OCZ Technology has traditionally used Solid State Drive (SSD)controllers from JMicron for its multi-level cell (MLC) SSDs. The controller and firmware used can mark a large difference in performance and long-term reliability.
DailyTech has been able to confirm that OCZ will use a version of the Barefoot SSD controller from Indilinx for the first time in its Vertex series of SSDs. Indilinx is a fabless semiconductor company specializing almost exclusively on SSD controllers and SSD technologies. It is backed by venture capital firms Softbank Korea Investment and MVP Venture Capital.
Its business operations are centered on the city of Milpitas, California, in Silicon Valley. It's also home to the corporate headquarters of SanDisk, LSI Logic, Adaptec, Promise Technologies, and Maxtor. Seagate and Western Digital also have a large presence in the area. However, Indilinx's main Research and Development center is in Seongnam, Korea.
The first Barefoot controller we saw in August last year was built on 90nm process technology, with a very fast read speed of 230MB/s and support of up to 512GB of MLC NAND flash using at least four channels. Indilinx classifies it as a second generation SSD controller, meaning it has maximum read speeds over 200MB/s and maximum write speeds over 150MB/s, using a native SATA controller.
The Barefoot controller is notable for using up to 64MB for data buffering, surpassing traditional hard disk drives. It also features ECC capability of more than 12 bits per sector to ensure reliability, with hardware implementations of both Reed-Solomon and BCH (Bose Chadhuri Hocquenghem) Error Correcting Code.
Indilinx is currently focusing on its third generation controller, codenamed "Jet Stream". It will feature ONFI 2.0 support and a SATA 6Gb/s interface, providing throughput of up to 600MB/s, with a target release date in the third quarter of 2009. Both Intel and AMD are working on new chipsets that will support 6GB/s.
OCZ will soon release its highly anticipated Vertex series of drives at a lower price than originally announced in December due to lower component acquisition costs and lower than expected production costs. Their 120GB and 250GB models will exhibit faster speeds due to the fact that the controller has access to a greater number of channels, providing a significant boost to read and write speeds over what was previously announced. These drives feature 64MB of cache, while the 30GB and 60GB models will have 32MB of cache.
Intel recently lowered prices on its lineup of SSDs, which feature an SSD controller designed by Intel itself. Competition has been fierce from drives like the G.Skill Titan and OCZ Apex series of second generation SSDs.
Delays to the Vertex line have been primarily due to firmware optimizations. According to sources inside OCZ, the company wanted to use the best version possible in all of its drives, rather than having end users perform it themselves or ship several different versions of firmware as is common in the hard disk drive industry.
Their latest version of firmware has been highly tweaked for performance and reliability. Wear-leveling algorithms are especially important in MLC SSDs in order to maintain long-term performance and write reliability.
Seagate, the world's top hard disk drive manufacturer, has been rocked by multiple firmware problems across its entire Barracuda 7200.11 product series, shaking its previously sterling reputation. Seagate's leadership has also been criticized for not responding to the performance threat posed by SSDs to sales of their 15k Cheetah and Savvio enterprise drives.
OCZ is currently updating the firmware of Vertex drives it has already produced. It was hesitant to provide a firm shipping date, but stated it would be out by the end of February. Initial shipments could be out as early as next week pending quality assurance testing, with retail availability several days after.
With better performance, higher reliability, and a lower price, the delay may well be worth the wait.