Serial ATA is one of those technologies that takes forever to move forward. The newest SATA 6Gbps standard (also erroneously known as SATA 3) was ratified in 2008 and officially released in May 2009. It started appearing on motherboards early last year with launch of AMD’s SB850 Southbridge and finally turned up on Intel motherboards with the recent launch of Sandy Bridge and its Cougar Point chipsets.
The increased bandwidth offered by SATA 6Gbps cries out for use on Solid State Drives. Mechanical hard drives never pushed the limits of the previous SATA 3Gbps spec, whereas SSDs did. In the past six months we have seen OCZ in particular try some different things to get around these SATA limits – the RevoDrive series of PCI-Express SSDs and specialized HDSL connector used on the IBIS.
These drives both used raided Sandforce 1200 controllers to achieve high speeds. This controller, while the fastest on the market, is still limited by SATA 3Gbps speeds, and the industry has been waiting for the next generation in order to deliver the next great SSD speed bump. Waiting is almost over as we have just managed to get our hands on an engineering sample of OCZ’s enterprise-focused Vertex 3 Pro SSD.
Thanks to a Sandforce 2582 controller chip this drive fully supports SATA 6Gbps, and promises read speeds up to 550MB/sec and writes up to 500MB/sec. The controller drives a NAND MLC flash array, and OCZ is using what it calls 2Xnm flash – in the case of our sample they are 24nm Toshiba NAND chips but we assume the 2Xnm designation presumably keeps the gate open for the use of other memory suppliers as well.
We expect to see a similar configuration in the consumer version of the Vertex 3, which was announced last friday. It is important to keep in mind that this is the Enterprise version, with 10,000,000 hours MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure). This is where the real enterprise benefits lie – as with previous generations we expect the consumer version of the drive to have a lower (but still ample) 2,000,000hr MTBF.
Promises are great, but real world numbers are better. We ran the engineering sample through some quick tests in AS SSD to get an idea of the bandwidth requirements. The results were impressive to say the least. The screenshot below shows the AS SSD results, and despite the test not really showing off the peak write speeds claimed by OCZ, the read speeds are highly impressive. We’ll delve deeper into this when we look at it in the magazine, but for now this gives a good first look at how the next generation of 6Gbps Sandforce-driven SSDs will perform.