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Data Storage Hardware

OCZ Couples SSD, Mechanical Storage On a PCIe Card 201

Posted by timothy
from the little-of-this-little-of-that dept.
J. Dzhugashvili writes "We've seen some solid-state drives on PCI Express cards before, but OCZ's RevoDrive Hybrid may very well be the first solution to combine solid-state storage and a mechanical hard drive on a single PCI Express x4 card. Using Dataplex caching software from Nvelo, the RevoDrive Hybrid uses its solid-state component (a RAID 0 array of SandForce-based SSDs) as a cache for an onboard mechanical hard drive. The caching scheme is reportedly so effective that "a 5,400-RPM drive can be used without sacrificing much performance," according to The Tech Report's coverage. OCZ hasn't hashed out all of the details yet, but it expects the RevoDrive Hybrid to start at $350 this July. The base configuration should couple 60GB of solid-state storage with a 500GB mechanical drive."
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OCZ Couples SSD, Mechanical Storage On a PCIe Card

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  • by yuhong (1378501) <yuhongbao_386@@@hotmail...com> on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @12:28AM (#36304922) Homepage

    Do anyone remember the old ISA hardcards?

    • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @01:13AM (#36305126) Journal

      Do anyone remember the old ISA hardcards?

      Yes. They were made by Quantum, and later by some other manufacturers.

      It kind of made sense at the time, since hard drives were non-trivial to install back then. I still remember performing a series of dark incantations in MS-DOS debug to initialize an MFM hard drive on an XT.

      At the time, I thought it was pretty cool, getting my fingers dirty like that. But I think most folks would have preferred to die in a fire than get involved in their hardware to that extent.

      And at the same time, I felt it was a lousy idea to integrate everything since it also increased the number of single points of failure in the storage system. (This so-far vapor offering from OCZ suffers the same problem.)

      Another issue with the OCZ product: What problem does it actually solve which cannot also be solved by a good OS, a competent admin, an SSD, and a spinning disk?

      I feel spoiled, these days, when I pull the side off of my desktop, plug in a new SATA drive, and it just works -- immediately, without even turning the box off first.

      (I also remember 8-bit memory expansion cards populated with six dozen individual DIP RAM chips. I remember soldering pins onto SIMM memory to make them fit into my SIPP motherboard. And I remember caching hard drive controllers, stuffed with as much RAM as you could afford. And I remember hardware data compression cards of at least two general variations. I remember the And I remember when sound cards actually did something, and themselves had SIMM sockets. And I remember squeezing sixteen 30-pin SIMMs into four 72-pin sockets on a Socket 5 board.

      I even remember an 8-bit ISA card, called the Copy II PC Option Board [gopherproxy.org], which existed only to facilitate copying software on floppy. I even found a Gopher source for the reference [meulie.net] just to show how full my beard is, and how long I've been in Mom's basement.

      Now, get off of my lawn before I start lamenting about how under-appreciated a common 8-bit parallel port is.)

      • by wangerx (1122027)
        Oh yea, that takes me back. I checked off all of the boxes as you went down the list. Controllers separate from the drives... replaced the controller and the drive was hosed. The whole debug to format was a joy. You were really cooking if you had RLL or ESDI. You were somehow "overclocking" your drive if it could take a 1:1 interlace (or non-interlaced in this case). You'd have to experiment with 2:1 or 3:1 to find out which worked best. You felt cheated if you couldn't get at least 2:1 working. It took hou
        • by Muad'Dave (255648)

          Me too. g=c000:5 and all that. I remember interleave optimization. That's 1987-ish stuff. Back when I also had a Perkin Elmer 7350A system running MicroXelos SYS V in my living room dialing into UUCP at 2400 baud. I even found an old UUCP entry from 1991 (thanks, internet!).

          #N gnd0
          #S Concurrent Computer Series 7350A, Running MicroXelos System V
          #O Home of Mass Destruction and Woe (Ground Zero).
          #C David Tiller, n2kau
          #E gnd0!davet
          #T +1 201 222 6753
          #P 35 Sternberger Ave. Apt. H, West End, N

          • Youngster! TI ASR emulator dialed up to a Sigma 7. Get off my lawn!!

            (Come to think of it, I think my watch has more RAM than the entire installed base of Xerox Data Systems machines.)

