OCZ Z-Drive Sneak Peek, SSD RAID PCIe Card

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News Posted: Sat, May 16 2009 11:58 PM

It's not all that often that we post something up in the news just for the drool factor alone.  However, we'd go so far as to say that this little slab of circuitry classifies as a proverbial technological "hey-now!"  Certainly, SSDs and Solid State Storage solutions in general are all the buzz these days but this is the first product we've focused our beady geek eyes on with this particular design implementation.  That said, we will offer one very large caveat that what you're about to see is a VERY early stage design prototype of OCZ's upcoming Z-Drive SSD RAID PCI Express card.  In other words, drool for now but you can't and won't ever be able to buy this little gem as you see it here.  However, the product's base design approach will remain largely unchanged when it hits the market (soon we hope).  Alright then, commence the salivation process...
 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, the Z-Drive is essentially 4 OCZ Vertex series SSDs in a RAID configuration, coupled with a PCI Express RAID controller, all sandwiched neatly together in a single slot PCIe card.  There is also one single turbine style fan that pulls cool air into the card on the back of its casing.  The individual SSDs are plugged in "mezzanine" style and can actually be fairly easily populated or de-populated from the mainboard.  The Z-Drive does require a single 4-pin molex power connector to power the SSDs and the onboard RAID controller gets its juice from a X4 (at least currently) PCIe slot.  And yes, we blanked out the RAID controller model number label, to protect the innocent.  Sorry about that...

Though we've performed a few preliminary tests on the beast and have been more than impressed in spots (think reads in excess of 500MB/sec and writes in excess of 400MB/sec, depending on file size), there are significant hardware-level changes coming that will offer better performance and even perhaps a tweak on the mechanicals.  Stay tuned for more details on the OCZ's Z-Drive in the weeks ahead as we offer full analysis on products coming down the pipe that will be more representative of what you'll be able to find in retail.  OCZ's Z-Drive is coming and we think it has the potential to be rather HOT.
 

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Kiristo replied on Mon, May 18 2009 2:39 AM

What sort of capacity to these things have?

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Dave_HH replied on Mon, May 18 2009 8:21 AM

Good question! Updated... :) This is a 512GB version (4 X128GB SSD, RAID 0).

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Lev_Astov replied on Mon, May 18 2009 11:29 AM

Oooooooooh! So, if it's essentially normal SSDs on a PCI-E RAID card, is it bootable? That would beat out the competition from ioDrives if that were the case. Also, with read speeds of "only" 500 MB/sec, I could definitely see this being within the price range of non-insane consumers, unlike ioDrives.

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Ummm, it says this thread was created on May 17, 2009?

You can buy one now in the U.S. :

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw_1_5?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=ocz+z-drive+pci-express+ssd&x=0&y=0&sprefix=ocz+z

At OCZ's website they even have a link to buy-it at Amazon.com.

I hope this article is 2 months old. The product has been for sale at Amazon since April 20th 2009.

Weird...

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Dave_HH replied on Mon, May 18 2009 1:54 PM

No, this article is new as in yesterday evening and no you can't buy it, though it is listed at Amazon as you pointed out. It is listed with a one to three month leadtime on Amazon. I'm surprised they have it on their site at OCZ actually. This is a very early prototype.

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acarzt replied on Mon, May 18 2009 2:53 PM

500 MB/s is not very impressive considering 2 vertexs in a raid 0 can hit 400 MB/s... 4 of them should be hitting closer to 800 MB/s

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Dave_HH replied on Mon, May 18 2009 3:03 PM

Correct you are sir! Which I think is the goal... :)

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I called OCZ up to ask about how different OS's see the Z-Drive hardware and to ask if this thing is truly a plug and play device. Since it is PCIe this thing needs drivers, right? And drivers work via specific OS right? Plug and play would mean the mobo just sees it as a storage/drive via PCIe, is this the case, and how? Reasoning is they claim it can be a bootable device for any XP Vista and OSX. But once I had them on the phone, sales person transfered me to technical, and technical tranfered me to engeneering. The end result was "we believe it should be plug and play". A low confidence answer to support what their website claims this can be a bootable drive. When I asked how this works via PCIe with no drivers, they could not answer this. I am sure they know the answer, but I did not speak with someone with answer. They kept asking me what OS (XP, Vista or OSX), how is this relevent?

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I would assume that it would work due to the default drivers built into the OS. Sorta like the graphics or sata drivers then you would install the optimal drivers once OS has been installed. That would be my guess but heck what do I know I didn't design the thing.

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Dave_HH replied on Fri, May 22 2009 11:00 PM

Fanatic,

You're making it more complicated than it really is. It is a plug and play device but of course it needs drivers, just as any device, down to your on-board PCIe NIC, needs driver. Think of it this way... The Z-Drive is essentially 4 SSDs bundled with a PCIe RAID controller card, all connected together in a multi-board single assembly. Set up of the device is minimal. Configure RAID mode in the RAID BIOS and install drivers in the OS. If you were installing to it as an OS drive, you simply feed the OS the drivers at Windows installation load-up when the OS prompts you for 3rd party drivers.

Make sense?

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Dave_HH replied on Fri, May 22 2009 11:04 PM

And Nelson, that's pretty much correct, too.

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Just ordered one. They exist in 250gb, 500gb and 1tb. The price on the 250gb is about $1500. Far cheaper that the fusionio solution. However the fusionio can be used in HP c-class blades, which OCZ Z drive can't.

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acarzt replied on Tue, May 26 2009 4:41 PM

Well Dave, a device being bootable or not is dependent upon the BIOS. I don't know if any BIOS out there checks the PCIe slots for bootable devices. It could be the "other devices" option. As for installing an OS to the device... I would assume it would be exactly the same as loading drivers for RAID when prompted to when the OS disc loads files for the install(hit F6 to install RAID or SCSI). But as far as being bootable... i'm curious how most BIOS's will see this device?

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My thinking is similar to "acarzt".

Aside from a raid configuration, a normal HD needs no drivers for the Bios to see it as a storage device. What will the Bios see the Z-Drive as??? What I am getting at is this: How will the Z-Drive handle a triple boot configuration? Let's say XP, Vista and OSX? I am not worried about a single OS set-up, I am sure this thing will be drool worthy. My mind is past what the Z-Drive can do, I am thinking what can I do with the Z-Drive that it cannot, and it should.

Think of me as BASF - "We don’t make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better.®"

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