaining traction among IT decision-makers for several reasons. And yes, blazing performance would be one of them.

OCZ Technology Group (Nasdaq: OCZ) on Aug. 2 supplied a contribution to this growing market segment with the launch of a new version of its Z-Drive PCI-Express Storage device.

The Z-Drive R4 product line features OCZ's second-generation proprietary VCA 2.0 (Virtualized Controller Architecture 2.0), which for the first time enables data centers to use it as a Tier 1 storage layer.

Intel introduced PCIe (peripheral component interconnect express) in 2004. It is a computer expansion-card standard based on point-to-point serial links rather than a shared parallel bus architecture, and is designed to replace the older PCI, PCI-X and AGP standards.

PCIe-based flash storage has the ability to bypass traditional storage overhead by reducing latencies, increasing throughput, and enabling efficient processing of massive quantities of data, OCZ chief executive Ryan Peterson told eWEEK.

"The Z-Drive R4 ... merges the paramount feature sets of both the pure hardware- and pure software-based approaches to data management, while maintaining user-configurable flexibility not found in other devices," Peterson said.

Peterson said VCA 2.0 is a multifaceted combination of firmware, software and an OCZ SuperScale Storage Controller that combines processing and full DMA (direct memory access) cores, as well as internal PCIe, Serial ATA and SAS physical interfaces.

When coupled with VCA 2.0 technology, the OCZ's SuperScale Controller manages critical internal functions such as the intelligent Complex Command Queuing Structure with unique queue-balancing algorithms, Peterson said. This combination leads to increased performance, yet reduced burden, on the host CPU, he said.

Industry analyst Jim Handy of Objective Analysis told eWEEK his firm is forecasting that the PCIe interface will become dominant in the enterprise SSD market in 2012, with unit shipments greater than the combined shipments of its SAS and Fibre Channel counterparts.

To whom will this product appeal most?

"This is a device that will find use in standard SAS HDD sockets at both ends of the storage channel-in the server as well as in the storage array-to achieve a significant performance boost at a reasonable cost," Handy told eWEEK.

"This competes against SAS SSD offerings from Seagate, STEC, Pliant [now owned by SanDisk] and Hitachi [to be acquired by Western Digital]. What differentiates OCZ products is that the company offers high performance at a reasonable price," he explained.

These are highly intelligent devices, Handy said.

"SAS is the heir apparent to Fibre Channel, and newer servers and storage arrays support multiple SAS HDDs, some or all of which can be replaced by these new SAS SSDs to add performance with little additional effort," Handy said. "Objective Analysis expects to see strong acceptance of SAS SSDs over the near term as more and more data center managers learn the advantage of adding solid-state storage to their systems."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...