            • by Muad'Dave (255648)

              My first computer experience was in jr high - a dumb terminal dialed into an HP-3000, (or was it 2000)? Anyway, 110 baud, then 300 baud, both via acoustic coupler. I got to visit the Math/Science Center where the beast was housed, and used a teletype and paper tape to store my programs (and play adventure, where a ctrl-D sent in a message to another adventurer would turn off their teletype!).

              I got a TRS-80 model I Level II when I was 15-16. Wow!!! The Perkin Elmer box was from my first job out of college.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Even at that time some vendors had software to help you do the install, mostly just to kick off a low-level format. My Xebec controller card, of course, did not. If I wanted to low-level format my 30MB full height Quantum disk I had to use debug like everyone else. But I lived right next to Seagate so I knew some vendors had solved this problem. If only they had solved the problem that forced me to whack my drives with a screwdriver we wouldn't have called them "Seizegate".

      • by Skater (41976)

        I still remember performing a series of dark incantations in MS-DOS debug to initialize an MFM hard drive on an XT.

        I don't think I ever had an MFM drive, but I did have an RLL drive I had to do similar things with (a Seagate ST-238R, 32 megs!). I remember a little cautionary jingle: "Oh what a mess we weave when we amiss interleave!" I remember being happy when we could use 1:1 interleave because our 286 was fast enough to deal with it... LOL.

      • What problem does it actually solve which cannot also be solved by a good OS, a competent admin, an SSD, and a spinning disk?

        The problem of not having a competent SSD, or good OS. Possibly also, lack of remaining HDD slots or SATA/power connectors.

      • Another issue with the OCZ product: What problem does it actually solve which cannot also be solved by a good OS, a competent admin, an SSD, and a spinning disk?

        The dependency on a good OS and a competent admin?

      • by asdf7890 (1518587)

        Another issue with the OCZ product: What problem does it actually solve which cannot also be solved by a good OS, a competent admin, an SSD, and a spinning disk?

        It solves the "competent admin" bit somewhat, and removes the need to rearrange things when the data most commonly in use varies over time.

        I'm surprised I've not seen talk of a Linux block device that merges two block devices (one an SSD and the other linked to larger spinning disks) and uses one as cache for the other. Such a software solution would have the disadvantage of having no non-volatile RAM to keep indexing structures safe through power fails so they would have to be synced to the cache block

        • by asdf7890 (1518587)
          Or it could be done in the filesystem layer of course, like ZFS (not directly available under Linux ATM due to licensing issues, though there are ongoing efforts to port it in a license compatible manner) can.

          Maybe the existence of ZFS is why it hasn't appeared at the block device level: the interested+capable parties are working on a ZFS port (or something similar) instead.
  • I've never understood why they make those 200 - 300 GB SSD drives, when ~30 GB of SSD cache will hold your operating system and your most frequently used applications. It's not like everything on your hard drive needs to always be immediately available at SSD speeds, and yet recently that's been the only option.

    Caching isn't some mysterious arcane technology, why has it taken so long for them to make a hybrid drive like this?

    • I hear rumblings that Windows 8 is going to finally solve this once and for all at the OS level. Designate a drive as a cache drive and it'll fill it up with frequently used files and the current cache. Then when you go into standby it can just dump all of your RAM to the SSD. Start back up and it reads off the SSD.

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        Windows Vista and newer had the ability to use a technology called ReadyDrive which can use the SSD as a cache, and the spinning platter as the HDD.

        So far, there have been very few drives using this technology. It seems like it would be useful, although what would make SSD and conventional HDD pairings more useful would be a hard drive controller doing what most SANs do -- autotiering. Data that is read/written to all the time gets moved to the SSD while stuff that isn't used gets put on the platters.

        • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @02:17AM (#36305458)

          I think ReadyDrive has failed mostly because it was left to the drive controller to handle the caching.

          My understanding is that with Win8 they're moving the logic to the OS and divorcing the hardware from the equation freeing you to buy any old spinning medium and any old fast SSD/Raid to act as your cache.

          I like this idea since I can 'upgrade' my existing drives to ReadyDrive by just buying a SSD and I can still have my multiple disks but just the one SSD between them.

          • I think ReadyDrive has failed mostly because it was left to the drive controller to handle the caching.

            I recall it being promoted, but I don't remember exactly what happened. Was there a particular problem with that method? Was it a cost problem? Or did it not work well? Drives have already been doing caching for as long as I remember, so I think it's understandable to assume that it would work.

