Articles: Storage

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You may have already heard about solid state drives of the OCZ Octane family which feature their very own Indilinx Everest controller. Every prominent hardware site has already posted an appropriate review. We, unfortunately, can only do so now, over 3 months after the Octane hit the market. Our review of one of the most exciting SSDs that have come about recently has a story of its own. First, the manufacturer waited too much to provide us a test sample, and then, when our review had almost been finished, firmware version 1.13 was released. It brought about a number of dramatic enhancements, so we had to fully retest our Octane.

There is a good side to every experience, though. Thanks to this delay we have an opportunity to tell you about the Octane in its mature form. Now we can talk about the highs and lows of this whole series basing on the practical experience of end users who report no critical failures or shortcomings. That’s a substantial addition to the results of benchmarks because the OCZ Octane is a new platform based on a proprietary controller Everest from the Korean firm Indilinx that has become part of OCZ Technology Group.

This is actually the reason why the Octane is so exciting. Any alternative solution to the crowd of identical SSDs based on the SandForce SF-2281 controller would stand out on the market. Notwithstanding the dozens of companies in SSD business, there are but few brands that can take up the full cycle of developing and manufacturing their own SSDs, starting from the controller and firmware. The premier league of consumer-level SSD makers includes such giants as Intel and Samsung and, with some reservations, Corsair, Crucial and Plextor (which collaborate with Marvell). Recently OCZ Technology has also joined the ranks of full-cycle SSD developers as it has got its own Indilinx Everest controller.

As a matter of fact, the Everest-based family doesn’t have a gap to fill in OCZ’s product line-up. The company used to produce SandForce-based SSDs and offered a full range of products for different price categories even before the Octane. Obviously, they will shift their focus from SandForce- to Octane-based SSDs from now on. As long as this transition takes place, the Octane can be viewed as an alternative to the comparably priced Vertex 3 series. But are they comparable in performance? We’ll try to answer this question in our review.

Indilinx Everest

The Everest is a further development of the good old Indilinx Barefoot controller that used to be successfully employed in SSDs from Corsair, Crucial, OCZ, Patriot and other brands a couple of years ago. Like its predecessor, the new controller is based on the ARM architecture but features a lot of enhancements and improvements. Having two cores clocked at 275 MHz, the Everest boasts much higher computing power. It supports SATA 6 Gbit/s and eight-channel flash memory access. All in all, it seems to be quite competitive as far as its basic specs go.

The Everest is a versatile controller meaning that it supports a wide range of flash memory types including SLC, MLC and TLC NAND flash chips with ONFI 2.x, Toggle 1.x and even asynchronous interface. The data-transfer rate can be as high as 200 MT/s. To optimize memory access, the Everest can be accompanied with up to 512 MB of DDR2 or DDR3 SDRAM cache. With more possible configurations than the SandForce SF-2281, it can be employed in SSDs from different price categories.

One feature which is especially emphasized by the Everest developers is the opportunity to build 1-terabyte SSDs. Each of the controller’s memory access channels supports 16-way interleave across NAND devices. Considering that currently produced 25nm NAND flash dies have 8 GB capacity, the 8-channel access with 16-way interleave equals 1 terabyte of addressable memory.

Well, it must be admitted that the Everest’s abundant functionality is not yet utilized fully. The owner of exclusive rights to the controller, OCZ, has only implemented two typical configurations as yet: with synchronous ONFI 2.2 and with asynchronous MLC flash memory. Yet we are sure to see many different Everest-based products in the future.

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