            It sounds like this OCZ device is the same way.

      • by Sir_Sri (199544)

        Ya, it seems like a readyboost, but for SSD's would be the way to go.

        My problem is that, while I have a pile of data, even the OS has a lot of data I don't want (language packs for example). Because regular disk space is so cheap that wasn't a problem. But caching would seem to solve, rather directly, the problem of having a lot of crap I usually don't want, for the relatively commonly used data I do want.

        Even the jumplist in Windows 7 would a viable half assed solution to this problem.

      • by Pieroxy (222434)

        I hear rumblings that Windows 8 is going to finally solve this once and for all at the OS level. Designate a drive as a cache drive and it'll fill it up with frequently used files and the current cache.

        This is stupid. What about, my windows crashes and is beyond recovery. Now all my data is spread on a "cache" SSD drive and on the physical drive. How do I get that onto one drive again?

        For all its pitfalls, OCZ's solution is ONE DRIVE, hence having the benefit of ONE DRIVE. You can take it out, bring it to a friend, put it in an USB enclosure, etc...

        At the OS level, I guess it is fine for some purposes.

        • by imsabbel (611519)

          You dont seem to grasp what "cache" means.

          • by Pieroxy (222434)

            So please enlighten me. Don't forget write-cache in your explanation.

            • by GaryOlson (737642)
              Write-cache by definition does not include data in left cache. So, since nothing is left in the cache, all is write. No problem.
            • Cache is not a place you move data. Cache is a place data is copied so that subsequent reads are faster; the data remains on the old drive. Presumably you could also use it as a write-cache as you mentioned, but that isnt necessary and I doubt they would go that route--I would assume that writes would be cached to the main drive's built in cache, and then flushed to disk (there really isnt a reason to have a 60GB drive for write cache when you have 32mb built into the HDD, under a normal desktop load....)

        • For all its pitfalls, OCZ's solution is ONE DRIVE, hence having the benefit of ONE DRIVE. You can take it out, bring it to a friend, put it in an USB enclosure, etc...

          You can? I don't know of any PCIe x4 compatible USB enclosures...

          • by Pieroxy (222434)

            Uhhh, true enough. I guess they should get their act together and release SATA drives with this.

          • If theyre smart theyll have a SATA drive connected to the pcie board with a mounting bracket and a sata connector, and presumably you COULD remove the drive.

            • But then you're back to the same situation where (as per Pieroxy's scenario) if Windows crashes beyond recovery you may have data on the SSD that isn't yet on the HDD. Assuming the two options share the same cache writeback policy, there's little difference between this OCZ solution and a custom one where the SSD and HDD are separate units - negating Pieroxy's claim of it being "ONE DRIVE" being an advantage.
              • It might be a read-only cache (that is, not a write-cache). Absent further details, it seems rather unnecessary to automatically assume the worst, least reliable implementation when there are other implementations that offer benefits with no drawbacks.

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      I just built a new machine, did a clean install of Windows 7 64-bit with a few apps/drivers (just the ones that came with my motherboard, mouse/keyboard, BD drive, graphics card).

      My (240GB SSD) HDD now has about 40GB used. I haven't even installed Office on it (I think that's 5GB+ alone these days!?), let alone a Linux instance under VMWare. Or a whole bunch of random apps/utils I used. Or a few games...

      Modern software has grown (ridiculously) to fill modern storage.

      Oh, and it hasn't taken quite as long t

      • by imsabbel (611519)

        Sorry, but the cache of the XT is besically useless in most cases, as its FAAAAR to small.

        The only thing it really would get 2/3rds of the performance of anything SSD is when you have a benchmark repeated for the 2nd run.

        • by deroby (568773) <deroby@yucom.be> on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @05:38AM (#36306176)

          I beg to differ.
          I've been using one since september last year and it beats the crap out of the standard HDD. In my team we're all having pretty much the same machine with the same software installed. Because I do a lot of database stuff and also like to have my music collection and some games to carry around I got fed up with the limited capacity of the standard drive and out of frustration bought my own 500Gb Momentus XT. The thing boots *much* faster than all the other machines around me. Outlook takes seconds to start, it takes about a minute for my neighbour. Same for Visual studio.

          There's plenty of Youtube vids around that show the impact of the Momentus XT and I can only confirm them. more cache might have been better, but 4Gb sure does a great job !

        • Is the XT a SSD, no. Can it increase performance over pure HDDs? YES. ITs a hybrid device and so it acts that way. Of course SSDs are faster, they are also ALOT more expensive or a 2 drive solution. The biggest strengths of the XT are very fast 'time to usuable desktop' that wont fade over time, large storage, realtively cheap price point ($99/500 GB), and single drive solution. If you go in understanding this, you will be alot happier. Its a good product that fills a niche at a decent price. Im very happ
      • I just built a new machine, did a clean install of Windows 7 64-bit

        That's you're problem right there. M.

    • Frankly I could use about a 1-2TB SSD for all of the samples for my virtual instruments on my studio machine, though a 250GB drive would probably handle the most complex and most used instruments...
    • Seagate's offered a similar product that has the SSD built into the same form-factor that contains the mechanical for a while. There have even been 'caching' solutions that front-end mechanical NASs with memory or SSD drives. OCZ just paid for a little marketing to get their name at the front of the queue for a couple days.

    • You'd figure with a few gigs of SSD even as much as a silly thumbdrive worth you could get read speeds on par with SSD. SSD are crap for massive amounts of data, for now. Though, I think tying your data to die on a thing with moving parts, vs. and SSD gets the worst of both worlds too. You get the speed of SSD without getting rid of the potential to no longer have the silly things crash.

      I'd prefer if people just really understood they are two different technologies and you should have one of each. You shoul

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Caching isn't some mysterious arcane technology, why has it taken so long for them to make a hybrid drive like this?

      Piss on the magic PCIE drive, you can do the caching without any special hardware. You could even do it on Linux if someone would pick dm-cache [fiu.edu] back up. (Please?)

  • by mcrbids (148650) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @12:54AM (#36305046) Journal

    Recently, after reading performance reviews on the Vertex 3, I bought one. The speed is simply amazing! I've been using it as a data-intensive development database server drive. Shortly after buying it, I discovered that there were numerous complaints about the Vertex 2 being unreliable.

    To this, I can only say that after about 6 weeks of extremely heavy use as the data partition on a PostgreSQL 8.4 server I've had no issues so far.

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      Well, I just bought a Vertex 2 (SATA 2 rates are plenty for me and I couldn't pass up a crazy deal - 240GB SSD for just over $300!) so I hope it's reliable ;)

      Only been a week but so far but (in a desktop) it's SO worth it in boot time alone (and the fact that it's totally silent doesn't hurt).

    • I was burned once. Paid good money 2 or so years back for 2 fairly pricey SSDs. A couple months down the line, halfway full, they started stuttering like failing harddrives or harddrives waking up. It was painful. There were few reviews online at the time of purchase, but when the problems cropped up, I found out that the controllers in them were considered complete crap and that OCZ wouldn't do anything about screwed customers other than replace failing ones with the same exact model even though they h

  • Not new (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    There are at the very least two other solutions that do the same thing, that were out there before this one:

    HighPoint RocketHybrid: exactly the same, an expansion card with connectors for one ssd and one hdd.

    Intel Smart Response Technology: Software on top of the Z68 chipset that uses an SSD of up to 60GB as cache for a different drive or raid.

  • Garbage Brand (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @01:39AM (#36305264)

    OCZ just recently swapped their NAND for cheaper, denser, slower NAND. They didn't even change the model #. When enough complaints came in, they were forced to RMA everyone's drives or face a bait&switch lawsuit.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Citation Required.

      • Re:Garbage Brand (Score:4, Informative)

        by the_jone (2198276) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @02:36AM (#36305522)
        I don't know if they're a garbage brand, but OP is certainly right. You can read OCZ's own announcement [ocztechnologyforum.com], or read Anandtech's analysis [anandtech.com] in their Vertex 3 review. Storagereview did a comparison [storagereview.com] of the 32nm and 24nm Vertex 2's which is also worth a read. .
      • by tgeek (941867)

        Citation Required.

        http://www.anandtech.com/show/4256/the-ocz-vertex-3-review-120gb/2 [anandtech.com]

        Not sure this incident should brand OCZ as a "garbage brand" though. If anything it highlights the necessity for the consumer to do their homework and not rely on just the summary specs of a drive before making a purchase. (That's not meant to defend OCZ's mistakes - just pointing out there's more to selecting an SSD than just the summary specs you see printed on the box or in the results of a Newegg search)

        • by anethema (99553)
          They did the change way before their announcement, in secret.

          They swapped the chips from 16 lower density to 8 higher density chips without telling anyone at all. It had to be discovered, and was noticed basically when peoples performance was no where near what others real world performance was.

          How were the first few thousand supposed to do their homework? There was no model number changes at all. Not even a "-a" or "-25".
        • OCZ is definitely shady. They come out with bleeding edge stuff, but they skimp on QA and they do bait and switch. I would like to point out that the newest sandy bridge boards can do this behavior with discrete parts now too (SSD cache + mechanical)
      • GP's vitriol was a bit over the top, but his facts were basically right. [anandtech.com]

        After a dose of public retribution OCZ agreed to allow end users to swap 25nm Vertex 2s for 34nm drives, they would simply have to pay the difference in cost. OCZ realized that was yet another mistake and eventually allowed the swap for free (thankfully no one was ever charged), which is what should have been done from the start. OCZ went one step further and stopped using 64Gbit NAND in the 60GB Vertex 2, although drives still exist in the channel since no recall was issued.

  • NewsFlash: SSD are much faster than HDD, but much more expensive, so it makes sense to use an SSD to cache HDD content. For some obscure reason (probably the need for something new in Win8); MS refuses to do that (even though they can ReadyBoost off of a USB stick...), so it has fallen to third parties to implement it in software of hardware, even though it should really be the OS doing it.

    How it's actually done is of no real import, all are kludges anyway because MS is, once again, letting us down.

    • by PhilHibbs (4537)

      I disagree, for the same reason that I won't use RAID-0. If the OS goes down and I have to recover my data on another machine, I just want to be able to plug the drive into another PC and have it readable. If I have RAID-0 or if I have some "smart" dynamic moving of files from one device to another hidden behind a single drive letter, are the devices going to be individually readable? I've had too many drives fail to trust "smart" systems like that. I know, backing up is the only way to avoid data loss, but

      • one does not prevent the other: to take the example of ReadyBoost, it was pure intelligent caching (of small OS read-only files): you could take your USB key away, the OS still booted (not sure if you could actually unplug while running, but that's probably not very important). The cache can simply duplicate files, and, implemented at the OS level, it can do so very intelligently: cache preferrably small files, that are only read, and frequently; never cache frequently-written files, use a fancy format with

  • by Anonymous Coward

    > J. Dzhugashvili writes

    That's pretty offensive for a large part of the world population!

    Just for the record: Josif (Vissarionovich) Dzhugashvili was the birth name of Stalin, the soviet communist dictator, who was more interested in sending people to the Gulags for hard labor, to give them bad memories, rather than hard drives combined with memory chips. Around 25 million did not return, in total.

    Wonder if an austrian painter, Adolphus Shicklgruber will report next time about the new USB 4.0 draft stand

  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @02:47AM (#36305590)
    Wow! The very high cost of a solid state drive coupled with the power hunger and mechanical constraints of a hard drive. I find it hard to believe that using SSDs as a cache is wise, but I also question if the money couldn't be better spent adding more DDR3 RAM to the processor and letting it cache the drive (with the obvious options and benefits that brings). I think I would just stick with the 2TB drives that I've been buying recently for well under $100 each rather than this overpriced compromise, even if I had a 4x PCIe slot available (which I don't and I expect few who would have an interest in this do).
    • I find it hard to believe that using SSDs as a cache is wise, but I also question if the money couldn't be better spent adding more DDR3 RAM to the processor and letting it cache the drive (with the obvious options and benefits that brings).

      The benefit of using FLASH as a cache is that it is much denser than RAM, and therefore you can get much more for your money. While your CPU spends most of it's time working out of it's cache and RAM, the data not being referenced can be stored on FLASH in the knowledge it is a millisecond away from being usable. While not low latency in computer terms, it is blindingly fast in human terms, and more than makes up for the swapping that isn't required to disks.

      Of course, this assumes your working set of data

  • So, not that different from the Momentus XT - which is a hard drive with a bunch of SSD as a cache...

    • This one is less convenient (not a standard SATA format) but faster.

  • when I fill the entire storage space and randomly select files from across the drive to work with.

How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else. -- R. Buckminster Fuller

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